By Paula Ebben

MEDWAY (CBS) – Team building, problem solving and critical thinking; every STEM idea schools want kids to learn by the time they graduate from high school.

In the town of Medway from elementary school through high school, students are introduced to non-traditional science and math classes thanks to a partnership with Worcester Polytechnic Institute.

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“Think! You’re in an elevator with a venture capitalist going to invest in this; you have 60 seconds to convince them this is a good idea,” Jon Jasinski explained to his engineering class.

What makes this STEM class so appealing to students is that there is no textbook. They come up with a problem, design a prototype, build it then create a sales pitch all in one class and it just might launch a few careers.

“It’s really fun! You get to do all sorts of stuff and you wouldn’t get to do that in everyday class,” said William Woodring, a Medway High School freshman.

Engineering class at Medway HS (WBZ-TV)

Engineering class at Medway HS (WBZ-TV)

“The project itself is really the vehicle and it’s easy to focus on the technology and engineering the mathematics, but it’s really much more comprehensive than that,” Jasinski said.

It’s the concept of the non-profit “Project Lead The Way” – hands-on learning taught all the way through the Medway school system and students say the work of “doing” brings them knowledge and real joy.

What’s so great about this class?

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“It’s just so unique because there’s no other class where I can just come in and generate ideas and be creative!” one student said.

Medway expanded Project Lead The Way over the last few years thanks, the superintendent says, to generous grant funding from WPI.

“As we walk through classes you see a level of engagement that is truly authentic,” said Superintendent Armand Pires.

Student Max Krebs hopes to be an engineer.

“I took Principals of Engineering in this classroom, and this year I took Intro to Engineering and it really made me want to become an engineer overall from all the experiences I got in class,” Max said.

“It’s such an easy sell once you see it working,” Jasinski said.

The superintendent says the upfront cost of $40,000 is significant but then becomes more manageable.

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As we’ve seen in so many towns it’s the public-private partnerships – like this one with WPI – that make innovative programs like this work.

Paula Ebben