Program History

Great Minds-Great Accomplishments

Because the legacy of a poor farm boy met the ideas of a forward thinking engineer and educator, children’s lives and maybe our country were changed. In all 50 states and the District of Columbia, school children are being enabled and encouraged to put America in the lead of developments in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). The organization carrying out this important work is Project Lead the Way (PLTW). In the early 1980’s, PLTW was only a concept, now, over 4200 schools are participating. To date, more than a half million students in the U.S. have taken at least one PLTW course.


Herbert Liebich

The farm boy, Herbert Liebich, grew up to found Sysco Foods, Inc. a $29 billion service supplier. After his success, he formed Charitable Venture Foundation (CVF), a foundation described as High-Engagement Philanthropy. This means the foundation involves itself not only with funding but also with engagement throughout the structure of the organization. The result is a self-sustaining, highly successful, accountable institution.


Richard Blais

Blais, former vice president of PLTW, had an idea born out of experience in engineering and education. He recognized in the early 1980’s that in the future the U.S. would need an increasing number of engineering professionals. Those engineers would develop only if students in middle and high schools were introduced early on to science, technology, engineering and mathematics and the practical applications of those disciplines.


PLTW Formation

Blais developed a pre-engineering curriculum at Shenendehowa Central High School in Clifton Park, New York. Through the scientific method of developing, testing and reviewing, Blais and his staff began creating courses that incorporated the skills needed in the emerging high technology engineering world. In 1998, 12 high schools in upstate New York began using that curriculum. Their first postsecondary partner was the Rochester Institute of Technology.


PLTW Growth

As Blais was championing his idea, Richard Liebich, a member of Herbert Liebich’s family and the CEO of CVF, saw PLTW’s potential and helped secure an initial grant and on-going funding. The legacy and the idea were now combined. With the high-engagement philanthropy of CVF, in 1997, PLTW became an independent not-for-profit organization.

PLTW expands as scientific knowledge is discovered and developed. In 2007, a Biomedical Sciences Program was introduced. Energy was introduced in late 2010, within the Middle School curriculum. PLTW will continue to expand as needed.


PLTW for the Future

The PLTW curriculum is available to students by virtue of educating teachers in this hands-on curriculum. The hands-on approach is the single most important element responsible for the great success of PLTW. The U.S. will need scientists and engineers in its effort to compete in a global economy. Today, PLTW is endorsed by national associations, belongs to educational partnerships, can rely on strong government relationships and employs its own marketing and communications group to produce its educational materials.


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