Purdue takes early steps to create its own STEM pipeline

By Bridget McCrea
July 7th, 2015

New charter school aims to help inner city students and other pupils get head starts on their careers in STEM.


When it comes to developing young talent well in advance, the major league baseball system has the process down to a science. Using a “farm system” that cultivates and grooms youngsters for future positions on major league baseball teams, Major League Baseball (MLB) virtually ensures that as positions open up at the top, there is always a good crop of new recruits to select from. By taking a hands-on role in the farming process, MLB has set itself up as the ultimate developer of both high school and college-aged players.

Colleges and universities have traditionally relied on the nation’s high schools to serve as their farming systems, but at least one is taking a step outside of the box on the STEM front. Now, rather than hoping that a viable crop of young STEM students will enter its technical programs, Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind., will literally begin growing its own field of potential candidates.

Set to open in August 2017, Purdue Polytechnic Indianapolis High School will help bridge the gap for inner-city students who want to attend Purdue University. According to Gary R. Bertoline, dean of the Purdue Polytechnic Institute (formerly known as the Purdue College of Technology), the STEM-focused charter school will be located in downtown Indianapolis. It will offer a high school curriculum that mirrors that of Purdue Polytechnic Institute – with the goal of prepping students for success in STEM at the college level.

The new high school will offer open enrollment for a STEM-based curriculum in which the first two years will encompass problem- and project-based learning focused on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics with a connection between those subjects and real-world challenges.

Students entering 11th grade will select a specific pathway to master skills, earn college credit and industry credentials while learning in the high school classroom, at Purdue’s West Lafayette campus and in the workplace. In the 12th grade, students will complete an internship of their chosen pathway. As part of the program, Purdue also will provide programs that help students transition from high school to college and college-level courses.

(Next page: Purdue’s field of dreams funding and leadership)

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