GV, WMAA team up to promote STEM

GVL / Courtesy - Jaclyn Timmer
The West Michigan Aviation Academy located in Grand Rapids

Jaclyn Timmer

GVL / Courtesy – Jaclyn Timmer The West Michigan Aviation Academy located in Grand Rapids

Maddie Forshee

Grand Valley State University’s Padnos College of Engineering and Computing (PCEC) is home to many students, all of whom are curious and interested in developing new ways to solve problems.

To further promote science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education, faculty from the PCEC signed an agreement with the West Michigan Aviation Academy (WMAA) last week. The agreement will pair the two organizations, which will continually work together over this and the next academic year.

The WMAA is a public charter high school located on the grounds of the Gerald R. Ford International Airport in Grand Rapids. The school’s curriculum focuses on STEM education and aviation, one of the reasons PCEC wanted to reach out and collaborate with the school.

“We’re always looking at this kind of partnership as part of our K-12 outreach,” said Charles Standridge, associate dean for PCEC.

The collaboration came about within the past year, with PCEC professors visiting the school to talk about engineering and bringing the students to GVSU to show them the campus, the labs and the resources available to PCEC students.

The newly-signed agreement outlined a few different ways that PCEC and WMAA would work together. In order to align WMAA more closely with PCEC’s engineering curriculum, a faculty member, Standridge, will be working with the school closely to evaluate and critique their current curriculum to match it more closely to a college program.

“There are a lot of students who would like to explore that as a career path,” Standridge said. “The sooner they have a chance to do that exploration, the better.”

GVSU and WMAA are also working to embed a graduate student at the school to serve as a FIRST Robotics and STEM course support graduate assistant for the next academic year at the school.

The graduate student would provide expertise and guidance to WMAA’s student teams that plan on competing in the FIRST robotics competition, a competition for students to team up to build and test robots against each other.

The two institutions are also working on staying in contact and making sure to visit each respective campus throughout the year.

Samrita Rhodes, assistant director of the school of engineering, has visited the high school to give presentations about engineering and said that she is looking forward to keeping the relationship going.

“I think it’s a very natural collaboration,” she said. “They are in the area, and we are a premier engineering school in the area.”

Rhodes said that the students at WMAA are exactly the kind of students the PCEC is looking for.

“The challenges in the coming years are going to require innovation, and technology is going to be a problem solver and a game changer,” she said. “The younger that our science education reaches, the more we can teach about the scientific method and how innovation works.”

For more information about the Padnos College of Engineering and Computing, visit www.gvsu.edu/pcec.