CANFIELD, Ohio (WKBN) – Valley STEM Academy is wrapping up its first year.
The program, which targets 9th and 10th graders, focuses on science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
Robots, ultraviolet printers, and power tools are just some of the classroom resources. It’s a hands-on learning environment.
Gabriella Gensamer and Marty Solomon built their first robot in a week and a half. The mechanical arm and claw can pick up objects and place them wherever the students want.
“We did a lot of trial and error runs, really. We had some difficulties with programming the robot because we were not sure what user interface to use,” Gensamer said.
Both Gensamer and Soloman are freshman at Valley STEM Academy. They love the hands-on approach learning environment, and Valley STEM Academy Director Mara Banfield said the students in the program are the most impressive she has even seen.
“It’s actually very humbling, and it is a constant reminder as to how important their input is, and it is important for us not to be their ceiling based on our experience and expertise,” Banfield said.
Student input is shaping curriculum at the school. Biomedical Engineering is being added because a student expressed interest. And it’s that kind of mutual respect for learning that is placing these students in the forefront when it comes to preparing for secondary education and careers after high school.
“I think that a lot of the different engineering and critical thinking skills that I have learned are the most memorable and most impactful things that I have learned because I feel that I wouldn’t get those at my home school,” Gensamer said.
Eighty-seven students go to the school – 70 freshman and 17 sophomores. All but one freshman is coming back next year.
Right now, the school is staying a two-year school. When students are done, they can go back to their home school or finish high school at the Mahoning County Career and Technical Center.
The career center is adding a computer software engineering curriculum and it’s based on input from STEM students.