Students' STEM Talents Soar at Pathways to Prosperity High School

Published jun. 17, 2014

Ninth grader Leticia Dos Santos wiped the sweat off her brow and smiled earnestly as she demonstrated how the energy harvested from pedaling a bicycling could be used to light up the high school soccer field scoreboard.

“If I had known about this earlier, I wouldn’t have done my exercise this morning,” joked Massachusetts Commissioner of Education Mitchell Chester.

The Commissioner had come to Marlborough STEM Early College High School to observe the students’ impressive showcase of innovative and interdisciplinary capstone projects. Ninth-grade STEM students were given the task of helping Marlborough “Go Green” by engineering eco-friendly, alternative energy solutions for the high school’s facilities. Tenth graders were on a “Mission to Colonize Mars” and constructed testable prototypes of transporters and biospheres that would be able to support life.

Read the full profile on Marlborough STEM Early College High School.

The high school’s field house was abuzz with excitement as dozens of student groups proudly presented their months’ worth of work to a panel of judges that included representatives from the region’s biggest industries—health care, information technology, and manufacturing. Through Jobs for the Future’s Pathways to Prosperity Network, Marlborough offers its students work-based learning opportunities by collaborating with employers from high-demand sectors. For example, Marlborough’s STEM students are given the opportunity to learn how to use engineering design software for real-life scenarios.

“The CAD program—I just love it. I actually play around on the program a lot just for fun. Some of the things the tenth graders make are amazing; they make toy cars with so many details,” said ninth grader Jake Hardy.

One group of ninth graders accompanied their model of the school theater’s lighting system with a comparative analysis of solar panel versus LED usage. On the other side of the field house, a tenth-grade group displayed their engineering design process for a biosphere that had successfully supported the life of a fish and three plants for two months.

The teachers had carefully crafted project assignments that incorporated the many elements and curriculum goals of Marlborough’s STEM program; students not only had to create mockups using 3-D and architectural design programs, they also had to work in groups, deal with short- and long-term deadlines, delegate executive roles, manage a budget, and apply for grants from “investors” for project materials.

“With the invoices and grants for project materials, we had to keep close track of what we were using. A lot of the time people waste materials. If we go over budget or waste materials, we’d lose points on our grade,” explained STEM tenth grader (and the group’s VP of Business) Suhani Bhati.

“The STEM early college program is an exciting opportunity for these students,” said Commissioner Chester. “Students are not just challenged academically, but they will leave high school with an understanding of career opportunities.”

Jobs for the Future’s Pathways to Prosperity Network supports high schools in developing pathway programs that enable students to transition into postsecondary education and careers in high-demand sectors. The pathways are made possible through multi-industry coalitions of regional employers, higher education institutions, government organizations, and other partners. President Obama recently endorsed the innovative partnership model by granting Jobs for the Future $4.9 million to expand STEM education and career pathways for at least 1,650 Massachusetts high school students.

Under JFF’s leadership, Marlborough, along with two other schools—Brockton and West Springfield—will implement plans to increase STEM course offerings and collaborate with employer partners to provide even more work-based learning opportunities. Scaling up these innovative pathway models will bridge the skills gap, boost underserved students to in-demand careers, and help reestablish the United States as a global leader in today’s economy.

America is slowly gearing up for a new vision of school systems, and Marlborough is quickly leading the way.

To learn more about Marlborough STEM Early College High School and their work with Pathways to Prosperity, read the full profile.

Photograph taken at the Marlborough Spring STEM 2014 Showcase.