Magazine article Techniques

How 3D PRINTING Took One Arizona District to New Heights

Magazine article Techniques

How 3D PRINTING Took One Arizona District to New Heights

Article excerpt

Technology is taking the world by storm and although cars-turned-crime-fighting-robots aren't quite reality, Western Maricopa Education Center (West-MEC) has been proactive in utilizing cutting edge tech tools on an innovative campus in its service of high school and adult career and technical education (CTE) students. In the north and west valley areas of Arizona, the district prides itself in utilizing technology in the classroom and connecting education with business practices.

West-MEC had an idea: to serve younger generations by providing them with hands-on learning opportunities and experience in high-demand industries. With that idea and a recognition that to find one's purpose can be difficult when opportunities are limited, the school launched satellite programs, expanding its educational reach and offering courses in a variety of industries, including health, beauty and wellness, craftsmanship, law, public safety & security, transportation and technology.

When presented with the chance, high school students are encouraged to think about their future. And suddenly, the sky's the limit. West-MEC has grown over the years and continues with a mission of "preparing students today for tomorrow's careers" and their vision of empowering all students to participate fully in the economy by providing and enhancing career and technical education. For district teachers and staff, this happens with the aid of state-of-the-art equipment and tools and industry-standard curriculum across all campuses and virtual learning environments. But one in particular stands out, as West-MEC worked with a long-time staff member to create an innovative building that promises to present infinite possibilities for students who walk through the doors.

The Tech Guru's Playhouse

When students,educators and parents, alike, complain about the education system, those complaints center around the lack of curriculum focused on real-world application. But when it comes to CTE, our students are more likely to pursue postsecondary education and are then successful in matriculating to the workforce (About CTE, n.d.).

West-MEC provides high school students with a multitude of opportunities, while also divesting CTE of stigma and stereotype. The START campus at West-MEC is providing students with resources that transcend those in the average classroom. This campus is the home of the district's Coding program and a create lab where students can put their ideas into action. The campus is the epitome of every tech guru's playhouse, providing future coders with the tools to explore technological advancement.

Students of START at West-MEC are given the opportunity to network with industry representatives and gain that all-important, real-world experience with the offer of 3D printing services. Staff and students have used the device to create decorative models, but the printer served a bigger purpose when former student and intern Daucen Osborn teamed up with his principal to test new waters.

START at West-MEC Director and Principal Chris Cook believes that providing youth with tools that can broaden their knowledge and help them develop into professionals is vital in the furtherance of CTE programs:

"As a principal, our team collaborates to provide mentorship and hands-on learning experiences to our students," he said." Whether it is introducing them to new technology or connecting them with industry experts, I believe that networking and broadening their skills provides them unique experiences that make them competitive in the future workforce."

Osborn has always had a passion for technology and when the opportunity arose to attend West-MEC, he did. Osborn enrolled into the district's coding program and used the 3D printer to create a number of models and to expand his knowledge and network. Inside the classroom he learned from his instructors about coding; and outside, he sought mentorship from his principal and other industry experts to help him diversify his skillset. …

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