Foothiller Footsteps: A new pathway to engineering success

Posted: January 27th, 2017 | Columns, Featured, Foothiller Footsteps | No Comments

By Connie and Lynn Baer | Foothiller Footsteps

For 96 years, Grossmont High School (GHS) has offered its students a rigorous academic curriculum. This year, Foothillers have an opportunity to explore the world of engineering.

The Project Lead the Way (PLTW) Engineering pathway joined the five other career pathways available to Grossmont’s students: Education; Transportation; Arts, Media, and Entertainment; Information Communication Technology; and Health (Sports Medicine).

PLTW Engineering is a three-year course sequence, which focuses on preparing students for a university engineering program. The first course is Introduction to Engineering Design where students explore the engineering design process while applying math, science, and engineering standards to hands-on projects such as designing a new toy or improving an existing product. A class such as this needs an experienced instructor.

The Grossmont High School Project Lead the Way Engineering pathway
students (Courtesy of GHS Museum)

“I worked in software engineering and quality assurance prior to teaching physics and general science,” said GHS Science and Engineering teacher Robert Pyle, adding that he is a graduate of the College of Engineering at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.

The first-year course has 25 10th-grade students in the class. Most of the students are enrolled in honors classes and plan to take honors and Advanced Placement classes as juniors and seniors.

PTLW Engineering has an established curriculum, which is largely project based. First semester, the students finished a project to create a “Puzzle Cube” child’s toy, which required them to design, accurately sketch by hand, correctly 3D model in the computer design program (Autodesk Inventor), and construct a prototype and proof of concept of the item.

This year’s course demands quite a bit of pen/paper sketching and technical drawing, computer-aided design, design process, as well as public speaking and working as a team. (Foothillers from the past may have participated in the mechanical drawing classes offered for decades to students and taught in the 1935 Manual Arts Building, built by the WPA)

Pyle said he likes “the fact that the course is directly applicable and great preparation for the sorts of engineering courses students may see in college. The pathway is designed to cover broad aspects of engineering and exposes the students to multiple areas. The courses will give any possible engineering student a step up going into college.”

Next year’s course for 11th-grade students, which Pyle will also teach, is Principles of Engineering, which explores many areas of engineering. This course allows students to explore a broad range of engineering topics including mechanisms, strength of structure and materials, and automation, and then they apply what they know to take on challenges — like designing a self-powered car.

Grossmont will choose from six options for the third-year course. The teacher must have a specialty in one of these six areas: Aerospace Engineering, Civil Engineering and Architecture, Computer Integrated Manufacturing, Computer Science Principles, Digital Electronics, or Environmental Sustainability.

In the spring, the class plans to visit SDSU’s Engineering department. Obviously, the students who complete the three-year course of PLTW Engineering will be well-prepared for their college engineering experiences.

To learn more about Grossmont’s six pathways, visit

The GHS Museum is open noon–3:30 p.m. Feb. 1, 2017 or other Wednesdays by appointment. Email or call 619-668-6140 or visit

—Connie and Lynn Baer write on behalf of the Grossmont High School Museum. Reach them at

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