In the Spotlight: Engineering Design and Leadership Academy at Braden River High School

The Engineering Design and Leadership Academy is a state-of-the-art design and manufacturing academy at Braden River High School in Bradenton, FL. The Academy has grown exponentially since it opened its doors in 2005, and over 400 students are currently enrolled. According to Engineering Design and Manufacturing Teacher Richard Platt, lessons are hands-on, offer students a real-world view of manufacturing using latest technologies, and are “totally about design to manufacturing.”

The Academy has started a limited manufacturing product for a commercial company in Manatee County with a goal to produce products for real world applications to match industry needs. The program also offers industry certifications in MSSC, Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Dreamweaver, Adobe Flash, and SolidWorks, and is the designated training academy for SolidWorks in Manatee County.

Manatee Public School Adult and Career Education recently made a tremendous investment in the Academy. As part of the department’s $35,000 initiative to purchase CAD licenses for the entire county, BRHS received 80 of 500 CAD licenses. Continuous effort to improve the quality of programs is also evident in initiatives to recruit female students. “We’ve added a consumer and jewelry product design focus. We are creating a revenue stream from these products to provide funds for supplies and future capital equipment acquisition,” Platt said. As a result, female enrollment in the program has dramatically increased.

The Academy is award winning on local, state, and national fronts. Gil Burlew, teacher and head of the engineering academy at BRHS received FLATE’s 2008 Manufacturing Secondary Educator-of-the-Year award, and student Ahmad Hares set a national speed record in creating the fastest Dragster at the TSA Dragster national competition. Ahmad and his team members (Brandon Demers, Alexandra Villalobos and Cesar Garcia) also won the prestigious National Best in Manufacturing Award from Denford F1 in Schools. “This process has created some amazing results in speed of manufacturing, quality of cars, and ultimately winning championships and setting national speed records of .925 of a second,” Platt said.

Looking to the future, BRHS is offering AP credits to students who successfully pass industrial certification exams. This not only enables them to earn college credits, but gain industry-verifiable skills that foster high-paying jobs. The academy is also in the process of establishing an in-house industrial manufacturing site for on-the-job training for students. It is negotiating with an outside company to donate a large industrial 3 Axis CNC mill which will dramatically increase their manufacturing capabilities, and raise the volume of products it manufactures. “We are passionate about design and manufacturing and feel Florida can be world-class in these areas” Platt said.

For information on the Engineering Design and Leadership academy visit, or contact Richard Platt at

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