Central High School today unveiled The Colony maker space, the school’s new home for its proposed Science-Technology-Engineering-Mathematics (STEM) Innovation magnet program and the centerpiece of its partnership with the University of Louisville J. B. Speed School of Engineering.
In addition to helping create a college-bound culture for underrepresented students, the partnership and maker space aim to encourage more female and minority students to pursue engineering and science studies.
“Think of this as a 21st century shop class, where students can design, and create, and bring their ideas to fruition,” said Central Principal Raymond Green.
Green added that students in the STEM program will study a wide range of foundations – coding, robotics, engineering, even hacking – to give them the skills they need to succeed in an increasingly technology-driven world. The goal, he said, will be for them to graduate from Central with a patent or trademark in their name.
“I’m particularly proud of how student-focused this space is, from the technology and equipment that will be the new norm for students as they continue to study and hone their skills, all the way down to the name they selected for their area,” said Dr. Donna Hargens, superintendent of Jefferson County Public Schools. “ ‘The Colony’ is not only a play on Central’s mascot, but a fitting term to describe the teamwork, innovation, and hard work that will go one here.”
The center also creates a foundation for the school’s strong partnership with Speed School. In addition to providing Central with up to five scholarships per year, the engineering school will allow qualifying high school seniors to take freshman-level college classes; will sponsor robotics tournaments and hack-a-thons at the center; and will help write the STEM Innovation curriculum.
“Our goal with these maker space facilities is to increase interest in the STEM fields and to help students grow their self-confidence,” said UofL Acting President Neville Pinto. “Expect to see our Speed School students here working alongside Central students on engineering projects.”
The space is being furnished with $30,000 of prototype furniture gifted from student-focused furniture maker Artcobell and $20,000 of innovative equipment, including 3D printers, laser cutters and robot fields, funded by a Verizon Innovation grant.
The unveiling was held in conjunction with a national conference highlighting dual-credit courses and college partnerships. Central was selected for one of the breakout sessions of the National Alliance of Concurrent Enrollment (NACEP), to showcase how dual credit opportunities can effectively create a college-going culture for minority students. Two dozen attendees visited Central to learn about its deep partnerships with UofL.
“We know that high quality dual credit can have a powerful impact on students’ postsecondary success, yet fewer opportunities are available to students in the nation’s large urban school districts. Even when those opportunities are present, they tend to be available only to select students in relatively well-off schools,” said NACEP Executive Director Adam Lowe. “We hope that the partnership between the University of Louisville and Central High School will inspire others to commit to developing dual credit opportunities for students who will benefit the most from these programs.”