Palos Verdes Peninsula Unified School District

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STEM Begins Early in PVPUSD

PVPUSD was one of the first school districts in the nation to launch a high school engineering and robotics program. Over the past several years, STEM has been expanded to all schools in the district, from elementary to high school. PVPUSD’s STEM program remains a model of excellence while remaining one of the most inclusive: over 1,000 fourth and fifth grade students experienced STEM instruction in 2014-15, STEM remains the most popular elective at the middle schools, and hundreds of students enroll annually in STEM classes and after school clubs at the high schools.

All fourth and fifth grade students participate in six weeks of intensive STEM coursework via Project Lead the Way’s (PLTW) LAUNCH curriculum. The focus of the coursework is energy transfer, robotics, and computer programming. Confirmed outcomes of the elementary program included high levels of student engagement, increased interested in STEM among females, and increased enrollment in middle school STEM electives. Elementary teams competed and placed in county wide VEX robotics competitions for the first time in 2015.

At all three middle schools, a sequence of STEM courses are available. Courses include design and modeling, automation and robotics, space and flight, and computer science. A combination of PLTW curriculum and teacher created programs based on extensive off-site training provide the basis for the courses. In addition to the robust offerings during the instructional day, there are after-school STEM clubs that include competition teams for VEX robotics and Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROV).

High school students are engaged by the academic and career possibilities for engineering and robotics in the award-winning SMERT (Science, Math, Engineering, Robotics and Technology) and PVIT (Palos Verdes Institute of Technology) programs. The program’s pathways offer seven unique STEM classes including aerospace engineering, web design, and computer science. All courses are CSU and University of California approved and many include college credit. Both high school programs have produced numerous competition-winning teams, placing both nationally and internationally in Underwater ROV, Cybersecurity, and Robotics. Teams meet before and after school and on weekends to hone their skills and build their robots. Numerous teachers, parents, and local engineers volunteer their time to be part of these successful initiatives.

Program highlights:

  • 100% of fourth and fifth grade students participate in STEM courses.

  • Middle schools STEM courses serve 175-200 students per year. High schools have 135-160 students enrolled in STEM classes each year.

  • Female students participate at a higher rate (25%- 30%) than national average (5-10%).

  • 98% of PVPUSD graduates enroll in college. Class of 2015 students were offered admission to over 300 colleges including all UC and CSU campuses and all Ivy League colleges.

  • Five middle school teams competed in the 2015 California VEX Robotics Championships. They were the only public school to reach the finals.

  • Only high school team to compete against well-established university engineering programs at the national level in the DARPA challenge.

  • Both high schools’ programs have numerous competition-winning teams, placing both nationally and internationally in the Underwater ROV, Solar Boat, CyberPatriots, and VEX and First Robotics categories.

  • Ongoing funding from the Peninsula Education Foundation supports the STEM program in grades 4-12. Local partnerships with Boeing, Northrup-Grumman, and Honda provide paid internships, volunteers, and funding to support our students and STEM programs.