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Innovation Center Turns 2

story 35.jpgThe Innovation Center, a cutting-edge STEAM lab at Jurupa Valley High School, just turned 2.

To celebrate the milestone, educators and students reflected on the high-tech hub – and called it transformative.

"The Innovation Center has completely changed teaching and student learning," said Building Industry Technology Academy (BITA) teacher Jeremy Rager.

"At my other school, students learned theory, because we didn't have the facilities and equipment," he said. "Now all learning is hands-on. Students experiment, make mistakes, and learn from those mistakes. The Innovation Center has been a game-changer."

story 3... (3).jpgThe 9,600-square-foot facility – made possible by Measure EE, the facilities bond Jurupa voters approved in 2014 – features state-of the art, industry-standard equipment that supports real-world learning for more than 1,000 students daily across seven Career Technical Education industry sectors: 

  • Arts, media and entertainment (design, visual and media arts).
  • Agriculture and natural resources (agriscience).
  • Building and construction trades (residential and commerical construction).
  • Engineering and architecture (engineering design).
  • Information and communication technology (software and systems development/GIS.)
  • Manufacturing and product development (product innovation and design).
  • Transportation (systems diagnostics and repair).

“New equipment definitely makes a difference with student learning,” said Automotive Technology teacher Richard Leach.  “We have new ALB (anti-lock brake) trainers, a state of the art charging systems analyzer, and top of the line computer diagnostic equipment.  My students learn on the same equipment that is used in their industry of interest.”

The Innovation Center helps prepare students for current and future jobs based on educators’ analysis of labor-market data, said Roberta Pace, Director of College and Career Readiness at JUSD.  

“The center has allowed us to expand our CTE offerings and support new STEAM pathways that prepare students for high-wage, in-demand careers,” Ms. Pace said.  “This means we can offer new courses and learning experiences over time that would not have been possible without this center.”

story 3.jpgThis year, JUSD upgraded the center’s computer technology and added an engineering teacher, so more students can complete the school’s popular four-year engineering pathway.​

Across the CTE spectrum, the center’s large, connected work areas help spark creativity, collaboration – and a sense of wide-open possibility.

“Students continue to impress us with their ability to problem-solve and their commitment to learning,” said JVHS Principal Kimberly Corbin.  “We look forward to their solutions to the latest and greatest projects as they solve real-world problems.” 

One such answer came when BITA students had nowhere to park their notes, clipboards and safety equipment.   

Students designed and built rolling shelves organized by class period,” Mr. Rager said.  “They take up little space and keep everything neat.  This is one of many examples of a real-life problem that students solved creatively in the Innovation Center.”

story 33.jpgMr. Leach, who has 171 teens enrolled in his Auto Tech courses, added, “Students fill these classes because the learning is meaningful.”  

Jazmine, a junior in Auto Tech 1, praised the hands-on work experience.  “We have equipment to balance tires, do brake alignments, brake repair, recharging units, and engines to work on,” she said.  “… My Auto Tech class is providing an opportunity to grow toward a career that I am interested in.”

Jazmine plans to work as a mechanic, save money and return to school to become a civil engineer.

Other students dabble in multiple pathways, test career options, and build diverse skillsets.

“My career goal is to become a video game developer,” said John, a senior in the building industry technology pathway.  “However, it is important to build varied skills because no one knows exactly what the future will hold.  I took construction to dip my toes into a different program because I like using my hands and there are many career opportunities in this field.” 

In its first two years, the Innovation Center has excited, engaged and empowered students as they learn without limits.

I have never seen a building like this in a high school environment,” Mr. Rager said.   “Students can do a wide variety of things through the use of commercial manufacturing equipment, commercial automotive systems, laser cutters, C&C plasma machines, and robotic mills.  All of this equipment can be found within the same building.  It is truly remarkable!”