Innovation: Education

STEM Academy launches at Essex High School

STEM endorsement for students features personalized learning, community partners

STEM Academy launches at Essex High SchoolLast week, Essex High School threw a community launch party to celebrate the start of their STEM Academy‘s second year. But what does a STEM Academy look like on the inside? What does taking part in this program look like for students?

We were on hand for the launch party, and have all the details on this ground-breaking program that combines personalized learning, digital portfolios and community partnerships.

STEM Academy launches at Essex High School
Lea Ann Smith (right) welcomed a crowd of interested family and community members to Essex High School’s library last Thursday.

It was standing-room-only in the library at Essex High School in Essex, Vermont, last Thursday, for the official STEM Academy launch party. Lea Ann Smith, Academy leader and co-coordinator of the Medicine strand, officiated as master-of-ceremonies as well as giving a brief presentation detailing the Academy’s goals and tenets.

Students at the high school choose to participate in the three-year program which, upon successful completion, provide them with the opportunity to pursue the project of their choice in one of four disciplines: Medicine, Life Sciences, Engineering or Technology/Math.

Students enter the Academy as either sophomores or juniors, and are immediately enrolled in an advisory program that, this year at least, will offer opportunities to build 3D-printed prosthetic hands, rockets, or arduino-powered electronics. During their junior year they complete an internship in the community, then wrap up their experience by designing and completing their own personal projects during their senior year. Successful completion of Academy training earns students not just an endorsement on their graduation diplomas, but also enticing entries in their digital portfolios and valuable connections within Vermont’s STEM community.

Some of the projects to kick off this year include:

  • Design and construction of 3D-printed prosthetic hands
  • Water quality examination
  • Using an air cannon to propel rockets nearly two football-fields
  • Arduino electronics and mobile app development
STEM Academy launches at Essex High School
This fall, the Medicine strand of the Academy will be designing and constructing prosthetic hands, for which recipients have already been identified.

Recipients have already been identified for the prosthetic hands under development.

Students electing to take part in the Academy also attend lectures by local tech-based entrepreneurs and participate in STEM-centric job-shadowing.

The Academy’s community partners include UVM’s College of Engineering and Math, Fletcher Allen Health Care, IBM, Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, CreateIt Labs, Polhemus and Logic Supply. Representatives of the community partners were on hand to support the launch and explain about some of their roles in the projects.

Last year, the STEM Academy had four student enrollees; as of the launch party, 48 students have already chosen to participate. Initial projects begin construction this week, and we would like to wish all students and mentors the best of luck for the coming year.

Find out more about the STEM Academy at Essex over on their website, or follow them on twitter: @EssexSTEM

Author

Audrey Homan

Audrey Homan is a Vermont-based digital media producer, and producer of The 21st Century Classroom podcast. She's worked in non-profit communications for more than a decade, and in her spare time writes tiny video games and mucks about with augmented reality and arduinos, ably assisted by five dogs.

Interviewing students and yelling in PHP are the best parts of her job.

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