Magazine article Techniques

The Bristol Tech Prep Consortium's Women in Technology Program

Magazine article Techniques

The Bristol Tech Prep Consortium's Women in Technology Program

Article excerpt

The Tech Prep Consortium at Bristol Community College is at the forefront of collaborative education initiatives with its development and implementation of the Women in Technology (WIT) Project-Based Learning Program in High Tech Manufacturing.

A Special Populations Grant in 1996 encouraged interested educational institutions to develop a program that would address the need to get high school students involved in careers in which one gender was underrepresented. Bristol Community College's Tech Prep Program responded and was awarded the funding necessary to implement a series of activities to address the need for young women to get involved in the various fields of engineering and technology. Crucial to the WIT Program's success was the establishment of strong partnerships with industry, government and education.

The Bristol Tech Prep Consortium, with the support of educators from area high schools and the leadership and resources of local businesses, recruited female high school students to participate in project-based learning at local plants. In 1997, the Bristol Community College Tech Prep Program implemented its first Women In Technology Project-Based Experience at Texas Instruments Incorporated (TI) in Attleboro, Massachusetts, for 12 students.

At TI, students have acted as junior engineers, as they develop designs and devices that address real-world problems. Every year since, the program has grown significantly and has had a positive effect on the lives of more than 300 students.

In 2002, The Foxboro Company from Foxboro, Mass., joined the WIT Program. Additional partnerships have included students, businesses and educators from Swansea, South Carolina, and Skaget-Island Prep Works Consortium in Washington State. As many as 110 students have participated in the Women in Technology initiative in a given year.

This year, a group of aspiring engineers from area high schools is working together at Sapphire Engineering in Pocasset, Mass. Four students from Greater New Bedford Regional Vocational Technical High School and four students from New Bedford High School are among the participants. Eight young women have been presented with three problems that Sapphire Engineering would like to solve. These students will travel to the workplace every other Wednesday for 14 weeks and work as a team to find solutions.

Each student is expected to bring in a drawing of her idea for review. The students will then research the process and proceed to the engineering phase.

The process will continue with the blueprints being developed on a CAD or Solid Works system. From the blueprint, a prototype will be produced in the technical school's machine technology department. Testing will then take place. After the testing process, the determination will be made on the feasibility of the device. If the tests are positive, the device will be refined, and the final product will be made. If the tests are not positive, the students will return to the drawing board.

Upon the completion of the production phase, the students will be required to present their products to the companies involved as well as to the administrators and teachers from their schools. The students may be asked to present to other educators and members of the business community at the ACTE National Convention, Regional Tech Prep Convention and National Tech Prep Network Convention, as well as to interested parties from other states or organizations. …

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