Academics » STEM Academy

STEM Academy

The LLHS STEM education teaches a curriculum designed by Project Lead the Way (PLTW) that 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, so an application process is required.

More than 4,700 schools and  3,000 teachers are trained to instruct this engaging, rigorous STEM education curriculum. PLTW emphasizes community and business partnerships, as well as introducing students to possible STEM career fields.

STEM Academy Application

The STEM Academy Engineering Essentials class will be limited to one class of approximately 20 students. For new students (incoming freshmen and transfers), a student essay is required, along with two references, one of which will need a letter of recommendation. School transcripts, attendance, and discipline records are required, as well as a personal rating by a teacher.  Returning students only need an application to remain in the Academy.

If a student is not accepted into the requested STEM class, they will be notified with at least a month remaining to change course selection before charges apply—March 1 notification; charges apply after March 30.

What is STEM?  

STEM was first coined by the National Science Foundation in the early 1990’s and is applied to any policy, event, curriculum, or education program dealing with Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. STEM curriculums strive to prepare students for the challenges of the 21st century.

Who can take STEM Academy classes?  

The Pathway to Engineering first-year class, Engineering Essentials (EES),  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 EES. Principles of Engineering (POE) and Aerospace Engineering (AE) are the other two classes offered in the LLHS STEM Academy and reserved for juniors and seniors. 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 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 other rigorous course offerings, including Physics, Calculus, and AP courses.

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

A PLTW alum and now an EE student in college shares, "I think PTLW serves its purpose well: a moderate depth intro to the engineering field/mindset, and some major fields within it. The purpose isn’t to teach everything, or even most things, but to engage students with STEM in a more hands-on way, and give them time to experiment and work with professional-ish tools to learn the absolute basics. It is largely the stuff you might cover in the first quarter or semester of classes actually in each field, but abstracting away a lot of the math and physics that explains it all.
Someone once described it as ‘an inch deep and a mile wide’ and that seems pretty apt."

What curriculum is used? 

Project Lead the Way (PLTW) has developed and used the curriculum worldwide over the last 16 years. 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 still have to take the math and science classes required to graduate.

What do I need to do to possibly earn college credit? 

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


See course descriptions under the "STEM Academy" heading here

My teen is not in 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 are you looking for in a letter of recommendation? 

We are looking for evidence that your child is willing and capable of completing the STEM Academy program, and specific examples are encouraged. Examples may include the following:

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

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

When you register for classes in the PowerSchool portal, you will indicate you are applying to be in the STEM Academy. 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 benefit from STEM Academy courses even if they do not 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.

Grants links

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


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