“I’m sure just letting them flex their creative muscles has helped them some, but I need to have a conversation with the staff about what difference they see with the VREP students,” he said.
But whether or not there are currently any measurable gains or concrete implementation plans, one thing these school leaders are quick to recognize is the invaluable science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) skills their students are learning.
“We are about creating jobs and preparing students for jobs that do not exist,” said Epps. “3D simulation is a skill set that can be applied to many industries. Usually when schools reach out to businesses the question is ‘What can you do for us?’ As our numbers continue to grow, we are reaching out to local and regional companies in hopes of answering the question, ‘What can we do for you?’”
Frazier said he supported his district’s VREP program for three reasons: “First, it is what we anticipate is the future of drafting and design. Second, it is exciting for the kids, and we thought it would engage some specific learners who are interested in computers, engineering, or mechanics. Third, we saw this as a way to bolster our STEM initiative and attract students to the STEM career pathways.”
Strohmyer echoed Frazier’s beliefs, saying that though he’d like students to first get some formal instruction and a degree under their belt, the skills and credentials will land them “at least an interview for a great job.”
But perhaps the biggest plus of these programs is not the opportunity for an interview, but that students can become creators of their own content, becoming invested—and interested—in their own learning.
“Our students are in this class as independent learners,” said Frazier, “so they are developing independence, initiative, and self-discipline in their school work. Moreover, each student creates a unique project, so there is a great deal of pride of ownership for each one.”
Epps said he welcomes any school district to join his efforts, because Richmond County is willing to share their training resources and expertise.
Epps will also conduct “The Summer of Kaintomia 2012” in June, which is a week-long summer camp that introduces students to 3D game design fundamentals using Unity. Any district interested in joining via video conference should contact Epps at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information on the VREP program, click here.
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