Member Kudos: Oxford Academy of Engineering & Technology, Oxford Community Schools

2015 Education Excellence Award Recipient

DashBoard, Sept. 30, 2015

The 20 recipients of the 2015 MASB/SET SEG Foundation Education Excellence Awards are some of the greatest examples of unique and innovative public school programs in the state of Michigan. Over the next few months, MASB will share the details of each program from their applications, presented in alphabetical order by district. This week we highlight the IOxford Academy of Engineering & Technology at Oxford High in Oxford Community Schools.

Description: The U.S. Department of Commerce states that jobs in science, technology, engineering and math fields will grow 17 percent by 2018. Oxford Community Schools chose to challenge this demand in 2008 by establishing a strategic goal to implement research-based curriculum and instructional practices that provide authentic, real-world skills applicable to a global marketplace.

One of the ways the district looked to accomplish this goal was by establishing the Oxford High Academy of Engineering & Technology, a four-year, nationally certified engineering program that offers nine different engineering courses. What makes the program even more unique is partnerships with major area universities (Eastern Michigan University, Oakland University, Kettering University and Lawrence Technological University) that provide dual-enrollment engineering courses, sponsorships and mentoring.

The goal is to encourage the following outcomes:

  1. Increase student participation in STEM fields;
  2. fulfill the district’s strategic initiative to provide an education that meets the demands of an ever-growing and changing international job market; and
  3. create STEM collaboration among grade levels.

Funding/Resources: FUNDING: A 2009 technology bond passed by the community funded a 4,000 square foot engineering lab, a new 1,000 square foot classroom and repurposed four existing classrooms. Two are used for engineering and two science labs have been outfitted for biomedical program classes. Just over $350,000 was spent to equip the engineering lab. The district has also received several Project Lead the Way grants including a three-year recurring grant from Seaperch to fund the Underwater Robotics course and a one-year grant from Square One Education Network for use in the PLTW Capstone Design course to build an electronic vehicle.

STAFFING: Oxford Schools provides four staff members for the Academy of Engineering & Technology. A director of engineering programs and an additional Engineering/PLTW teacher and two Biomedical/PLTW teachers. The staff members regularly attend PLTW conferences and participate in PLTW Learning Management Systems providing various resources and collaboration with other PLTW teachers. In addition, Oxford PLTW instructors have twice been invited to present at the annual PLTW Conference on STEM in East Lansing. Partnerships with area universities provide dual-enrollment courses (including professors) to help expand the offerings to students. Partner universities are: Eastern Michigan University, Oakland University, Kettering University and Lawrence Technological University.


PLTW is the nationally recognized provider of STEM programming. When utilized within the Oxford Academy of Engineering & Technology, the curriculum provides a foundation for future success. The academy provides critical learning needs, knowledge and experiences students will not find in their core math and science classes.

Oxford has a strategic vision to prepare students for higher learning and a potential career in a STEM field. Every student enrolled in one of the academy classes will: experience hands-on, research-based project learning; have the opportunity to utilize industry-grade software, join the high school TORC robotics team that participates various competitions throughout the year as well as community outreach.

Oxford Community Schools also holds membership to Automation Alley to maximize the organization’s resources for the benefit of our students. Oakland County is home to Automation Alley, whose members are the leading national employers in the STEM industry. Automation Alley attracts more international businesses every year; businesses in need of a skilled workforce.

Courses offered through the Academy of Engineering & Technology are not just for those students who are mechanically inclined or have a passion to become engineers. Every student can benefit by understanding the thought processes inherent in engineering as well as learning how to multi-task, work in groups and meet deadlines.

Results: In 2005, the district eliminated the high school CAD/drafting program due to budgetary restraints. The following year, after negative parent response, the program was brought back on a limited basis. In 2007, the district had a vision to transform the struggling program into one that would make Oxford High School graduates competitive in the ever-expanding technological, global marketplace. From that vision, the Oxford Academy of Engineering & Technology was born.

The Oxford Academy of Engineering & Technology began in the 2009-2010 school year with the implementation of the Introduction to Engineering Design PLTW course. Each year since, an additional PLTW course has been added to the curriculum. In 2014-2015, more than eight STEM courses are now offered—five are PLTW, four are dual-enrollment (including a senior capstone option), and seven are International Baccalaureate accredited.

In the time since the program's implementation, this comprehensive STEM curriculum has had a measurable positive impact on high school math and science scores. To illustrate this impact, below are the MME and ACT math and science scores from 2009 (preacademy) compared to 2014 (five-years in).

  2009 2014
Percent passing MME Math Assessment 30.6 (State Avg: 25.7) 37.0 (State Avg: 29.0)
Percent passing MME Science Assessment 25.4 (State Avg: 22.0) 34.0 (State Avg: 28.0)
Average ACT Math Score 19.8 (State Avg: 19.6) 20.7 (State Avg: 19.9)
Average ACT Science Score 19.7 (State Avg: 20.1) 21.5 (State Avg: 20.4)

In the 2013-2014 school year, high school senior Titus Shumaker was the first student to complete the PLTW Capstone course through the academy. He completed the Mechanical Engineering 100 course through Kettering University (receiving college credit), and was able to acquire a college advisor for his capstone project. In the 2014-2015 year, 22 high school seniors are following in Titus’ footsteps by taking the Capstone course.

The growth of the Oxford Academy of Engineering & Technology has brought about an explosion of participation in the district’s extracurricular robotics programs:

Sparked by the “Robot Tours” conducted by the high school robotics team each school year, two elementary programs have opened in all Oxford elementary schools: Junior FIRST® Lego® League for first, second and third graders and FIRST® Lego® League for fourth and fifth graders.

In 2012, Oxford Elementary School hosted the first all-Oxford robotics team invitational. This gave Oxford FLL teams across the district the opportunity to explore and share ideas, and compete. The high school and middle school teams acted as judges for the event.

The Oxford Middle School TOWR Team won the 2012 FTC State Championship with their robot “Betsy.” This is an impressive feat since the team had only been in existence for two years.

The high school TORC Team qualified for the Elimination Bracket in the Michigan FRC 2013 Championship, participated in the 2014 Michigan State Championships and won the 2015 Waterford District Championship, automatically qualifying them for the 2015 state championships. The team was so impressive in competition that in September 2014, The Chrysler Foundation gave them a $5,000 donation as part of the company’s Global Partner Focus Program. More information is available on the TORC’s website.

The Oxford Academy of Engineering & Technology is so highly regarded, our partner school, Eastern Michigan University, continually recommends the program to other districts for PLTW visits. In 2014-2015, three districts—Saginaw Bay Area Schools, Corunna Schools and Almont Schools—have visited Oxford to observe the academy.

Program Coordinator: Ken Weaver, Chief Academic Officer,

Read More DashBoard Articles