Lori Ricks, an engineering teacher at Trigg County High School, said she works hard on her own leadership skills because she knows that inspiring her students to develop and communicate their visions and show their leadership capabilities are key components in making them successful engineers one day.
“These capabilities include the ability to assess risks and take initiatives, the ability to make logical decisions, a sense of real-world constraints, flexibility in the face of failures and trust in their team,” she said.
Ricks, who has taught engineering at Trigg County High for eight years, has experienced several moments of success in that area with her students.
She also has been honored for her work with them, winning numerous honors from multiple organizations.
After working more than eight years as a marketing and technical service engineer for Trane, Ricks introduced Trigg County High to Project Lead The Way (PLTW) “to open doors that were closed for students exploring careers in engineering,” Ricks said. “I was originally hired to lead public relations activities with the goal of introducing the PLTW program to Trigg County students, ultimately increasing enrollment to 20-25 percent of the high school students in the PLTW classes.”
Ricks soon began teaching the program and has had the number-one test scores in Kentucky for three consecutive years on the PLTW end-of-course assessments, she said.
Ricks said PLTW has fostered leadership in her students, giving them a chance to make big contributions in the Hopkinsville area.
Two students, Matt Savage and Lance Gilliland, developed a virtual building for the local Economic Development Commission “based solely off of a brainstormed community idea,” Ricks said. “Although the construction is awaiting a new business opportunity, the building design is complete on Revit and is being used on the website and in marketing information sent out to new business recruits for the community.
“In May, this project was showcased during the Student Technology Leadership Program State Competition and won a Best In Showcase award,” she added. “The hope is new construction and businesses will see the virtual building and envision what their building could look like on the site, ultimately reducing the current unemployment rate of 16.9 percent in Trigg County.”
Brenda Southwick, community education director for Trigg County, praised Ricks’ organization, vision and her commitment to her students and the engineering program. Southwick is especially impressed with Ricks’ ability to extend learning outside the classroom.
She has a “willingness to step beyond the boundaries of her classroom and expand STEM into middle school science,” Southwick said.
Ricks has hosted “E-Day” for 1,000 district students in grades K-5 where elementary students are introduced to the STEM concepts, and every summer, she puts together a Society of Manufacturing Engineers Summer Camp for 8th-grade students.
She initiated the idea of a Regional Engineering Summit four years ago and wrote grants to secure funds for it. The summit consists of seven schools and more than 100 students who get to show STEM knowledge and capabilities for nearly 50 community/industry partners in a real-world environment.
Teacher breakout sessions also are included in the summit.
“Lori gives her time and talents to work with other teachers who are starting programs and/or want assistance with existing programs,” Southwick said, “and her students often graduate with full scholarships in engineering programs as well as several hours of college credit completed.”