An innovative new program of Kent Career Tech Center has $5,000 more in its budget.
Design Lab was one of three programs in the Attracting Talent category. Other categories were Developing Talent and Retaining Talent.
The principal-instructor duo John Kraus and Joe Philips from the Tech Center presented, winning both their category and the entire competition, which included eight other competing schools and colleges. Presentations were judged solely based on audience votes.
Design Lab is a one-year career and technical education program created to introduce 10th-grade students to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math), and the Tech Center, helping them explore related careers. The program, developed with help from area business leaders, attracts students who might not typically consider one of these high-demand fields by appealing to the inventor/tinkerer in a wide range of students.
The program integrates design thinking, problem-solving and communication skills. Projects in this first year have included developing and building a battery-powered phone charger that fits in a candy tin, designing and building a model car, inventing and 3D printing a custom solution to a real world problem of their choice.
“Many students have no idea ‘what they want to be when they grow up.’ We specialize in helping them answer that question,” said Tech Center Principal John Kraus. “Being selected by the MEDC and the Governor’s office is both an honor and affirmation of our work to broaden students’ awareness of high tech, high demand careers they may not have considered before. Programs like Design Lab help students explore and prepare for great careers located right here in West Michigan.”
Design Lab already is showing its success. Just halfway through its first year, Design Lab’s 38 students include half a dozen females, well above the average high-school STEM program enrollment. Thirty-seven of its students have already registered for further Tech Center programs, 80 percent of them STEM-related such as mechatronics, IT, HVAC and engineering.