Brooks and Julian Receive National Recognition for STEM and Career Learning Program

Brooks and Julian Receive National Recognition for STEM and Career Learning Program

Brooks and Julian middle schools have been recognized as 2021-22 Project Lead The Way (PLTW) Distinguished Schools for their design program. They join only 132 middle schools across the U.S. to receive this honor for providing broad access to transformative learning opportunities for students through their design program each school year. 

"I've never witnessed a more comprehensive, engaging, and thought-provoking course,” Julian Principal Jeremy Christian said. “Design is a staple in the framework of the educational process and system of the District 97 middle school experience. I am beyond proud of Timothy Walsh, Adrienne Court, and Steve Olson's work to ensure student success. Our students have proven to be diligent and highly engaged in design. This designation is a pure testament of our student's level of commitment, excellence and achievement." 

The PLTW Distinguished School recognition honors schools committed to increasing student access, engagement, and achievement in their PLTW programs. To be eligible for the designation, Julian and Brooks had to meet the following criteria: 

  • Have more than 50% of the student body participate in a PLTW Gateway unit during the 2020-21 school year;  
  • Have at least 25% of students who participated in a PLTW Gateway unity during the 2020-21 school year also participated in at least one other PLTW Gateway unity (two or more units total) during the tenure at the school;
  • Offer at least one PLTW Gateway unit at each grade (6-8);  
  • Have strategies and supports in place that support reasonably proportional representation with regard to race, ethnicity, poverty, gender and can support such claims with relevant data. 

Over 80% of the students at both Brooks and Julian middle schools take a trimester design-intensive course each school year. In sixth grade, students delve into the world of industrial design, using the 3D modeling software OnShape to create virtual images and drawings of their designs. In seventh grade, students discover computer and electrical science concepts and skills by creating personally relevant, tangible and shareable projects utilizing the Micro:bits and soldering. In eighth grade, students discover the world of robotics engineering, learning about gears and mechanisms using Vex Robotics and writing a computer program using the RobotC coding language to control their robot. 

In all of their design classes, students are challenged to engage in a wide variety of projects in which they use the design process to help them solve problems utilizing the knowledge they have gained throughout the course.

“Our students have the unique opportunity to experience the design process each school year, under the guidance of Chris Pros, Steve Olson, and Brian Shinners, applying their problem-solving skills to develop unique student-driven projects,” said Brooks Principal April Capuder. “The program exposes our students to STEM learning to pique their interest in STEM fields as well as engage in design thinking that can be applied to multiple areas in their student life and beyond.”  

For more information about PLTW’s recognition program, visit