Project Lead The Way Program Guides Students to Engineering, Science and Technology Careers
Tim Schleicher, Project Lead The Way, Class of: 2014
When Tim Schleicher graduated from the Lorain County JVS in 2014, he knew he'd be going places.
Such as the University of Toledo (UT), where the Avon Lake resident is pursuing a degree in mechanical engineering.
But Schleicher will also travel the world thanks to Project Lead The Way, a nationally certified college tech-prep program designed to help students succeed in engineering, science and technology. Schleicher attended the JVS Project Lead the Way satellite program, which is located on the campus of Lorain County Community College.
The freshman engineering student wants to make a difference and credits the JVS for help setting his compass.
Which led Schleicher to the UT Chapter of Engineers Without Borders, where students apply their engineering skills around the world, helping communities attain basic human needs such as potable water.
Schleicher will travel in May to La Barranca -a small mountain town in the Republic of Honduras - where he will spend four days building a well and water tower that will pipe water to more than 200 homes and 300 residents.
"It is not common for first year students to participate in these types of projects because they lack the necessary skills," Schleicher said.
But Schleicher's AutoCAD (computerized 3-D design software) training at the JVS was an instant asset.
"When I got to UT, I got involved almost immediately in Engineers Without Borders," Schleicher said. "Because of my knowledge of AutoCAD and experience working in groups on engineering projects from Project Lead the Way, I was able to be helpful to the group as soon as I joined."
How dire is LaBarranca's situation?
Even water trucks cannot access the town because there are no highways, only small roads and paths.
The town's only two water sources consist of a polluted river (filled with waste and toxic chemicals) and a farmer's cow trough. Daily use of these polluted resources has caused intestinal disorders and other bacteria-related illnesses, especially among the children, Schleicher said.
Schleicher is designing the walls around the well, which will be located at the west end of La Barranca. He is also designing a roof to protect the well from environmental pollution.
The water will draw into a 20-30 ft. tall storage tank and be gravity fed to each home, he said.
"The impact will be huge, it will be a life-changing event for their community," Schleicher said. "Adults and children will no longer have to walk miles for fresh water. The children will be able to spend more of their time in school, too, focusing on their education instead of finding water."
"The cost of the projects is estimated at $15,000-$20,000 dollars," he said. "Residents will also work alongside the engineers, learning to maintain the water system once it is functioning, which will keep maintenance costs low."
Schleicher arrived at UT shortly after a large Lake Erie algae plume crippled Toledo in August (2014), shutting down the city's water supply for three days.
"I can't imagine not having clean water…not just for myself but for an entire family," he said.
Project Lead The Way also gave Schleicher the skills and confidence to apply for his first paid internship - one of three required for his mechanical engineering degree - with Parker Hannifin Corp. in Elyria.
"I applied about a year earlier than most students because I feel I have enough experience to be useful to a company while other students have had little to no actual engineering classes or experience after their freshman year," said Schleicher, who will shadow a Parker Hannifin engineer and interview for the internship in April.
Through Project Lead The Way, Schleicher networked with professional engineers and other students at the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Conference (STEM) in Washington, D.C., during his senior year.
Schleicher and his teammates designed a device that demonstrated how much stress a bridge truss could sustain before it would break.
"I also learned about 3-D printing and patenting and met Project Lead The Way CEO Dr. Vince Bertram," he said.
Schleicher laughed about a JVS senior team project that could have made them all wealthy - a spool device his team designed to keep headphone wires from getting tangled in your pocket.
"I was in Wal-Mart and noticed they were selling something quite similar to what we designed, although our materials were better," he said. "It made me wish that we'd taken the project a little further. Who knows? But we realized that we weren't that far off the mark…that a team of high school students designed something that wasn't far off from what professionals are designing in the real world."
Schleicher's future plans include return trips with Engineers Without Borders to Honduras and other countries, such as Israel; and he will search for employment with an engineering firm that encourages volunteering, possibly with the professional chapter of Engineers Without Borders.
"Without the JVS Project Lead The Way Program, hopefully I would've found my way in engineering - into the world and making a difference - but I wouldn't be as prepared or experienced and know what I was getting into," Schleicher said. "It saved me time and gave me applicable education for the real world."