VIDEO: ECC and St. Clair High School Engineering Partnership Continues
A collaboration between East Central College and St. Clair High School continues to grow. This year marks the third year of the Project Lead The Way-Engineering (PLTW-E) program — a partnership between the College and SCHS.
The high school’s PLTW-E program, in conjunction with ECC’s advanced manufacturing center, has organically grown into what is now a collaborative lab-sharing project. SCHS students use the labs and equipment at ECC to further enhance their PLTW-E program.
Since 2019, Maurice Gritzman, PLTW-E instructor at SCHS, has jumped on a bus with his students four days a week to make the trip during the fall and spring semesters to the College’s Business and Industry Center (BIC). Gritzman, a former engineer, leads his students through engineering studies at SCHS and at ECC.
While at ECC his students learn to model projects using Solidworks (computer-aided drawing and engineering application) and then they build their projects using Precision Machining equipment. Students in this program also utilize industrial precision machines and other related software. In addition to utilizing equipment and technology that is unavailable at the high school, the SCHS students also earn ECC dual credit courses for college.
This year there are eight SCHS students involved in the PLTW-e. In 2020, all three SHCS grads in the program came to ECC the following year. Last year, there were 15 students, five of whom were seniors in the program — two came to ECC after graduating high school and three went onto Missouri S&T in Rolla.
The collaboration between SCHS and ECC began four years ago, according to Dr. Richard Hudanick, Dean of Career and Technical Education. Gritzman brought students to the BIC labs for ECC’s Annual Manufacturing Days Event in 2019.
The event showcases ECC’s faculty, labs and programs focused on HVAC, Industrials Engineering Technology, Precision Machinery, and Welding.
It was at Manufacturing Days that Gritzman and SCHS Advisor Holly Click met Nathan Esbeck, Industrial Engineering Technology (IET) program director; Curtis Elliott, Precision Machining program coordinator; and Hudanick.
At the time, Gritzman had his eyes on one of IET’s robotic trainers, according to Hudanick. “Maurice said, ‘I wish I had one of these.”
“I told him that ‘our labs are your labs’,” Hudanick added. “At this point the ball was in Maurice’s court and from that moment his relationship with ECC, and Esbeck and Elliott, has been nothing but a success.”
This collaborative project satisfies many needs of the community while allowing students to discover engineering and advanced manufacturing career paths.
ECC’s IET and Precision Machinery programs offer such an opportunity for this discovery.
“Neither of these programs are well known outside manufacturing itself and with good paying careers for those who travel their paths,” Hudanick added. “What a novel way to build a collaborative adventure with high school student’s career-future at the center.”
He explained that the high schools work toward developing pathways, like PLTW, for their students, while trying to engage them is career ideas.
“It’s a win-win when high school engineering and industrials arts programs are supported by their community colleges,” Hudanick added. “ECC has the lab resources to include state-of-the-art equipment and industry software, and we are preparing these high school students for their next step after graduation.