High school students interested in careers focused on science, technology, engineering and mathematics can explore these fields at Greenville County School’s new Career and Technical Education Innovation Center.
The center, located on the Roper Mountain Science Center campus, will welcome its first cohort of 145 students from across the county’s high schools Aug. 8.
Designed for adaptability and flexibility, the 30,000-square-foot facility features collaborative classroom spaces, labs, study rooms, a cafe and an outdoor classroom.
Katie Porter, the center’s director, said that 10th- through 12th-grade students will have hands-on learning opportunities while in one of the center’s five programs:
- Emerging automotive research
- Aerospace technologies
- Automation and robotics
- Clean energy technology
Each program has its own designated lab with unique resources and technologies to help students learn. For example, the emerging automotive research lab — the first program of its kind in South Carolina — will include an electric vehicle trainer for students to use.
“Every program is using project-based curriculum,” Porter said.
While in one of the two-year programs, students will complete four courses at the center while learning how to problem-solve and collaborate with others. Each program will be instructed by a teacher with professional experience in the field.
The center mimics a college and industry atmosphere and allows students to complete industry certifications. Work-based learning and internship opportunities will also be available for students to gain real-world experience.
“We’re going to (provide) hands-on learning to prepare them to go to college,” Porter said. “I like to say if your child is having to leave campus, drive somewhere, be on time (and) manage different teachers, what better way to be college ready?”
Each project a student completes in a program will be presented to the innovation center’s industry partners such as BMW Manufacturing, Duke Energy, Lockheed Martin and others. Porter said the partners have helped provide insight into what students should be learning to be successful in the field.
“We’re hearing from college and from industry, ‘We need problem solvers. We need them to be able to think and create new things.’ So that’s the goal,” she said.
A key purpose for the center’s adaptable design is the ability to replace programs in the future with new, innovative options for students.
“There’s so much change in education and programs and demands that we want to give our kids,” Porter said.
During the first year in operation, she said the goal is to focus on building the center’s culture and relationships with students, parents, high schools and industry partners.
After the first four weeks, a survey will be sent to students or a group meeting will be held.
“We’re going to get a lot of feedback from students,” Porter said. “What are we doing right? Where are we missing the boat? What do we need? We want to give them voice.”
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