NORTH CANTON  Hoover High School has become one of only 133 high schools in the United States to be recognized as a Project Lead the Way (PLTW) Distinguished School. Hoover received the designation because it offers broad access to transformative learning opportunities through computer science, medical and engineering classes.

PLTW is a nonprofit organization serving millions of K-12 students and teachers in more than 10,500 schools across the U.S. Hoover is one of seven schools to be recognized in the state of Ohio. Hoover and Perry High Schools are the only two PLTW schools in Stark County.

Hoover Associate Principal Robert White said that students from Jackson, GlenOak and Lake high schools also attend PLTW classes at Hoover.

"We have approximately 400 students in the PLTW programming with 50 students coming from GlenOak, Jackson and Lake," White said. "The PLTW curriculum is rigorous and allows our students to engage in real world challenges that professionals in the various fields often face. For example, students in the biomedical sciences shadow medical professional and learn how to approach multiple tasks on a daily basis. Engineering students help solve problems and work through engineering design challenges."

Criteria for the PLTW Distinguished School recognition includes:

- Offering at least three PLTW courses (Hoover offers nine courses)

- Having 25 percent of students or more participate in PLTW courses or having 33 percent of participants take two more courses.

- Having 70 percent of students or more earn a Proficient or higher on the PLTW End-of-Course Assessments or 10 percent of students earning the AP+PLTW Student Achievement.

The nine PLTW courses offered at Hoover High School include:

- Introduction to Engineering Design (IED) - A course that teaches problem-solving skills using a design development process.

- Principles of Engineering (POE) - This course helps students understand the field of engineering/engineering technology. Computer Integrated Manufacturing (CIM) - A course that applies principles of robotics and automation.

- Digital Electronics (DE) - This course is in applied logic that encompasses the application of electronic circuits and devices. Engineering Design and Development (EDD) - An engineering research course in which students work in teams to research, design and construct a solution to an open-ended engineering problem.

- Principles of the Biomedical Sciences - Students explore the concepts of human medicine and are introduced to research processes and to bioinformatics in this course.

- Human Body Systems –Students examine the processes, structures, and interactions of the human body systems to learn how they work together to maintain homeostasis (internal balance) and good health. Using real-world cases, students take the role of biomedical professionals and work together to solve medical mysteries.

- Medical Intervention –In this course, student projects investigate various medical interventions that extend and improve quality of life, including gene therapy, pharmacology, surgery, prosthetics, rehabilitation, and supportive care. 

- Biomedical Innovations –This capstone course gives student teams the opportunity to work with a mentor, identify a scientific research topic, conduct research, write a scientific paper, and defend team conclusions and recommendations to a panel of outside reviewers. 

Nick Plazak and Sarah Covington are teachers in the biomedical courses. They each wrote in an email interview that students in the biomed courses can find careers in physical and occupational therapy, radiology technicians, EMT, 911 operators, forensics, doctors, physician’s assistants or any career in medicine.

"The PLTW Biomedical curriculum follows patients with real world issues, diseases and conditions that students investigate throughout the year," wrote Covington.

Plazak added, "Some of the in-demand transportable skills students learn in the PLTW programming include using tools from a goniometer to measure the range of motion in joints, being able to aliquot samples using a micropipette, hooking up and reading an EKG to using a spirometer to measure different lung volumes.

"Students also learn how to interpret data, communication skills and working as a team," he added.

PLTW President and CEO Vince Bertram published a statement that called Hoover a "model for what a school should look like."

Covington and Plazak believe that Hoover was called a model school because its programs offer students real-world views and experience and provides the tools needed for the students to succeed.

"Our PLTW staff is dedicated to our students’ learning experience within the national PLTW curriculum. As a teacher, this validates the long hours of training and planning that go into being a PLTW Biomed instructor. Watching our students succeed in college and beyond is the ultimate reward," Covington wrote.

Plazak believes that the program at Hoover is successful for several reasons such as it is available to all students and 90 percent of those completing the PLTW courses go onto college and major in biomedical fields.

"Our program is able to provide the students with a glimpse into different fields of medicine and allows them to have an idea of what they want to pursue at the next level. The teachers work really hard to build the program to the required 25 percent participation rate. This recognition shows how hard working and dedicated our staff is at Hoover in steering students in the right direction so that they can be successful at the next level and have a good in-demand career in a science, technology, engineering or medical field," Plazak wrote.