Manassas Innovation Park came alive on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons during July and August. The Workforce Development computer lab was packed with more than 35 students interested in learning 3-D printing and engineering design skills as well as programming skills.
To engage these students along the STEM pipeline more effectively, SySTEMic Solutions, NOVA’s STEM outreach program, wanted a way to focus efforts on student transition from summer camps to courses and expand offerings to high school students. SySTEMic Solutions partnered with Workforce Development to provide students with a college experience through Workforce CEU (continuing education unit) courses. This natural progression from successful summer robotics camps to programming and CADD courses keeps students engaged throughout middle and high school and ultimately into college and the STEM workforce.
Daniel Alex, a rising 10th grader, began his STEM camp experience at a SySTEMic Solutions robotics camp in 2013. Alex was initially attracted to the robotics camps because he wants to be an engineer and likes the engineering aspect of robotics. That led to an interest in the summer Workforce Development courses for Alex, who quickly realized that programming and CADD were “more challenging than robotics.” Moving from engagement to challenge was a key aspect of these courses, and Alex was confident that they have equipped him to better pursue his goals.
“I think it will help me in college courses. It will give me a slight advantage and make the learning experience easier,” Alex said. This is the goal of summer Workforce Development courses. In addition to teamwork and learning hard and soft skills, they provide confidence for the upcoming college experience. “For an engineer, it’s essential to create 3-D models from your ideas,” says Alex. “These new courses have exceeded my expectations.”
Amy Harris, SySTEMic Solutions director, is confident that these courses will equip students to succeed, saying “The programming and CADD courses give students the opportunity to sample curriculum at the next level with more technical, dual enrollment and college courses. As well as inspiring students in STEM, we want to prepare them to excel.”
The workforce instructors say their favorite part of teaching is the moment they witnessed students getting excited about creating something with Autodesk Inventor (a 3-D modeling program), where students were able to print items such as a personal key chain and a small boat that they used for a design challenge. In addition, the programming course allowed students to put together programming circuits with a light reading photo resistor that varies at a certain frequency through a small buzzer. Overall, it was a wonderful learning experience for students.