Connecting Engineering Education with the Real World

Gloves that protect firefighters from carcinogens. A smart trashcan that automatically separates recyclables. A speedbump that photographs the license plates of cars going too fast.

These remarkable ideas were developed, not by MIT engineers or Silicon Valley gurus, but by high school students participating in Project Lead the Way (PLTW).

Solving Real-Life Engineering Challenges

Project Lead the Way (PLTW) Showcase at Neuqua Valley High School

Molex Volunteers Gather at a PLTW Engineering Showcase at Neuqua Valley High School in Naperville, Illinois, in 2019

PLTW’s mission is to create hands-on experiences so students can develop some of the practical knowledge and skills they will need to thrive in life beyond the classroom. The non-profit organization offers programs in disciplines such as computer and biomedical sciences, and Molex has most recently worked with their engineering program at a high school in suburban Chicago. PLTW Engineering engages students in real-world scenarios that help them become better collaborators and thinkers.

“PLTW Engineering is an open-ended engineering research course in which students identify an issue and then research, design and test a solution,” said Tony Tegtmeyer, technology and engineering teacher and PLTW master teacher at Neuqua Valley High School in Naperville, Illinois. “They then present their solutions to a panel of engineers.”

Paying It Forward with Inspiration

Ricky Alvarez Gonzalez, Molex project engineer, participated in PLTW Engineering as a high school student at Neuqua Valley High School.

“The PLTW engineering class I took during my senior year encouraged me to pursue a career in engineering,” said Ricky, “and I would love to be that person who inspired other students.”

Molex has teamed up with the high school along with North Central College, also in Naperville, to support PLTW Engineering students.  In 2021, Molex sponsored the program for Neuqua Valley for the first time, but employees have volunteered as mentors and judges for about six years.  In fact, for the past two years, Ricky has volunteered as a judge for the showcase at which PLTW students present their projects.

Innovating Impactful Solutions

This year, Neuqua Valley’s winners had designed a speedbump outfitted with a velocity sensor and a camera to take photos of license plates on speeding cars. This is meant to act as a deterrent for speeding, especially in vulnerable areas such as school zones. The PLTW organization awards college scholarships to the student collaborators of first-place projects. 

It was really impactful to see all of these great projects that were focused on improving society,” said Alvarez about this experience as PLTW Engineering showcase judge. “Our future is definitely in good hands.”

“My students have a connection with Molex going back several years,” said Tony. “I can’t tell you how much it means to us, not just in the Engineering, Design and Development program but in driving our other activities too.”

Molex is committed to supporting programs such as PLTW, with our guidance and expert resources as well as the notable time and efforts of volunteers like Ricky Alvarez, reaffirming our commitment to communities and the future workforce by Creating Connections for Life.

Program Manager of Community Affairs