School-to-work advanced graphics and robotics are two areas in which the Gahanna-Jefferson Education Foundation has provided funding to benefit Lincoln High School students.

The foundation is holding its largest fundraiser of the year, the Gahanna Gala, at 6:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 23, at L Brands Corporate Headquarters, 3 Limited Parkway, with proceeds helping fund grants to support such programs.

School-to-work advanced graphics is an introduction to the study and application of graphic design as a communication tool on a professional level, said Ashley Lawson, a visual arts teacher.

She said the foundation has been extremely supportive of the arts in the six years she has taught black-and-white film photography I and II, computer art I and II, and SWAG.

"As the primary teacher for GLHS's digital visual arts, when technology changes, my curriculum changes," she said. "GJEF has been instrumental in helping me keep up with industry trends in this ever-changing digital world."

Through the foundation's Grants of Excellence and connections with individual donors, Lawson said, she has been able to replace obsolete technology with new equipment and, in turn, increase student achievement and keep the visual arts program relevant in a competitive market.

"(The foundation) helped breathe new life into GLHS's traditional wet darkroom when they approved a grant for some much-needed photography darkroom equipment," she added.

Lawson wrote a proposal and was awarded a Grant of Excellence for about $2,400 to purchase digital timers to use with enlargers in the school's traditional wet photography darkroom.

She said the old timers were neither accurate nor predictable.

"Accuracy is key in photography and the students' efforts to perfect their darkroom printing techniques were wasted without effective equipment," Lawson said. "The new timers for the darkroom keep this traditional process alive here at Gahanna Lincoln as darkroom photography is quickly being erased from the curriculum at most high schools."

She said students enrolled in SWAG provide no-cost design services to district faculty and staff, community members, entrepreneurs, local business owners and city organizations.

"This experiential learning opportunity for our students is offered as an advanced computer art course and is geared toward those interested in digital arts and graphic design," Lawson said. "The real-world experience provided by SWAG not only helps prepare college-bound creatives for the demands of higher education but helps those who choose not to go to college become workforce-ready."

She said the foundation has helped secure funding for Wacom pen tablets, a professional-grade large-format fine art printer and a large-format precision trimmer for her digital art classroom.

Lawson said the foundation has supported the visual art department's mission to help students develop an online presence with a digital art portfolio, by helping to secure funding for equipment to make high-quality digital reproductions of student artwork.

"They have also helped us increase the visibility of our students' hard work by providing funding for presentation materials so we can more readily display student artwork within the community," Lawson said. "These are just a few of the ways that I personally have felt the impact of GJEF's support within my classroom."

Tim Lewis, Lincoln's teacher for introduction to and advanced robotics science, said he has received at least three grants from the foundation over the years, and he has applied for another grant this year.

His first grant was $4,000 in 2008, which allowed him to start the advanced robotics course, previously called millennium science II.

"The first grant awarded me enough funds to purchase six Sumo-Bot kits (12 total Sumo robots), 11 Applied Sensor kits (which allowed students to expand knowledge or to complete independent study work), and 10 more BOE-Bots (robots that are used for introduction to robotics) which allowed me to almost double the number of robots I was using for intro to robotics," Lewis said. "That grant allowed me to get a 1-to-1 ratio of robots to students much faster than I would have been able to with normal budget ordering."

He said the grant also allowed him to start advanced robotics with more equipment than he would have had otherwise, allowing him to spend his yearly budget on other items that also were needed but still providing enough robots for the students.

He also received an $800 grant in 2011 to purchase a Stingray Robot, a Scribbler robot and the first Propeller board, a new programming platform, that many students have used over the years to extend their learning or to participate in independent study projects with Lewis.

The last grant Lewis was awarded with science teacher Jordan Truitt was for $2,500, funding the purchase of more BOE-Bot kits, 10 replacement BOE boards and some extra parts for the kits that tend to break more often.

"We applied for the grant last year when we saw that the addition of freshmen into the course had increased the number of students and the amount of breakage dramatically," he said.

"This grant allowed us to replace some parts both last year and this year that were accidentally damaged by students, while also allowing us to have extra robots available for students to work on.

"This allows us to differentiate more in our classes, having extra robot kits for both faster and slower students, so that they are not wasting time building circuits and can spend more time programming, problem-solving and learning," Lewis said.

He hopes another grant will be funded this year to expand the number of new projects students can work on and to get some kits that would normally be too expensive to fit into the regular budget.

"The kits that we're asking for this year will allow our students to create much more imaginative projects using basic animation, lighting, and sound," Lewis said.

He said the equipment that has been purchased with grant funding still is used in either introduction to robotics, advanced robotics, or by students participating in independent-study projects during the last 10 years.

"I still have the original sets in my class from the first grant and calculate that about 1,000 students over the last 10 years have been affected by these grants and the robots purchased with them," Lewis said.

The theme of this year's Gahanna Gala is "Hooray for Hollywood."

The event will feature silent and live auctions and food.

Ticket and sponsorship information can be found at www.gjef.org or contact Sharon Tomko or Tricia Twigg at 614-416-0298.

mkuhlman@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekMarla