New STEM center nears completion in eastern Iowa

By Holly Hines-citizen, Associated Press | Posted - Aug. 20, 2015 at 9:51 a.m.



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TIFFIN, Iowa (AP) — High school and college students this month wielded long strips of siding and affixed them to a new STEM Center nearing completion at Clear Creek Amana Middle School.

In June, the students, area businesses and Kirkwood Community College built the center, which will feature a "green," plant-covered roof and will house CCA classes focused on science, technology, engineering and math. Educators say they hope the new building will unite the community and give students experience with problem-solving when it opens this fall, the Iowa City Press-Citizen (http://icp-c.com/1JgAyxN ) reported.

Students have since added siding, flooring and finishing touches to the building, which will open when school starts on Sept. 1.

Kirkwood Associate Professor Joe Greathouse, who is overseeing the students during construction, said donations from local businesses funded more than $300,000 of the center's roughly $350,000 cost, while district dollars funded the rest.

Both high school and college students are earning credits through Kirkwood while building the center and are gaining valuable, hands-on experience with skills needed for architecture, construction and engineering careers, Greathouse said.

"That's truly the most important part of it," he said.

Greathouse said 154 high school students from seven area counties involved with eastern Iowa's ACE Mentor program designed the center last fall alongside industry mentors.

Kirkwood Sophomore Elijah Price said the project gave him experience running a construction site and exposed high school students to the gamut of architecture and construction skills required to erect a building.

"It gives them a little bit of everything," he said.

CCA sophomore Zachary Finnegan said he enjoys building things and learned new skills through the project, such as framing a building, that would help him seek a career in construction.

He said he enjoyed contributing to a project that will help other students and he anticipates driving past the building and thinking, "Wow, I built that."

"You get to build something that they're going to be in almost every day," he said.

Middle School Principal Brad Fox said all students this fall will take a trimester-long STEM class in the center. He said he supported opening a STEM-focused building to help kids engage in problem-solving and understand real-world applications of lessons in school.

"It's not just a textbook. It's not just a problem on the board," he said.

Fox said Reagan Boeset, a CCA science teacher, will be a full-time STEM teacher at the center starting this fall.

Boeset said she has big ideas for the STEM class, including plans for students to solve problems in the community by helping residents with runoff issues in their backyards, for example. She said she hopes to expose kids to authentic experiences by connecting them with "clients" rather than asking them to simply meet her own grading standards and expectations.

"I want the kids to feel that there's real value," she said.

Boeset said the new center will feature four 55-inch monitors that students can use for Zoom conferencing and to Skype with others internationally.

Students also will use computer-aided drafting, or CAD, software along with a 3D printer, she said.

Boeset said that along with offering space for using technology, she hopes the new building will be a symbol of the community's connection to the school.

"It's theirs, too," she said.

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Information from: Iowa City Press-Citizen, http://www.press-citizen.com/

This is an AP Member Exchange shared by the Iowa City Press-Citizen

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Holly Hines-Citizen

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