Back-to-School 101: Encouraging science, tech, math - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Back-to-School 101: Encouraging science, tech, math

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As many students at Stafford Technical begin their senior year, college and careers are already a topic on the forefront. And although the tech center offers a wide range of programs from cosmetology to video productions, Stafford administrators say something was missing.

"Our focus was to create a new program that served a need. And the need is we need more students in the science, technology, engineering, math-- STEM-- pipeline," said Fieh Chan, the STEM coordinator.

Beginning in 2014, Stafford Tech will be offering a Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics or STEM, program. After receiving a program innovation grant last year, Chan says the school reached out to local businesses to see what the local working industry was lacking.

"The first thing they said is they don't have enough people applying for these high-skilled, high-wage jobs. So, it may be a misconception, but Rutland has-- especially with GE and GMP here-- we have an amazing pool of wonderful jobs," Chan said.

Chan says the new program will aim to create a high-tech, high-demand and high-wage course of study for students. Using a nationwide curriculum, Project Lead the Way, students will all take the same four courses during the two-year program. Chan says along with rigorous engineering courses, students will also have a heavy hands-on focus with some high-tech gadgets.

The program will be open to 16 students a year and could cost the school a pretty penny. Stafford Tech Assistant Director Ted Guilmette estimates the new program could cost $100,000 each year. But between grant money and student tuition, he doesn't estimate the budget will take a hit.

"We received grant monies this last year of $71,000 approximately. And what this money did was allow us to get started on this program before we move it into our final budget in another year," Guilmette said.

But Guilmette says the tech center strongly believes the costs are worth it. Students will graduate from the program with up to 12 college-level credits. Current sophomores from the tech or feeding schools can apply this year for the program.

"I'd like to find out more and possibly apply," said Matt Burd, a sophomore. "I'm not 100 percent sure, but once I take a look, I might."

"I really do like math, so that could work in there. And I really like science after this year, so it's perfect for STEM," said Anna Smiechowski, a sophomore.

Both students say they are interested in the STEM program, but aren't sure they are ready for commitment.

"The only thing that would stop me is time because I like to do everything, so that doesn't always work out too well. Because that means I only have a little chunk for everything. I can't really dedicate myself," Smiechowski said.

Chan says he doesn't expect there will be a problem filling the 16 spots.

Stafford officials say depending on the program's success, they hope to expand the STEM courses over the next few years.

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