Precision Plus’ Barry Butters Is Certified to Teach Project Lead The Way’s Engineering Design and Development Capstone Course to High School Students

Michael Reader

Barry Butters, Director of Education and Training at Precision Plus spent two full weeks at Milwaukee School of Engineering (MSOE) in June to complete intensive training to enable him to teach the course ‘Engineering Design and Development’ (EDD) to high school students. The course is a capstone course of the Project Lead The Way (PLTW) curriculum.

As per the description of the capstone course on PLTW’s website, “Engineering Design and Development (EDD) gives students the opportunity to work in teams to solve problems of their own choosing.  Under the guidance of a community mentor, teams employ all the skills and knowledge gained through previous coursework to brainstorm, research, construct and test  a model in real-life situations (or simulations); document their designs; and present and defend the designs to a panel of experts.”

Butters participation was sponsored by the Elkhorn Area School District. Beginning in fall 2014, he will be teaching Elkhorn Area H.S. students as well, as other students from local school districts, the EDD Course at Precision Plus’ classroom.

The instructors’ training at Milwaukee School of Engineering teamed up the participants to go through a simulation of the EDD program, which they will be teaching during the school year. Butters collaborated with Phil Winegar, Technology and Engineering Instructor at Menomonie High School, and Brent Siler, Technology and Engineering Instructor at Middleton High School.

The mission for the teams in the training course was to come up with a problem, a solution, develop three design models to implement the solution, and, after choosing one, present their project to a panel of engineers.

Butter’s team pursued a solution for preventing young children from chocking on food. The team focused on the development of a consumer device that would check the softness of food. It was not so much about having a working solution to the problem in two weeks, but rather about understanding how to approach the entire engineering process to come up with a solution.

After a great deal of brainstorming and a decision matrix, three possible prototype solutions–a spring-loaded plunger, a collapsible knife, and an elastic cutter–were printed on a MakerBot 3D printer.

Next, the team selected one potential solution and the solution was tested through experimentation. In the image to the left, butters tests the selected model for its ability to detect the softness of food consistency.

Finally, the results of their entire project and engineering  process were presented to a panel of engineers for scrutiny and recommendations. Pictured on the image to the right are Butters and his teammates Phil Winegar and Brent Siler.

Upon completion of the course, Butters and all the other participants received certificates from PLTW Master Teachers Sharon Tomski and Denise Kimblern, PLTW Affiliate Director Steve Salter, and MSOE V.P. of Academics, Dr. Frederick Berry.

All the training course graduates were looking forward to teaching this program in the fall.