By Libby Smith

LONGMONT, Colo (CBS4) – As the U.S. economy becomes more digitized, St. Vrain Valley School District has transformed it’s curriculum to emphasize STEM classes. District officials have integrated computers into every classroom. Students learn to innovate within the science, technology, engineering and math fields. And the district built an Innovation Center which emphasized project-based learning in partnership with business.

“The goal of this project was to build prosthetic arms for little kids because they grow so much,” said Michelle Tran, a junior from Skyline High School.

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The prosthetic hands she showed CBS4 took months of planning, and was the team’s first attempt at 3D printing.

“We wired it, so the next thing is to connect it to a chip that will read the sensors that your nerves give out,” Tran explained.

The prosthetic hand is the newest project that Tran is working on at the Innovation Center in Longmont. She has also created a curriculum for teaching younger students how to 3D print.

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“I got my Apple certification when I was 14. At the time, I was the youngest person in the country,” Tran told CBS4.

The Apple certification program is the only one of its kind in the country. In the last five years, about 100 students have passed the tests to be certified to fix Apple products. It’s just one of the many STEM and tech offerings in the St. Vrain Valley School District.

“We believe that STEM programming, that the use of technology, that project based learning coupled with a strong foundation of basic skills is what it will take for kids to be competitive when they graduate,” said Jackie Kapushion, Deputy Superintendent at St. Vrain Valley School District.

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The philosophy is district wide, starting with integrated technology in the classrooms of the youngest kids. What looks like playing computer games, is really 2nd graders working on 4th graders learn the language of coding with BitsBox, and 5th graders are building bots for competition.

“We partner with our business community to understand what the needs of the business community are going to be,” Kapushion said.

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Nathan Hutson and his team are looking for a sponsor for their emergency distress system. They’ve come up with the idea of using drones to find people carrying emergency beacons during a natural disaster.

“We came up with this idea because of the national disasters that have been happening so recently with the floods in Florida and Texas,” Hutson explained.

The team won a national grant and will present their idea at MIT in June.

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“I’m super excited. I’m super excited to see the team excited, as well as, the project is actually coming alive,” Hutson said, a senior at Erie High School.

This is the kind of industry level work that will help make these students competitive on every level in the future.

“I want to be able to 3D print organs one day, to replicate what no one else has been able to do,” Tran added.

Libby Smith is a Special Projects Producer at CBS4. If you have a story you’d like to tell CBS4 about, call 303-863-TIPS (8477) or visit the News Tips section.


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