New Albany-Plain Local is one of several central Ohio school districts that plans to create educational career pathways for its students in the 2014-15 school year.
The project is being funded by a $14.4 million grant from the Ohio Department of Education's Straight A Fund.
The Innovation Generation initiative was launched April 22 by the consortium of districts.
Innovation Generation is part of the national Pathways to Prosperity Network and seeks to establish career pathways in advanced manufacturing/robotics, business logistics, health care and information technology.
The multidistrict collaboration is supported by Columbus State Community College, Educational Services Center of Central Ohio, Mount Carmel Health System, Battelle for Kids, Columbus 2020 and other community and business partners throughout Ohio. The Eastland-Fairfield, Tolles and Ohio Hi-Point career centers also are part of the collaboration.
Each of the participating schools is establishing new or expanded programming that will allow students to earn credentials or licensing for some of the fastest-growing jobs in Ohio and earn more credits toward college degrees.
Districts participating in the consortium for the Innovation Generation initiative are Canal Winchester, Columbus, Gahanna-Jefferson, Grandview Heights, Hilliard, Licking Heights, Marysville, New Albany-Plain Local, Olentangy, Pickerington, Reynoldsburg, South-Western, Upper Arlington, Westerville and Whitehall.
Reynoldsburg is the lead district for the initiative and acts as fiscal officer for the consortium. The Reynoldsburg Board of Education on April 15 approved Straight A Fund contracts for 12 of the districts:
* Canal Winchester: $297,135
* Columbus City Schools: $753,500
* Gahanna-Jefferson: $911,059
* Grandview Heights: $584,375
* Hilliard: $902,475
* Licking Heights: $496,200
* Marysville: $942,753
* New Albany: $872,228
* Pickerington: $867,783
* South-Western: $150,000
* Upper Arlington: $300,421
* Westerville: $1,171,706
* Reynoldsburg received $1,080,686.
Superintendent April Domine said New Albany-Plain Local's share of the grant will help expand the district's Robotics II program and create an MIT "fabrication laboratory," or Fab Lab.
The district implemented Robotics II this year with Henry, a robot that speaks eight languages and is able to recognize faces and respond to requests. He was purchased in 2013 with a $19,000 grant from the Martha Holden Jennings Foundation.
Domine said the money will help purchase more of the humanoid robots and expand the class.
She said the district hopes to staff the robotics lab with teachers and open it to younger students, perhaps using older students to mentor younger students in the lab.
The one-time grant must be used to develop programs that are sustainable and do not require the addition of more personnel, Domine said.
The MIT Fab Lab will include several machines used in digital fabrication and will challenge students to develop new computer programming for the machines.
Domine said the lab includes items such as a 3-D printer and a laser engraver.
Dave Demers, a member of the district's financial review and reporting committee likened the lab to a shop class, in which students can learn about trades and decide if they are bound for college or if they want to move into a career right after high school.
Domine said the lab could be accessible to students who are interested in working on computer programming at home after the school day.
FRRC member Brian Steele said it's exciting to think about students "doing coding from home" and said he hopes the students will be able to work with their peers after school.
Domine said the lab could be used by other school districts, as well.
It is planned to be developed next to the high school weight room in a building used to store custodial equipment.
Domine said the grant also will fund an upgrade to the district's technology infrastructure.
Another way the grant will be used at New Albany-Plain Local is to develop a health-related pathway in which the district will partner with medical organizations such as Nationwide Children's Hospital and Columbus State Community College to provide students with access to labs and other medical education opportunities.
The health pathway needs further development of the partnerships and potential offerings to students. The offerings could include bio-medical engineering opportunities, said district spokesman Patrick Gallaway.
Domine said the health-related pathway is important to the district because many New Albany students are interested in medical careers.
ThisWeek staff writer Pamela Willis contributed to this story.