OGDEN -- More than 500 high school students in Ogden and Weber school districts are getting hands-on experience in more than six fields of engineering and getting college credit while they do it.
They build battling robots, draw complex architectural designs, create bridges from small pieces of wood and design airplane wings -- and that's just this week.
Project Lead the Way is a national program that gives junior high and high school students hands-on engineering experience so they will be better prepared for college.
Both districts partner with Weber State University and Utah State University so students earn college credit for each class they complete.
Glenn Prisk directs the program for Weber School District at the Two Rivers High School, the district's alternative high school on West 12th Street.
Students from nine junior high schools are bused there each morning, with students from four high schools working there in the afternoon. The program is run under the district's magnet high school program.
Prisk said Project Lead the Way is perfect for students who want practical applications for what they learn.
"These students want to do something. They don't want to sit in class and wait for things to come to them," Prisk said.
The program puts math, physics, computer skills, writing and even presentation skills to good use, he said.
Teachers must be certified and attend what Prisk calls a "boot camp" to pass the various categories of the engineering program.
The six areas taught are: principles of engineering, introduction to engineering design, digital electronics, computer-integrated manufacturing, civil engineering and architecture, and engineering design and development.
Ogden and Ben Lomond high schools in the Ogden School District also run the program, and students can go back and forth between the two schools to complete classes, said program adviser Roger Snow.
Prisk and Snow are impressed with the students and the things they are learning.
"Walking into a college class can be overwhelming and they can get swallowed up pretty easy," Prisk said.
"These students are already getting that rigor here, and so when they go to college, they will be ready," he said as he walked through the classrooms with 3-D printers, power tools, huge drafting centers, robotics equipment and high-tech computers.
"I just love the hands-on stuff," said Fremont High School sophomore Taylor Nelson, who entered the program last year.
He said he likes that he's getting ahead and earning college credit so he can graduate from high school with an associate degree.
The program requires partnerships with local businesses, which often offer internships to seniors and also help on their capstone project -- a huge senior project in which students devise complex architectural designs, Snow said.
"Students are getting an opportunity to develop skills to open-ended complex problems and using real problem-solving skills," he said.
Prisk is also excited to see girls in the program.
Elizabeth Radcliffe, who wants to be a manufacturing engineer, was a little nervous about the program when she was in ninth grade. Now a junior, she feels at home in a technical environment.
"These people are my friends," she said, pointing to a room full of students from several schools in Weber School District.
She likes that students can come in and out of the program at any time, and if only one class suits them, it's OK.
"Kids nowadays want accountability, and that's what this program gives them," Prisk said.
Snow agrees, saying, "It's all about rigor and relevance, reason and why -- and that's what these kids want."