The Olentangy Academy on Tuesday opened its doors to freshmen students, who got to check out the classrooms, meet their instructors and see demonstrations of equipment.
The freshmen will be in the Academy’s STEM program, which stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. They got their name printed on a laser engraver, watched a 3D printer at work, and worked with engineers from Abbott Nutrition.
In one classroom, a teacher asked if anyone knew what CNC stood for. The answer is Computer Numerical Control, and the Academy has products like a CNC router and CNC milling machine for rapid prototyping.
“Our main goal here is to help kids develop problem-solving skills,” said Academy Principal Chelsea Eismon. “We’re focusing on problem-based learning and connecting in those authentic learning experiences in an interdisciplinary environment.”
While similar equipment and classes exist at Olentangy’s three high schools, the students will be able to go more in-depth with their projects at the Academy.
For example, Eismon said, “I’m teaching math, and the problems I’m assigning are related to the project. It’s teaching it all together, so kids can make those connections. People ask me, is this for engineers? No, it’s for any kid.”
There will be 100 students in the STEM program.
“The kids are excited, the parents have been very supportive,” Eismon said. “We want to get STEM professionals to come in and talk to our kids about their profession. We’re always looking for mentors.”
“We’re just thrilled that we’re able to present this opportunity for our students,” said Superintendent Mark Raiff. “We have a long-standing history of providing STEM opportunities to our kids, but this improves upon that.”
In addition to STEM, the Academy offers three other programs.
Earlier this year, the Academy was the home for the OASIS program, which stands for Olentangy Academy Supporting Individual Success.
“Some kids just don’t like the traditional high school setting,” Raiff said. “These are kids that might go to a charter or online school. This keeps them in Olentangy and is a different way to meet their needs.”
The Academy will also be the new home for the district’s Mentorship class for seniors going on internships.
“Because we’re feeding it through all three (high) schools, we centralized it and made it part of this Academy,” Raiff said.
Finally, the building will house the Academy for Community Transition, which helps students with disabilities who have already graduated improve their job training skills.
“We saw a need and designed this program to facilitate maximum learning for every student,” Raiff said.
Gary Budzak may be reached at 740-413-0904 or on Twitter @GaryBudzak.