When Toyota leaves Kentucky later this year, its Quality and Production Engineering lab in Erlanger will become a regional hub for STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) learning, and will be renamed the Roebling Innovation Center.
“Two years ago, Mike Goss, general manager of Toyota Social Innovation, went to the governor to discuss the legacy Toyota would leave behind,” says Dr. Karen Cheser, superintendent of the Boone County School District. “After brainstorming with the community, the idea for Ignite Institute at the Roebling Innovation Center coalesced.”
The Ignite Institute at Roebling Innovation Center, which will be owned and operated by Boone County schools, will be open to any student in the region interested in an in-depth, hands-on learning environment.
“All content areas will be taught, but they will be taught differently,” Cheser says. “An interdisciplinary approach will focus on hands-on learning and technology. Students will create, make and perform as they focus on solving real-world problems.”
Teachers for the Institute will be trained using Harvard Case Studies and Partnership for Innovative Education curriculums. They will also learn how to communicate and collaborate with business industry partners.
“Information technology, logistics, advanced manufacturing, construction technology and health science have been identified as focus areas for the program,” Cheser says. “Students will explore career pathways in one of those areas to determine their level of interest and obtain a certification."
For example, if a student was interested in health science, they would get traditional credits in math and science, but they may also want to explore the EMT career path. They would spend half of each day in the field with Gateway Community and Technical College and the fire department.
"The student will learn what it takes to have a career as an EMT and where else it could lead; they will also earn their EMT certificate," Cheser explains.
The Boone County School District has formed a nonprofit foundation to help cover the costs of serving non-Kentucky residents who attend the Insitute. They have already received $6.7 million from the Kentucky Work Ready Skills Initiative but will need to raise more to renovate the building into a 108,000-square-foot school with a state-of-the-art fabrication lab.
The Institute will utilize 80 percent of the building, with the remaining space to be used for a community child care center, teacher training center, university practicum classes and possibly a business incubator.
“Boone County is a state district of innovation,” Cheser says. “We need a school that caters to the way kids learn now; a program that offers personalized pathways and hands-on learning that will provide 21st-century skills and in-depth career exploration that creates a pipeline to jobs in our region.”
The school is scheduled to open in time for the 2019-2020 school year. The Boone County School District is currently reaching out to regional businesses to collaborate on the project.