New courses at McClain lead way to career paths


With the beginning of this school year came the start of courses allowing McClain students more opportunities in their learning and career paths into life beyond school.

According to teacher Nathan Luke, these courses are through Project Lead the Way, a nonprofit that develops STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) courses of study for schools.

While the high school currently offers computer sciences courses, Project Lead the Way courses differ not only in their rigor, but offer a pathway through the Ohio Code Project where students have the opportunity to take more courses with AP (advanced placement) credits and college credit. Additionally, these courses could enable students to obtain industry credentials or badging.

Luke has had to complete rigorous training himself for each new course he is teaching this year. That training has helped him prepare to effectively teach concepts that he hasn’t used for awhile. And while he is done with formal training for now, Luke said he is “still constantly learning and re-engaging in some concepts” that he hasn’t gone over in a long time.

As to those taking advantage of the opportunity, Luke said, “It’s a small subset of students, and it almost has to be, with how many problems arise during a computer program or the building of a robot.”

Even with the problems that arise, he said the new classes, while challenging, are going well.

In CCP (College Credit Plus) PLTW (Project Lead The Way) Cybersecurity, Luke said the students are learning how to use programs like Wireshark, which industry professionals use to troubleshoot networks and look for suspicious activities. They are also learning SQL (structured query language), which is the language used in databases.

In PLTW AP Computer Science Principles, Luke said students are analyzing Python code to understand how a hacker is able to use a dictionary of common passwords to try to break into user accounts. This also helps students learn how to keep passwords safe. They are also learning how to make GUIs (Graphical User Interfaces), which allow users to interact with a computer program.

In PLTW AP Computer Science Java, students are learning how to write mutator and accessor methods which are used in bank accounts and ATMs.

In Luke’s courses, such as CCP Microcontroller Programming, students are programming a Christmas light show and syncing it to music. They are also learning how logic gates work in a circuit.

In Robotics, students are just coming off a big tournament McClain co-hosted with Fairfield in December and are currently working to refine their robots for the next competition at Milford in February at Milford High School.

With the more rigorous courses available, Luke said he is hoping this leads to a lot more opportunities for McClain students.

“With a more difficult curriculum comes some frustrations here and there, but ultimately, through this curriculum, students are being more exposed to real-world tools and problems that better mimic what they may see in their professional careers should they choose to go the computer science or engineering route after high school,” Luke said.

“Mr. Luke put in countless hours over the summer to be certified to teach Project Lead the Way,” said McClain Principal Matt Shelton. “This has created another great avenue for our students to explore the fields of technology and computer science, and the curriculum will help equip our McClain graduates with the tools they need for what are promising and continuously growing career fields.”

Angela Shepherd is a correspondent for the Greenfield Exempted Village School District.

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