Brent Vermeulen earned a bachelor’s degree in engineering technology-teacher education from Purdue University in 2008. That fall, he began working at Hobart High School in Hobart, Indiana, where he teaches civil engineering and architecture, introduction to engineering design, web design, and computer integrated manufacturing. In 2013, Vermeulen received his master’s degree in technology teacher education/industrial arts education from Ball State University.
One of Vermeulen’s notable class investigations, the High-Altitude Balloon Project, involved the release of a pair of weather balloons equipped with cameras, climate sensors and tracking devices. Students in his engineering design and development class used technology, engineering, math, physics and chemistry over the course of 11 weeks to design and build the balloons and their payloads. The experiment culminated in the launch and tracking of the two balloons, which rose nearly 19 miles above the earth and into the stratosphere. (By comparison, commercial jets typically fly approximately six miles above the earth.) Students traveled to Ohio, more than 162 miles east, to recover the balloons and return them to campus.
Recently, Vermeulen accepted a new teaching position as the STEM director at Illiana Christian High School, which is relocating from Illinois to Dyer, Indiana. “I’m looking forward to bringing Project Lead The Way (PLTW) classes to the Illiana students this fall,” said Vermeulen.
We asked Vermeulen to share some thoughts about being a PLTW teacher.
Question: When did you know you wanted to become a teacher? What made you decide?
Vermeulen: I was always told I would be a great teacher growing up but didn’t actually pursue it until my first year at Purdue when I saw that technology education was a major. I started out as a computer science major and then changed after one semester.
Question: Did your education in Purdue Polytechnic affect your decision to become a PLTW teacher?
Vermeulen: I was the first graduating class to earn a degree called engineering technology-teacher education and I loved the PLTW program. During my student teaching experience, I was able to teach a few PLTW classes. When that teacher retired, I took over the program that first year as a teacher.
Question: Looking back at your own high school experience, does it affect how you approach your job? How so?
Vermeulen: I had the privilege to attend Iliana Christian high school and the teachers, staff and friends had a huge impact on me and how I approach my job. The most influence I would say is my faith and being able to show love to others the same way that it was shown to me.
Question: What do your students think of you?
Vermeulen: My students tell me that I am fun, relaxed and seem to always be happy. I am glad that is the response that I hear.
Question: What advice would you give to your 15-year-old self?
Vermeulen: Doing things for others is a lot more gratifying than doing anything for yourself.
Question: What’s been your favorite experience with PLTW?
Vermeulen: I was able to attend the 2017 national PLTW Summit in Orlando, Florida, and it was an amazing experience. I have been involved in PLTW for 11 years and it has been awesome to see how much it has grown over these years.
My most memorable classroom project was sending a high-altitude balloon to 100,000 ft. into the air with my senior students. We have done this for the past three years. We tracked it in real time and recorded video footage of the entire trip.