Most of the students have excellent keyboarding skills long before they reach ninth grade. In high school, they will take classes that meet occupational education requirements and learn science through application, which introduces them to programming, robotics, and computer aided design.
In Tiffany Niemeyer’s classes, students learn to access templates in order to design letterhead, business cards, resumes, calendars and flyers. They learn to use Power Point for presentations and work in graphic design. They also have a unit on photography where they talk about lighting and positioning.
“This year,” Niemeyer said, “one of our assignments was to create a commercial. One of the students used animation! I didn’t know how to do that, so I had her teach the class. Kids who had never done it before were drawing flowers blooming or losing petals using Paint and moving it to iMoviemaker or giftmaker.me.
“When you give them some freedom, they learn to explore.”
The students considered video games and the objective of getting to the next level. They spent time researching apps and games and had to come up with an original idea for a game of their own.
In Jeff Rooklidge’s class, students completed a unit on robotics and entered a competition earlier this year in Zillah.
“The robots were designed to move through a course as quickly as possible, using a sensor to follow the course and programmed using PBASIC to take the shortest path,” said Hannah Arn, a sophomore in Rooklidge’s class.
Some students, like junior Luke Stacey, are having so much fun with the robots that they will continue to work with them, while other students move on to a project designing race cars that will be placed in a wind tunnel to test wind resistance and drag.
“At which point they will refine their design,” Rooklidge said. “They are learning about Newton’s Laws of Motion, drag and friction and the science of what is happening in races like the Indianapolis 500.”
According to Rooklidge, students in Jeff Pillar’s classroom are designing roller coasters and Kyle Hurley is teaching them Computer Aided Design (CAD) from a mechanical and industrial standpoint.
“I’m teaching the basics,” Rooklidge said. “The students are so intuitive to technology. My job is to give them access and they just take off with it.”
For instance, Luke Stacey is already programming C++.
“C++ is pretty much the premier gaming language in the world,” Stacey said. “I’ve been told that if I can understand it, I’m pretty much guaranteed a job.”
Which, according to Rooklidge, is the objective.
“We want to champion those kids who may not thrive reading books about theories,” he said, “but take off when tearing open engines or working with mechanics. We all learn differently, we all have different aptitudes and different minds.
“We really want to give our students the opportunity to experience higher level mathematics and higher level science,” he continued. “We want to move in that direction for the kids, so they can say all of this is part of their skill set, so they can be that much more employable.”