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PLTW Programs for K-12 Students

The University of Colorado Colorado Springs (UCCS) is the state affiliate university for Project Lead The Way.

PLTW Launch (K-5)

Through PLTW Launch, our program for kindergarten through fifth grade, students become problem solvers. Students use structured approaches, like the engineering design process, and employ critical thinking. They apply STEM knowledge, skills, and habits of mind, learning that it is OK to take risks and make mistakes. As teachers and students learn and discover together, education becomes far more engaging.

  • Modules Aligned to Kindergarten Grade Standards

    • Structure and Function: Exploring Design Students discover the design process and how engineers influence their lives. They explore the elements of structure and function by identifying products around them designed by engineers and asking questions engineers might ask. They are introduced to a design problem through a story in which Angelina wants to design a paintbrush. Students apply their knowledge from the module to design their own paintbrushes.
    • Pushes and Pulls Students investigate pushes and pulls on the motion of an object and develop knowledge and skills related to forces of differing strengths and directions. Their explorations include pushes and pulls found in their everyday world, such as pushing a friend on a swing or pulling a wagon. In this module's design problem, Suzi needs to move rocks from her yard so she can install a swing set. Students work through the problem by applying what they learn about forces.
    • Structure and Function: Human Body Students explore the relationship between structure and function in the human body. They examine major organs within the body and investigate how the structure of each is related to its function. Students are introduced to the design problem through a story in which Angelina falls off the monkey bars and breaks her arm. Students learn about the diagnosis and treatment of her injury and then work to design and build a cast for Angelina.
    • Animals and Algorithms Students explore the nature of computers and the ways humans control and use technology. Starting with an unplugged activity, students learn about the sequential nature of computer programs. Students are inspired by a story in which Angelina, Mylo, and Suzi make videos to teach preschoolers about animals in their habitats. Then, students work in small groups to design and program a simple digital animation about an animal in its habitat.
  • Modules Aligned to First Grade Standards

    • Light and Sound Students investigate the properties of light and sound, including vibration from sound waves and the effect of different materials on the path of a beam of light. After students develop an understanding of light and sound, they are challenged to solve a design problem Mylo, Suzi, and Angelina face. In the story, the characters are lost and must use only the materials in their backpack to communicate over a distance by using light and/or sound. Students use the design process to sketch, build, test, and reflect on a device that solves this design problem.
    • Light: Observing the Sun, Moon, and Stars After observing the sun, moon, and stars, students identify and describe patterns in their recorded data. Angelina, Mylo, and Suzi introduce the design problem, which challenges students to create a playground structure designed to protect students from ultraviolet radiation. Students utilize their knowledge of light to design, build, and test structures created to solve this problem. Students then evaluate their designs, share their findings, and explore ideas to improve their structures based on the testing data.
    • Animal Adaptations Students explore animal adaptations for protection, camouflage, food obtainment, and locomotion. Students learn what it means for an organism to be adapted to its environment and how different adaptations can be categorized. Students are introduced to the design challenge when Suzi announces she is visiting the Sahara and needs to get prepared for her trip. Students are challenged to design the ideal shoe for travelers to wear in extreme environments, applying what they have learned and looking to plant and animal adaptations to guide their designs.
    • Animated Storytelling Students explore the sequential nature of computer programs through hands-on activities, both with and without a computer. They examine key aspects of storytelling and devise how to transition a narrative from page to screen. Students discover the design problem through a story about Angelina, Mylo, and Suzi, who wish they could find a way to create a story with characters who move and interact with each other. Combining fundamental principles of computer science with story-building skills, students develop animations that showcase characters, settings, actions, and events from short stories of their own creation.
  • Modules Aligned to Second Grade Standards

    • Materials Science: Properties of Matter Students investigate and classify different kinds of materials by their observable properties, including color and texture. They learn about states of matter and properties of materials including insulators and conductors. In the design problem, Angelina, Mylo, and Suzi, are challenged to keep ice pops cold during a soccer game - without a cooler. Students apply their knowledge and skills to determine the best material to solve this design problem and then evaluate how their designs might be improved.
    • Materials Science: Form and Function Students research the variety of ways animals disperse seeds and pollinate plants. They expand their understanding of properties of matter as they consider the form and function involved in seed dispersal and pollination. Students are introduced to the design problem when Angelina, Mylo, and Suzi are tasked with starting a wildflower garden on an expansive plot outside of their school. To solve the design problem, students apply their knowledge and skills to design, build, test, and reflect on a device that mimics a way in which animals disperse seeds or pollinate plants.
    • The Changing Earth Students explore how the surface of the Earth is always changing. They are introduced to different types of maps and explore how these maps convey different information about the world in which we live, including where water is found on Earth. Angelina, Mylo, and Suzi introduce the design problem when faced with the challenge of helping a community threatened by a potential landslide. Students investigate the different forces that shape the surface of the Earth and design solutions to limit the impact of erosion on this fictional community, which is located at the bottom of a hill that was recently destabilized by a fire.
    • Grids and Games Students investigate numerical relationships while learning about the sequence and structure required in computer programs. Starting with computer-free activities and moving to tablet-based challenges, students apply addition and subtraction strategies to make characters move on a grid. Angelina presents the design problem when she expresses her desire to design a game she can play on her tablet. Using skills and knowledge gained from these activities, students work together in groups to design and develop a game in which a player interacts with objects on a tablet screen.
  • Modules Aligned to Third Grade Standards

    • Stability and Motion: Science of Flight In this module, students learn about the forces involved in flight as well as Newton's Laws of Motion. They design, build, and test an experimental model glider to find out how air and other forces affect its flight. Students discover aeronautics alongside Angelina, Mylo, and Suzi and are inspired by the characters' desire to use their skills to help those in need. Students apply the design process to the problem of delivering aid to an area where supplies must be airlifted in and dropped to the ground from an aircraft.
    • Stability and Motion: Forces and Interactions Students explore simple machines such as wheel and axles, levers, the inclined plane, and more. They investigate the effects of balanced and unbalanced forces on the motion of an object. Angelina, Mylo, and Suzi go on a field trip to the zoo and are faced with the design problem of how to rescue a trapped tiger. Students then apply their knowledge of forces and devise a way to rescue a heavy zoo animal while keeping it safe throughout the process.
    • Variation of Traits Students investigate the differences between inherited genetic traits and traits learned or influenced by the environment. They explore the phenomena that offspring may express different traits than parents as they learn about dominant and recessive genes and also investigate how predicted outcomes compare to experimental results. Angelina, Mylo, and Suzi introduce the design problem when challenged to examine different traits found in three sets of seeds. Students then model how the gene for stem color is passed on and expressed among sample sets.
    • Programming Patterns This module introduces students to the power of modularity and abstraction. Starting with computer-free activities and progressing to programming in a blocks-based language on a tablet, students learn how to think computationally about a problem. Angelina, Mylo, and Suzi set the stage for the design problem as they discuss their desire to create video games on their tablet. Students then create a tablet game using modular functions and branching logic.
  • Modules Aligned to Fourth Grade Standards

    • Energy: Collisions Students explore the properties of mechanisms and how they change energy by transferring direction, speed, type of movement, and force. Students discover a variety of ways potential energy can be stored and released as kinetic energy. They explain the relationship between the speed of an object and the energy of that object, as well as predict the transfer of energy as a result of a collision between two objects. The design problem is introduced by Angelina, Mylo, and Suzi watching amusement park bumper cars collide. As students solve the problem for this module, they apply their knowledge and skills to develop a vehicle restraint system.
    • Energy: Conversion Students identify the conversion of energy between forms and the energy transfer required to move energy from place to place. They also identify and explain how energy can be converted to meet a human need or want. The design problem is introduced through Angelina, Mylo, and Suzi, who need to move donated food from a truck to a food pantry. Students then apply scientific ideas about the conversion of energy to solve this design problem.
    • Input/Output: Computer Systems In this exploration of how computers work, students are encouraged to make analogies between the parts of the human body and parts that make up a computer. Students investigate reaction time as a measure of nervous system function. After Mylo suffers a concussion, his friends become interested in how to diagnose concussions and create a reaction-time computer program to assess a baseline before a concussion occurs. Students apply what they have learned to build their own reaction-time measurement devices on tablets. This module has strong connections to the fourth-grade Human Brain module.
    • Input/Output: Human Brain Students discover how signals passing from cell to cell allow us to receive stimuli from the outside world, transmit this information to the brain for processing, and then send out a signal to generate a response. When Mylo experiences a concussion after falling off a skateboard while not wearing a helmet, he and his friends are motivated to raise awareness about concussions. Inspired by this design problem, students work as part of a team to design, plan, and create a video or podcast to educate children on identifying and preventing concussions.
  • Modules Aligned to Fifth Grade Standards

    • Robotics and Automation Students explore the ways robots are used in today's world and their impact on society and the environment. Students learn about a variety of robotic components as they build and test mobile robots that may be controlled remotely. Angelina, Mylo, and Suzi are tasked with designing a mobile robot that can remove hazardous materials from a disaster site. Students are then challenged to design, model, and test a mobile robot that solves this design problem.
    • Robotics and Automation: Challenge Students expand their understanding of robotics as they explore mechanical design and computer programming. This module focuses on developing skills needed to build and program autonomous robots. Angelina, Mylo, and Suzi are tasked with designing an automatic-guided vehicle to deliver supplies to a specific area in a hospital without being remotely controlled by a person. Inspired by this design problem, students work with a group to apply their knowledge to design, build, test, and refine a mobile robot that meets a set of design constraints.
    • Infection: Detection Students explore transmission of infection, agents of disease, and mechanisms the body uses to stay healthy. Through a simulation, they compare communicable and non-communicable diseases. In the design problem, Suzi comes down with a fever and sore throat, and her friends wonder how this illness might have spread across the school. Students tackle the design problem by examining evidence to deduce the agent of infection, the likely source of the outbreak, and the path of transmission through a school. They design and run an experiment related to limiting the spread of germs and apply results to propose appropriate prevention methods.
    • Infection: Modeling and Simulation In this module, students investigate models and simulations and discover powerful ideas about computing. The design problem - related to the Infection: Detection module - is introduced as Mylo and Angelina look to model an infectious disease to simulate how an illness spread through their class. Applying their new understandings, students program their own models and collect data by running simulations with different parameters.

PLTW Gateway (6-8)

Through topics like coding and robotics, flight and space, and DNA and crime scene analysis, middle school students engage their natural curiosity and imagination in creative problem solving. PLTW Gateway is a strong foundation for further STEM learning in high school and beyond, challenging students to solve real-world challenges, such as cleaning oil spills and designing sustainable housing solutions.

  • Foundation Units Design & Modeling

    Students apply the design process to solve problems and understand the influence of creativity and innovation in their lives. They work in teams to design a playground and furniture, capturing research and ideas in their engineering notebooks. Using Autodesk® design software, students create a virtual image of their designs and produce a portfolio to showcase their innovative solutions.

  • Foundation Units Automation & Robotics

    Students trace the history, development, and influence of automation and robotics as they learn about mechanical systems, energy transfer, machine automation, and computer control systems. Students use the VEX Robotics® platform to design, build, and program real-world objects such as traffic lights, toll booths, and robotic arms.

  • Specialization Units Introduction to Computer Science 1

    Studies show that by 2018, 1.4 million job openings will be available for computer specialists. In this unit, students discover the principles of this fast-growing field by focusing on creativity and an iterative design process as they create their own basic apps using MIT App Inventor.

  • Specialization Units Introduction to Computer Science 2

    Students continue to explore the fundamentals of the stimulating career path of computer science. They venture into text programming through Python and, in the final problem, develop an app to crowdsource and analyze data on a topic of their interest.

  • Specialization Units Energy & the Environment

    Students are challenged to think big and toward the future as they explore sustainable solutions to our energy needs and investigate the impact of energy on our lives and the world. They design and model alternative energy sources and evaluate options for reducing energy consumption.

  • Specialization Units Flight & Space

    The exciting world of aerospace comes alive through Flight and Space. Students explore the science behind aeronautics and use their knowledge to design, build, and test an airfoil. Custom-built simulation software allows students to experience space travel.

  • Specialization Units Science of Technology

    Science impacts the technology of yesterday, today, and the future. Students apply the concepts of physics, chemistry, and nanotechnology to STEM activities and projects, including making ice cream, cleaning up an oil spill, and discovering the properties of nano-materials.

  • Specialization Units Magic of Electrons

    Through hands-on projects, students explore electricity, the behavior and parts of atoms, and sensing devices. They learn knowledge and skills in basic circuitry design, and examine the impact of electricity on the world around them.

  • Specialization Units Green Architecture

    Today's students have grown up in an age of "green" choices. In this unit, students learn how to apply this concept to the fields of architecture and construction by exploring dimensioning, measuring, and architectural sustainability as they design affordable housing units using Autodesk's® 3D architectural design software.

  • Specialization Units Medical Detectives

    Students play the role of real-life medical detectives as they analyze genetic testing results to diagnose disease and study DNA evidence found at a "crime scene." They solve medical mysteries through hands-on projects and labs, investigate how to measure and interpret vital signs, and learn how the systems of the human body work together to maintain health.

PLTW Computer Science (9-12)

PLTW Computer Science empowers students in grades 9-12 to become creators, instead of merely consumers, of the technology all around them. The program engages students in real-world activities like creating an online art portal and using automation to process and analyze DNA-sequence data. These projects and problems engage students in computational thinking, challenge them to think big, and help illustrate how intricately computer science is woven into our society.

  • Introduction to Computer Science (ICS, 0.5 year)

    Designed to be the first computer science course for students who have never programmed before, ICS is an optimal starting point for the PLTW Computer Science program. Students work in teams to create apps for mobile devices using MIT App Inventor®. They explore the impact of computing in society and build skills in digital citizenship and cybersecurity. Beyond learning the fundamentals of programming, students build computational thinking skills by applying computer science to collaboration tools, modeling and simulation, and data analysis. In addition, students transfer the understanding of programming gained in App Inventor to text-based programming in Python® and apply their knowledge to create algorithms for games of chance and strategy.

  • Computer Science Principles (CSP, 1 year)

    Using Python® as a primary tool and incorporating multiple platforms and languages for computation, this course aims to develop computational thinking, generate excitement about career paths that utilize computing, and introduce professional tools that foster creativity and collaboration. While this course can be a student's first in computer science, students without prior computing experience are encouraged to start with Introduction to Computer Science. CSP helps students develop programming expertise and explore the workings of the Internet. Projects and problems include app development, visualization of data, cybersecurity, and simulation.

    PLTW is recognized by the College Board as an endorsed provider of curriculum and professional development for AP® Computer Science Principles (AP CSP). This endorsement affirms that all components of PLTW CSP's offerings are aligned to the AP Curriculum Framework standards and the AP CSP assessment. Using an endorsed provider affords schools access to resources including an AP CSP syllabus pre-approved by the College Board's AP Course Audit, and officially recognized professional development that prepares teachers to teach AP CSP.

  • Computer Science A (CSA, 1 year)

    CSA focuses on further developing computational thinking skills through the medium of Android™ App development for mobile platforms. The course utilizes industry-standard tools such as Android Studio, Java™ programming language, XML, and device emulators. Students collaborate to create original solutions to problems of their own choosing by designing and implementing user interfaces and Web-based databases. The course curriculum is a College Board-approved implementation of AP CS A.

  • Cybersecurity (SEC, 1 year)

    SEC introduces the tools and concepts of cybersecurity and encourages students to create solutions that allow people to share computing resources while protecting privacy. Nationally, computational resources are vulnerable and frequently attacked; in SEC, students solve problems by understanding and closing these vulnerabilities. This course raises students' knowledge of and commitment to ethical computing behavior. It also aims to develop students' skills as consumers, friends, citizens, and employees who can effectively contribute to communities with a dependable cyber-infrastructure that moves and processes information safely.

PLTW Engineering (9-12)

In PLTW Engineering, students engage in open-ended problem solving, learn and apply the engineering design process, and use the same industry-leading technology and software as are used in the world's top companies. Students are immersed in design as they investigate topics such as sustainability, mechatronics, forces, structures, aerodynamics, digital electronics and circuit design, manufacturing, and the environment, which gives them an opportunity to learn about different engineering disciplines before beginning post-secondary education or careers.

  • Foundation Course Introduction to Engineering Design (IED, 1 year)

    Students dig deep into the engineering design process, applying math, science, and engineering standards to hands-on projects. They work both individually and in teams to design solutions to a variety of problems using 3D modeling software, and use an engineering notebook to document their work.

  • Foundation Course Principles of Engineering (POE, 1 year)

    Through problems that engage and challenge, students explore a broad range of engineering topics, including mechanisms, the strength of structures and materials, and automation. Students develop skills in problem solving, research, and design while learning strategies for design process documentation, collaboration, and presentation.

  • Specialization Course Aerospace Engineering (AE, 1 year)

    This course propels students' learning in the fundamentals of atmospheric and space flight. As they explore the physics of flight, students bring the concepts to life by designing an airfoil, propulsion system, and rockets. They learn basic orbital mechanics using industry-standard software. They also explore robot systems through projects such as remotely operated vehicles.

  • Specialization Course Civil Engineering and Architecture (CEA, 1 year)

    Students learn important aspects of building and site design and development. They apply math, science, and standard engineering practices to design both residential and commercial projects and document their work using 3D architecture design software.

  • Specialization Course Computer Integrated Manufacturing (CIM, 1 year)

    Using Python® as a primary tool and incorporating multiple platforms and languages for computation, this course aims to develop computational thinking, generate excitement about career paths that utilize computing, and introduce professional tools that foster creativity and collaboration. While this course can be a student's first in computer science, students without prior computing experience are encouraged to start with Introduction to Computer Science. CSP helps students develop programming expertise and explore the workings of the Internet. Projects and problems include app development, visualization of data, cybersecurity, and simulation. The course curriculum is a College Board-approved implementation of AP CS Principles.

  • Specialization Course Computer Science Principles (CSP, 1 year)

    CSP implements the College Board's 2013 CS Principles framework. Using Python® as a primary tool and incorporating multiple platforms and languages for computation, this course aims to develop computational thinking, generate excitement about career paths that utilize computing, and introduce professional tools that foster creativity and collaboration. Projects and problems include app development, visualization of data, cybersecurity, robotics, and simulation.

  • Specialization Course Digital Electronics (DE, 1 year)

    From smart phones to appliances, digital circuits are all around us. This course provides a foundation for students who are interested in electrical engineering, electronics, or circuit design. Students study topics such as combinational and sequential logic and are exposed to circuit design tools used in industry, including logic gates, integrated circuits, and programmable logic devices.

  • Specialization Course Environmental Sustainability (ES, 1 year)

    In ES, students investigate and design solutions in response to real-world challenges related to clean and abundant drinking water, food supply issues, and renewable energy. Applying their knowledge through hands-on activities and simulations, students research and design potential solutions to these true-to-life challenges.
    *Environmental Sustainability will replace Biotechnical Engineering, which PLTW will continue to support through the end of the 2016-17 school year.

  • Capstone Course Capstone Course - Engineering Design and Development (EDD, 1 year)

    The knowledge and skills students acquire throughout PLTW Engineering come together in EDD as they identify an issue and then research, design, and test a solution, ultimately presenting their solution to a panel of engineers. Students apply the professional skills they have developed to document a design process to standards, completing EDD ready to take on any post-secondary program or career.

PLTW Biomedical Science (9-12)

The challenging and relevant four-course PLTW Biomedical Science sequence allows students to investigate the roles of biomedical professionals as they study the concepts of human medicine, physiology, genetics, microbiology, and public health. They examine the structures and interactions of human body systems and explore the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of disease, all while working collaboratively to understand and design solutions to the most pressing health challenges of today and the future.

  • Foundation Course Principles of Biomedical Science

    In the introductory course of the PLTW Biomedical Science program, students explore concepts of biology and medicine to determine factors that led to the death of a fictional person. While investigating the case, students examine autopsy reports, investigate medical history, and explore medical treatments that might have prolonged the person's life. The activities and projects introduce students to human physiology, basic biology, medicine, and research processes while allowing them to design their own experiments to solve problems.

  • Foundation Course Human Body Systems

    Students examine the interactions of human body systems as they explore identity, power, movement, protection, and homeostasis. Exploring science in action, students build organs and tissues on a skeletal Maniken®; use data acquisition software to monitor body functions such as muscle movement, reflex and voluntary action, and respiration; and take on the roles of biomedical professionals to solve real-world medical cases.

  • Foundation Course Medical Interventions

    Students follow the life of a fictitious family as they investigate how to prevent, diagnose, and treat disease. Students explore how to detect and fight infection; screen and evaluate the code in human DNA; evaluate cancer treatment options; and prevail when the organs of the body begin to fail. Through real-world cases, students are exposed to a range of interventions related to immunology, surgery, genetics, pharmacology, medical devices, and diagnostics.

  • Capstone Course Biomedical Innovations

    In the final course of the PLTW Biomedical Science sequence, students build on the knowledge and skills gained from previous courses to design innovative solutions for the most pressing health challenges of the 21st century. Students address topics ranging from public health and biomedical engineering to clinical medicine and physiology. They have the opportunity to work on an independent design project with a mentor or advisor from a university, medical facility, or research institution.