Technology Student Association
Ithaca High School
If a school taught only history, language, writing, and art, the engineers that graduated from it wouldn’t be well-prepared for their jobs—and the same would go for other STEM related professions. Thus, Ithaca High School maintains a top-notch STEM curriculum that allows alumni to study STEM subjects at top-tier colleges like UC Berkeley, Cornell University, Carnegie Mellon University, and the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign, among others.
This course is an introductory engineering course for students, which focuses on the application of visualization processes and tools with computer aided design to engineering. As with many engineering courses, the design process and technical sketching are also taught. Additionally, students taking this course can earn college credit from the Rochester Institute of Technology and can receive one fine arts credit, which is vital for graduating at Ithaca High School.
Computer-Integrated Manufacturing, which is universally referred to as CIM, is taken after Design and Drawing for Production. Students use skills from Design and Drawing for Production to solve more complex problems. They learn about the relation between computers and manufacturing, in projects like using a CNC router in projects like making coasters, as well.
This course teaches electronics and applied digital logic. Students study the application of various electronic logic circuits and ways to apply boolean logic to solve problems. Course projects include making prototype circuits that imitate clocks, traffic lights, and more.
Usually taken along with digital electronics, this course is assists students in understanding the field of engineering. Students learn all about engineering and how to use engineering problem solving skills. Hopefully, at the end of the course, students know if they themselves want to go into an engineering career.
The capstone course in the PLTW curriculum is Engineering Design and Development, in which students use everything they learned in previous PLTW courses. For students, the object of the course is simple: find a problem and then fix it with technology. Since students in every class group up to work on three or four problems, teamwork is a major part of the course. At IHS, there are also many fun traditions, like each team building a cardboard boat to race across the school pool.
In addition to its PLTW Engineering courses, Ithaca High School prepares students for studying engineering in college with other STEM courses—after all, knowing the engineering design process gets you nowhere without understanding the science behind what you’re building. While any high school science or math class can be considered part of STEM, Ithaca High School goes a step further and offers many STEM AP classes to allow its students the best education. Historically, Ithaca High School students score significantly higher than the national average on AP exams.
This course is essentially a more difficult and in-depth version of a basic intro biology course. Students are taught concepts that fill holes left in earlier biology education, like what exactly goes on in photosynthesis (hint: there’s more than 6CO2 + 6H2O → C6H12O6 + 6O2). The other major plus of the class is a lack of focus on homework, making the class easy to fit with other difficult classes.
This is the course where most of Ithaca High School’s STEM students learn calculus. This is the first course where the wonder and beauty of mathematics start to become apparent as unexpected relationships arise. Just consider that progressively taking the derivative of a sphere’s volume yields its surface area, and then its equatorial slice. Projects, like designing a buoy to float with 1.5 to three feet of freeboard, involve a great deal of engineering prowess. Additionally, students have the opportunity to participate in Math Seminar, a not-for-credit course taught by Cornell University mathematics grad students. AP Calculus AB is also offered, but it is taken mostly be non-STEM students seeking to further their education in mathematics.
Typically taken in 11th grade, this course is all about mostly inorganic chemistry. Somehow, the material is taught in such a way that students initially fail to understand concepts they think are hard—before realizing that the concepts are actually quite easy and then understanding them. The course’s teacher is known for his very laid-back style of teaching and classroom games he plays, like dividing the class into two teams and having them play a chemistry jeopardy game, in which one team gets a perfect grade on a test and the other a 90. Especially during some of the more exothermic reactions, this course is a blast.
This course is all about learning to program in Java, while also understanding the patterns of what’s going on, so that programming in another language is as simple as learning different syntax. In addition to learning the relatively easy basics required for the AP exam, students complete difficult CodingBat assignments and have the opportunity to join Dev Team, a club that competes (and often wins) in regional programming competitions. The course is a fun staple for many of Ithaca High School’s brightest STEM students. Students seeking to know more going into the course may take Programming I and II, which are extremely easy preparatory classes.
Know your stuff or fail. That’s essentially the game students in this course must play. However, this course is a lot of fun, for it gives students a chance to wrestle with very tricky problems and understand the world in a more perfect way: once you know the forces acting on something and have a few other measurements, predicting its motion is a breeze. Ithaca High School also offers AP Physics I for less STEM-inclined students, or students who do not have the math skills to take AP Calculus BC.