Pickerington junior high and high school students next year will have new tools to prepare them for jobs or college credit related to pharmacy and manufacturing after the award of nearly $900,000 in grants.
A collaboration of 15 central Ohio school districts, Columbus State, the Educational Services Center of Central Ohio and various community and business partners recently led to the distribution of $14.4 million to provide job training and college credit to students in grades 7-12.
As a partner district, the Pickerington Local School District, thus far, has received $889,000 in Straight A grants through the Innovation Generation consortium.
That money has allowed the district to create new health care and advanced manufacturing "career pathways."
According to Brian Seymour, an instructional adviser in Pickerington's Department of Teaching and Learning, students next year will be offered course work to qualify them to become pharmacy technicians, a job that includes the ability to write medication prescriptions and pays $30,000 to $35,000 right out of high school.
Students also can earn up to six college credits in bioscience technology, and the district is developing a "distance-learning laboratory," through which Columbus State University professors provide instruction via video connections to local classrooms to prepare students for careers as clinical laboratory assistants.
Additionally, a $600,000, 32-foot fabrication laboratory has been purchased that provides hands-on learning opportunities for everything from milling and lathing, to computer-aided design and robot building.
"It's not sitting there getting lectured," Seymour said. "The kids are actually doing the work. They're working with the equipment.
"Our students will receive both high school and college credit," he said.
"We can utilize that Fab Lab, and gone are the days where we have to design things with Popsicle sticks.
"Students can actually design these things."
The equipment, partnerships with colleges and businesses and evolving curriculum will enable the district to continue to expand its STEM-focused (science, technology engineering and mathematics) curriculum, which district officials say is integral in preparing students for the 21st century, global job market.
A new metabolic cart will provide opportunities to conduct stress tests under the health care pathway.
There's also a machine that measures a person's air intake and lung capacity.
"We've already ordered $120,000 worth of medical equipment," Seymour said.
"Imagine you're a student and you want to go into the medical field," he said. "You've already got that experience."
The Fab Lab was modeled after one developed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
It's mobile and can be taken to school buildings throughout the district.
"At the junior high level, we will offer design and modeling and robotics and automation," Seymour said. "We've actually purchased about $100,000 in robotics equipment and will be able to teach kids how to design and build a robot."
Thus far, district officials say two-thirds of junior high students have signed up for advanced manufacturing classes next year.
Seymour said the district's goal is to bolster the health care and Fab Lab so students can receive instruction in emerging areas such as "green" architecture and energy and technology.
Those efforts are expected to be aided as more Straight A grants are given.
"There is still money to be distributed in grants," Seymour said.
"There's a lot of interest in this type of instruction and learning.
"This is an amazing way to think about education and put (students) on an appropriate and correct path to make them successful in whatever they choose to do," he said.