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Grant to fuel project-based learning, STEM and biotechnology at Mountain Vista High School

HIGHLANDS RANCH – The students in Mountain Vista High School’s Engineering and Technology programs have proven that, given the right tools students will amaze you. A generous grant recently awarded to the school will now help to expand the capabilities of their recently opened Fabrication Lab even further.

In January, through the efforts of parent Kim Sasko, STEM Facilitator David Larsen and numerous teachers, Mountain Vista High School received a $90,000 grant from the Morgridge Family Foundation. These new resources will be used to accelerate the school’s technology and engineering efforts, including the creation of a new biotechnology class.

Mountain Vista teacher AJ Deets will be offering this new concurrent enrollment course, in a refurbished classroom with state-of-the-art biotech equipment.

“This isn’t something that you can do with paper and pencil,” MVHS STEM Program Facilitator David Larsen explained. “You have to get the real equipment researchers use. This is the same equipment used in college labs.”

The biotechnology course will provide authentic critical thinking opportunities in Forensics, Genetics, Anatomy and Physiology, Biomimicry and Bioengineering.  

Larsen says one of the goals is to prepare students for the in-demand biotechnology field. It is one of the fastest growing industries in the world. In fact, in 2012 U.S. bioscience companies employed 1.62 million personnel across more than 73,000 individual business establishments. 

“Many colleges are now offering this program for students, and we would like to prepare ours to excel in this field with real life experiences,” Larsen said.

The grant will also help to fund additional equipment for MVHS’ cutting-edge Fabrication Lab. This hands-on classroom, which allows students to build with wood, metal, plastic and other materials, was recently expanded, providing areas for designing on computers separate from the messy work of building with machines.  

Additionally, the school hired a second technology and engineering teacher. Kent Allison and their new teacher, Mica Storie, have been key to the expansion of the program.

“We immediately filled up all of her sections. We had many kids waiting to get involved in the program. We just didn’t have space for them, yet,” Larsen said.

Once the students are in the program, it is amazing to see what they create. They designed the  layout for the new Fabrication Lab, accessibility ramps at the school and a custom-built hand for a disabled student, using a the school’s high tech 3D printers.

“He was born without digits on his hands,” Larsen explained. “Now, when he moves his wrist [the student-produced hand] closes the fingers. It allows him to pick up a water bottle, hold on to a bicycle handle bar and grab and pick things up.”

The grant will help to expand real-world projects like this. Larsen says these projects provide students with authentic learning opportunities and are tangible achievements that they can list on their resume. 

“That is more and more of what businesses and universities are looking for. They are not just looking for high GPAs. They’re looking for how the students have contributed to society,” Larsen said.

LEARN MORE: Vista Now!: New Tech Room Fosters Student Innovation

February 17, 2015 | By rmbarber | Category: High School Education, Schools

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