Sixty middle and high school students will have access to new state-of-the-art technology that will expose them to more science technology engineering and math opportunities.
International Game Technology, a multinational gaming company, and Rise HIGH, Inc., a non-profit organization that engages Schenectady City students in STEM experiences, cut the ribbon on a new computer lab at the Clarkson University Capital Region campus.
“We are extremely grateful to IGT for the generous donation that will help us be in a better place to create content that remains relevant to the students in what is a constantly changing and advancing world,” said Rise HIGH Executive Director Omayra Padilla De Jesus. “We want our students to grow awareness around these growing fields as well as developing skills that are marketable.”
The new lab has 22 computers and additional technologies valued at around $24,000, De Jesus said.
Of the 22 computers, 10 will support virtual reality, according to a release from International Game Technology.
The donation of the technology is part of the company’s After School Advantage Program, an initiative “devoted to providing young people with access to technology in a safe, nurturing after school environment,” according to the release.
“IGT is proud to support the youth and community members of Rise HIGH through this After School Advantage donation,” said Paul Stelmaszyk, IGT New York account development manager, in a release. “For more than 20 years, IGT has witnessed the overwhelmingly positive impact that our After School Advantage program has had on young people across the globe. This program grants youth access to a combination of the most advanced technology and powerful learning resources to set them up for future success.”
The program runs on Saturdays during the school year and students move through the program each school year, De Jesus said.
“This is what sustained exposure means,” she said. “It is not a one-time or few-days experience, but one they can grow with. Our inaugural cohort from 2018 is now in 10th grade.”
There are currently three cohorts of anywhere from 18 to 20 students from grades 8, 9 and 10. They started as 6th graders, De Jesus said.
“We halted recruitment of new groups when the pandemic started, the reason why we don’t currently have a 7th grade group, but eventually we will resume recruitment of younger grades,” she said.
The students are recruited from any of the city schools, but if a kid who was already in the program moves to a neighboring district and is still in good standing they will still be able to participate in the program, De Jesus said.
Rise HIGH provides transportation for students involved in the program, which is also free to students.
Depending on the grade level, students learn different subjects. Students in 10th grade are working in teams to create a virtual reality game, 8th and 9th graders are working with Tech Valley Space to design a computer game and 9th graders are learning about additive manufacturing and taking that information and creating 3D objects.
De Jesus said the organization works with various instructors in academia and STEM industries. The program also helps students at the university.
“The people at Clarkson University’s Education programs are excited to work with Rise HIGH and our corporate partners on this valuable initiative,” said Catherine Snyder, the chair and an associate professor in the Department of Education at the Clarkson University campus. “Our Master of Arts in Teaching candidates gain valuable experience working with the Rise HIGH students, and experiences they will take with them into the classroom. This multifaceted partnership not only supports middle and high school students as they learn about the world around them through the lens of science, but it also helps prepare future-ready teachers for our schools.”
De Jesus said the hope is the program will give students experience for future careers in STEM fields.
“Access to such technology is critical not only to learning the STEM concepts but the actual tools used in the given field,” De Jesus said. “We are targeting a generation for whom technology is not a luxury like it was perceived by past generations, but an everyday tool necessary to be competitive in the job market. These experiences not only inspire, but widen awareness and prepare. More importantly, when working with a population for whom both the communal and personal access to technology and enriching learning experiences (formal or informal) vary so widely, having the tools available to support their learning experience is an imperative to equitable access.”
To apply to the program, visit Rise-high.org/apply.
Reporter Shenandoah Briere can be reached at 518-478-3320 or at [email protected].