National Group in Columbia to Educate Future Science, Math Leaders

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COLUMBIA - Friday morning, Rock Bridge High School welcomed more than 700 students and teachers to the "Project Lead the Way" Conference.

Teachers, counselors, and educational leaders gathered to hear speeches and presentations from Gov. Jay Nixon and the President and Chief Executive Officer of the organization, Vince M. Bertram, during the morning hours of the conference.

Project Lead the Way is a national initiative to increase interest in science, engineering, and math. The ultimate goal of the program is to develop future engineers, future mathematicians, and future scientists. Michelle Baumstark, community relations director for Columbia Public Schools, said the program has been implemented in Missouri for the last several years. 

"It really is a curriculum-based initiative," Baumstark said. "Having hands-on activities in the classrooms, and things related to engineering."

Baumstark said, obviously, the real goal is to be leaders within the science and technology fields. 

Dr. Cheryl B. Schrader, chancellor of Missouri University of Science and Technology, said Project Lead the Way has been offered in the state of Missouri since 2002. Schrader said that just this year alone, Project Lead the Way was able to reach 40,000 students in the state. At Missouri S&T, Shrader has seen about 10 percent of the freshman class coming in already with Project Lead the Way experience.

Schrader said, "Students who are technically literate and have a background in the sciences and engineering, just like the Project Lead the Way students, really will have that technical literacy that will take them forward in the job market."

The chancellor spoke about the importance of developing learners of science, engineering, and math, and also the fact that we need to train our educators in that area to have specialties in teaching science, engineering, and math. 

PLTW Student Panelist Alumni, Atiya Rankin took the courses during high school and said she believes her knowledge will help her in college and with her future career.

"We just do a lot of things that other people with their careers up-and-going really do," Rankin said. 

The chancellor said it is the obligation of educators to provide the students with what they need in order to be successful.

For more information about Project Lead the Way in Missouri, visit