Academics » STEM Academy

STEM Academy

STEM is the idea of educating students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Rather than teach them as four different subjects, STEM integrates them into a cohesive learning style that is design-based, project-based learning and real-world applications. LLHS students will have the opportunity to choose from four classes.

Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math education will teach a curriculum designed by Project Lead the Way (PLTW). The PLTW program engages students in activities, projects, and problem-based learning to focus on college and career goals. STEM courses are for students who may be considering college or technical fields related to STEM. It is an Academy because STEM courses are taken concurrent with required math and science courses needed to graduate from Lakeside Lutheran; therefore, an application process is required.


PLTW has received sponsorship from corporations like John Deere, Cargill, Bemis, 3M, Rockwell Automation, and the Kern Foundation. More than 4,700 schools and more than 3,000 teachers each year are trained to instruct its engaging, rigorous STEM education curriculum. PLTW emphasizes community and business partnerships, as well as introducing students to possible STEM career fields.

What is STEM?  

The acronym STEM was first coined by the National Science Foundation in the early 1990’s.  The term STEM is applied to any policy, event, curriculum, or education program dealing with Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics, but mainly focused on Science and Mathematics. STEM curriculums strive to prepare students for the challenges of the 21st century. At LLHS the STEM Academy is a special program for students interested in taking engineering or biomedical sciences in their post-secondary education.

Who can take STEM Academy classes?  

The Pathway to Engineering first-year class, Engineering Essentials (ESS),  is designed for freshmen. Any openings left will be to our general student population to take as an elective. The second year class is Introduction to Engineering Design (IED). This is intended for the sophomores coming out of IED. Principles of Engineering (POE) and Aerospace Engineering (AE) are the other two classes offered in the LLHS STEM Academy. After re-enrollment in the STEM Academy, any openings left will be made available to our general student population as an elective.

Why should I consider the STEM Academy for my teen? 

STEM classes are designed to challenge students who have an interest in STEM fields and who are highly motivated to learn. Students will be challenged academically with the goal of giving them the greatest opportunity for success in postsecondary STEM programs and STEM careers. In addition, students in STEM classes will be encouraged to enroll in the other rigorous general education course offerings LLHS has to offer, including Physics, Calculus, and AP courses.

Is the STEM Academy only meant for students going into computer science, medical, science, math or engineering careers? 

The focus of STEM classes is certainly to provide an introduction to related careers in science (biology, chemistry, human physiology, medicine), technology (computer science, programming), engineering (chemical, electrical, civil, aeronautical), and math. However, students involved in the STEM Academy will develop a broad range of skills that will benefit them in college and in the workplace, regardless of the field they choose.

What curriculum is used? 

Project Lead the Way (PLTW) has developed and used the curriculum worldwide over the last 16 years. Click here for more information. Schools using the PLTW curriculum must also partner with local industries and businesses. Part of the PLTW curriculum requires LLHS to partner with local industries and also work to find mentors to students in the program. When they have questions about future courses of study, college programs, internships, or challenges in the classroom, the people and businesses LLHS will partner with will be there with experience to guide the students.

How does STEM fit in the academic day? 

STEM is an elective. Students who take a STEM class or enroll as freshmen in the STEM Academy will still have to take all of the math and science classes required to graduate from LLHS.

What is the cost to take a STEM class? 

The cost is $250 per class, or less. This will cover the materials, access to specialized software for class assignments, the PLTW curriculum and teacher training. Students attending LLHS as a WPCP family are not assessed the fee.

Additionally, there is a fee to receive the appropriate credits for a college credit capable course from the awarding institution. Families are not required to purchase these credits but are encouraged to do so. Below is a list of current credit offerings and approximate cost: 

College Credit Course

Awarding Institution


Credits Earned

PLTW Courses


$65 per course

3 credits

AP Exams 

College Board

$87 per exam

3-4 credits

What do I need to do to obtain the earned college credit? 

Families of students enrolled in the STEM Academy will work closely with our LLHS Guidance office regarding course planning, college credit application, and postsecondary and career planning.

What will be covered in each STEM class? 

Please check out this LLHS STEM Course Information link for current course outlines as well as future course outlines. PLTW’s Pathway to Engineering (PTE) high school curriculum is designed as a four-year high school sequence which includes foundational courses, specialized courses, and a capstone course. To receive transcript credit, students in STEM classes will take two foundational courses, one specialized course, and the capstone course. A tentative course list and timeline for course introduction is below:


Foundation Courses

Engineering Essentials (EES)

A full-year course, EES is designed to be a high school student’s first exposure to the Project Lead the Way™ (PLTW) Program and is appropriate for students in grades 9 and up. Students explore the work of engineers and their role in the design and development of solutions to real world problems. The course introduces students to engineering concepts that are applicable across multiple engineering disciplines. Students learn and apply the engineering design process to develop mechanical, electronic, process, and logistical solutions to relevant problems across a variety of industry sectors, including health care, public service, and product development and manufacturing. 

Introduction to Engineering Design (IED)

Designed for 9th and 10th grade students to expose them to the design process, Engineering analysis, engineering standards, and technical documentation. Students will also be introduced to 3D modeling software to design proposed solutions to problems and learn how to communicate their solutions to peers and members of the professional community.

Advanced Courses

Principles of Engineering (POE)

This survey course of engineering exposes students to major concepts they will encounter in a postsecondary education course of study. Students have design problems proposed to them and they employ engineering and scientific concepts to the challenges and communicate the solutions to peers and members of the professional community.


Aerospace Engineering (AE)

AE deepens the skills and knowledge of an engineering student within the context of atmospheric and space flight simulations paired with extensive hands-on experiences. Students explore the fundamentals of flight, explore orbital mechanics concepts, and create digital models using industry-standards software. Students propose solutions to exploration and robotics problems, practice sequential logic design, and practice engineering standards and technical documentation

What is the benefit for taking extra, rigorous classes each year? 

Three specific benefits: 

  1. a) The Project-Based Learning style of the STEM Academy courses is designed to replicate real work experiences in engineering. 
  1. b) Students get to explore the world of engineering and science and upper level math before college. They get to see if this is something they would like to spend $30,000 worth of tuition on after they graduate LLHS. 
  1. c) Upon course certification, students taking PLTW STEM classes are eligible for college credits on their 

transcript. While this won’t get them out of college earlier, or allow them to skip college courses, it does give them preference in post secondary scheduling of courses, and may be the difference with acceptance into college programs.

How much homework should I expect my child to bring home? 

The amount of homework a student could potentially have is largely dependent on their academic abilities and the quality use of in-class and study hall time while at school. On average, traditionally enrolled students will have 1-2 hours of homework a night. Students enrolled in the Academy can likely expect an additional 30 minutes on average per evening.

Besides cost, what is the family/student commitment to STEM? 

As long as your child is making satisfactory progress in the STEM course of study, your commitment is for one school year at a time. STEM Students registering for classes the next year have priority in choosing a STEM class for the following year.

My son or daughter is not in the STEM Academy this year, did they lose the chance to take STEM classes later on? 

STEM students will have priority in course registration for STEM classes next year. However, we are willing to take 20 students in a STEM class and will fill remaining seats with qualified applicants.

What is the STEM application process? 

Please see the LLHS STEM website here. If you have any further questions, please contact our STEM Academy Director, Andrew Willems [email protected]

What are you looking for in a letter of recommendation? 

We are looking for evidence from those who have worked with your child that they are willing and capable of completing the STEM Academy program. As always, specific examples are better than general descriptions. Examples may include the following:

  1. a) Interest in science, math, and/or technology
  2. b) Background or experience in STEM activities in or outside of school
  3. c) Willingness to learn and be creative
  4. d) Self-motivated to complete assignments and projects
  5. e) Capable of working with others on group projects
  6. f) A talent for problem solving
  7. g) Interest in building or taking things apart to explore their functionality
  8. h) General computer skills
  9. i) Academic ability (although this doesn’t always make a good candidate
  10. j) Other seemingly relevant information

How many spots are available? 

The current STEM Academy budget plans for up to 20 students per class.

Does my child need to reapply for the STEM Academy if they were enrolled in the STEM Academy during the current school year? 

Yes, we’d love them to write an essay used to compare new applicants to the STEM Academy. However, all existing STEM Academy students are welcomed and encouraged to schedule the next available course(s) in consultation with their parents, STEM teacher, and Guidance counselor.

Will additional seats be available to non STEM Academy students? 

Seats will be made available to non-STEM Academy students after an initial deadline has past for current STEM Academy students and as space permits. Information will be passed along through the Guidance Office during next year’s course selection process concerning course availability.

How can I find out more information? 

Feel free to email our STEM Academy Director, Andrew Willems [email protected]. Personal consultations and informal discussions are always welcome!

How do I get into the LLHS STEM Academy?

You must apply and get accepted to be part of the LLHS STEM Academy. The application includes a fee, a short personal essay, and letter of recommendation. The application is found online here.

What is the deadline for applying and when will I find out?

The deadline for applying is January 8, 2020. All applications will be reviewed and notifications will be sent out not later than January 18, 2018.

What if I miss the deadline?

The application window will remain open until all seats have been filled. Once all seats have been filled additional applicants will be put on a waiting list.

Is there a fee for the STEM Academy?

There is a $250 fee to be a part of the LLHS STEM Academy. The fee covers course costs and includes use of a personal laptop by the students. Students attending LLHS as a WPCP family are not assessed the fee.

How does applying for the STEM Academy affect my course selection?

When you register for classes in the PowerSchool portal, you will indicate that you are applying to be in the STEM Academy and taking IED. If you decide not to be in the STEM Academy or are not accepted that class will be removed by the Guidance Office.

I don’t know if I want to be an engineer. Should I still take STEM?

Students get a lot of benefit from the STEM Academy courses even if they do not choose to pursue engineering. The courses give a good exposure to different engineering fields, so they are useful in helping a student decide if that is the direction they want to go, but they also teach valuable skills such as problem solving, team-work, and professional skills that are valuable in any area.

Is STEM just for boys?

Absolutely not! In fact, we need more girls that are interested in engineering and other STEM fields in our program. Females are definitely underrepresented in STEM areas of study in high school, college, and in careers and we want to help change that.

I don’t know if I am smart enough to be in the STEM Academy.

Students of all backgrounds and abilities can be successful in the STEM Academy. The students that love learning and want to learn how and why things work and how to solve problems are the students that do well. In fact, students with a 4.0 are not often good candidates. Students who work hard, strive for excellence, and get work done on time are perfect candidates for the STEM Academy.

  • Applications available online November 8, 2021
  • Applications due: January 13, 2023
  • Notification of Acceptance Letter to be mailed no later than January 20

NOTE: the first course is intended for freshmen but if not filled, will be opened to upperclassmen as well.

The STEM Academy Engineering Essentials class will be limited to one class of approximately 20 students. The courses are self-funding; course fees (also covered by WPCP) and donations totally fund the STEM Academy. In the application, a student essay is required, along with two references who express their support for a student’s participation in the STEM Academy. One of those references will submit a letter of recommendation. School transcripts, attendance, and discipline records are required, as well as a personal rating by a teacher. There is a $25 application fee; once accepted, there is also a $250 course fee.

There are a few things to remember on the NEW STEM Academy Student Application:

  • Fillable PDF forms online or printed.

  • Applying student must write an essay.

  • Need two references.

  • One reference writes a recommendation letter.

  • Need a report card.

  • Need the school to fill out the Documentation and Student ratings sections.

  • Fee of $25 with application materials returned to LLHS by January 13, 2023.

Grant Listings Websites

REC Foundation

The Robotics Education & Competition Foundation lists university, corporate, and organizational opportunities. There are 392 scholarships listed worth over $4.5 million. Most scholarships require participation on a VRC team. 

STEM Field Scholarships and Internships

Fastweb College Scholarship Listings

STEM Scholarship Search

Raise Me: List of STEM Scholarships

If you plan to study STEM in college, you may be eligible for additional scholarships! We've put together a list of scholarships open to STEM majors to help you afford college tuition.


The 54 Best Engineering Scholarships--Prep Scholar

Individual Institution Links

Ronald McDonald House Charities

For Seniors with a GPA above 2.76. $1,000 to $100,000 scholarships based on academic merit and financial need

Texas Instruments

High School seniors studying science, technology, engineering, or science in college.

Future Foundation Girls Scholarship

Five $1,000 scholarships to girls on VRC teams.

Future Foundation Scholarship

NFS Scholarships for STEM