Several students told the Olentangy Board of Education recently that they enjoy learning about science, technology, engineering and mathematics at the Olentangy Academy.

One student said on her first day at the academy, bottle rockets were being set off, and she knew this would “be a different kind of school experience, in a good way.”

The students said they enjoyed projects at the academy-like building and using Mars Rovers, and examining energy usage at other schools. Another said she was planning a science-themed field trip at the end of the school year to the Cedar Point amusement park.

Among the academy’s benefits, the students said, included working with mentors who hold jobs in related fields; having a curriculum that is connected to their other classes; and having the ability to correct their work if it is wrong. The district’s website said more than 20 college students, including Olentangy graduates, recently talked to academy students about their experiences.

Board member Roger Bartz asked the students how they could improve the academy, and two students said the district should get a bigger building. The district currently leases the academy, at 7774 Graphics Way in Lewis Center. In addition to the STEM Academy, the Olentangy Academy is also home of other district programs: the Academy for Community Transition for students with special needs; a mentorship program for high school seniors; and OASIS, a student-centered, non-traditional educational program.

When asked by the board if it was a hassle to attend the academy in the morning and then be bused to their home high school in the afternoon, the students said no. One said she enjoyed having friends from all three of Olentangy’s high schools.

Before filing out of the meeting on Thursday, the students gave the board members gifts they made at the academy by designing them on a computer and using a laser cutter. Board President Dave King joked, “This is no longer done by a wood-burning pen?”

The academy held an open house on Jan. 14, and is accepting mentorship applications.

The Olentangy Academy’s goals are to “develop each student as a college- and career-ready individual demonstrated by each student completing a mentorship experience, a capstone experience, or a career-development program beginning with the class of 2019,” and to “help students develop familiarity with the strengths and limitations of various technological tools and mediums.”

Students use radio controls to drive “Mars Rovers” they built over a Martian surface at the Olentangy Academy. use radio controls to drive “Mars Rovers” they built over a Martian surface at the Olentangy Academy.

By Gary Budzak

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Gary Budzak may be reached at 740-413-0904 or on Twitter @GaryBudzak.