Launch U: Tell me about this early college option!

Introducing Launch U, a hands-on early college program from Kent ISD for students in Kent County.  This certificate or degree option is designed for students who identify as builders, tinkerers, designers, artists, coders, lovers of dismantling and rebuilding and more.  Launch U offers students a path to a Certificate or Associate Degree in Industrial TechnologyMechanical Design or Tooling & Manufacturing.  The program starts in 10th grade, continues through high school, provides industry certificates along the way and if elected, students can choose to attend one more year of high school to earn an Associate Degree from Grand Rapids Community College.  And it’s all tuition-free!!!!  A savings of $10K for families!

Launch U is currently enrolling students who are in 9th grade (2016/17) to begin the program during their sophomore year (2017/18).  Please join us at Artiflex on March 15th from 6:00 PM – 7:30 PM to learn more about Launch U:

·         You’ll learn what Launch U is and how it works with your high school

·         You’ll hear directly from folks who work in these fields about what their day is like and what the work environment is like

Seating is limited; please register to attend.  Light refreshments will be served.  Free parking available on site.


Construction Workforce Development Alliance Offers 2017 Jump Start Scholarships

17 Days to a Great Career!


The Construction Workforce Development Alliance (CWDA) is offering full-tuition scholarships for the 2017 Construction Core Jump Start Program. In its fourth year, the 2017 Jump Start Program is an intensive 17-day training program open to students aged 18 – 24.

The Jump Start program is based on the ABC Western Michigan Construction Core program which teaches basic construction skills including construction math, hand/power tools, and basic blueprint reading. Graduates earn a 10-hour OSHA card, rough-terrain forklift license, First Aid/CPR card, and lead and asbestos awareness.

At the conclusion of the training program students are offered a minimum of two job interviews with CWDA association member companies who are eager to hire entry-level professionals.

The Jump Start program positions students who complete the training  with the basic skills necessary to work in the construction industry.

Jump Start Program Details:

Wednesday, June 7 – Friday, June 30, 2017
Monday – Friday

Monday – Thursday: 7:30 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.
Friday: 7:30 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.

Scholarship Application Deadline: Wednesday, Mach 22, 2017 at 5:00 p.m.


Meet 2016 Jump Start graduate, Paul Dykema:







Paperclips- why we need all types of people in STEM fields

I am writing this blog post in response to the paperclips article at K@W 

What if machines become smarter than us? In the article linked above the author discusses the difference between

  • AI- artificial intelligence; and its subcategories
    • ANI- artifical narrow intelligence
    • AGI- artifical general intelligence
    • ASI- artificial super intelligence

We live in a world of  ANI. I have Siri reading me The Essential Drucker on my phone as I drive around to schools these days. I love Siri. However, there are many things technology such as Siri cannot do. Just ask my wife, she hates Siri’s limitations, and finds her useless- fun to watch. Siri is an example of ANI, or artifical narrow intelligence. There are many things Siri cannot do. She does not have general intelligence and cannot do things my 4 year old finds simple such as recognizing a face or even drawing one. The flight management system on an airliner can navigate safely through turbulent weather and even slow the craft to prevent breakup by keeping it within its flight envelope. If, however, it were to be asked to teach my son how to dance at his 1st dance last week, it would return an error. It doesn’t know that, and can’t learn it. Many of our foremost experts believe that artificial general intelligence is not far off, with ASI or super intelligent AI not far behind that- something like 40-60 years out.

Now, why does that matter to our work in STEM education? Simple. We absolutely need people who understand things like ethics, psychology, law, policy, and government to work with people who are developing some of these advanced technologies. These fields aren’t often considered in the STEM world, but we NEED them, and we will continue to need them and will need them more and more. The ethics of how to implement these new technologies are discussions that aren’t going away. Designers and engineers are amazing thinkers in determining answers to questions like, “how can we make this technology…” our ethicists, psychologists, and public policy people will help guide us through questions like, “should we make this, and what musn’t it do…”

I had opportunity to visit two places recently. Our men and women who serve and operate unmanned craft at the Air National Guard base in Battle Creek, MI; and the wonderful students and staff members at White Pines Intermediate School District in Grand Haven, MI. I was presenting drone and unmanned technology to the White Pines students, and they asked me, “Could SkyNet be built?”

I told them it’s kind of already here, then asked them- could your job be to help us figure out how to work with it so we don’t all get turned into paperclips?



Classroom Speaking Opportunity

Mike Johnson, Applied Technology & Design Teacher at Kenowa Hills High School, is seeking professionals from the community to come in and share practices with KH STEM Academy students.  The primary goal of  this initiative is to help students develop the soft skills and technical prowess needed in the work world. Kenowa Hills would like volunteers to speak to students about topics they see as important to student growth and understanding.  Mr. Johnson stated “We would like students to have knowledge of the typical order of operations that many businesses follow and the skills needed in the use of tools or equipment and their proper care.”  Mr. Johnson shares a list of desired topics below.  If interested in volunteering, you may sign up to volunteer on this spreadsheet.


  • Time Management, meeting deadlines
  • Equipment use and care
  • Product Research
  • Documentation ie design process, manufacturing process
  • Design
  • Order of Operation (Design, Build, Test, Revise)
  • Personal presence

Circle Your Calendars!

CAREER READINESS NETWORK (Wednesday, Feb. 22, 12:00-2:30 pm)
Are you a teacher, counselor, or administrator who sees career exploration and preparation as more than just a “nice to have” when it comes to curriculum and instruction? Would you like a forum to brainstorm ideas and share best practices regarding content? Stay current on all the career readiness opportunities the county has to offer. Lunch will be provided, and sub reimbursement is available for those who need it.  Be a career readiness champion for your school or district and walk away with resources, connections and strategies!  Sign up on the PD Hub or contact for more information.

TEACHERS IN INDUSTRY (Tuesday, March 14, 8:00-3:00 pm)
Ever hear students ask, “When are we going to use this in the real world?” Have you ever wondered, in turn, “How do I best answer that, because I’m not really sure?” If you answered yes to either question, then Teachers in Industry (TII) this is the “field trip” for you! Teachers, counselors, and administrators alike are all welcome! And teachers, we’ll pay for substitute reimbursement, up to $100! For this event we’ll be visiting Excel Electric, Trivalent Group and Autocam Medical. To sign up for TII, or for more information about the event, look them up on the PD Hub under Career Readiness, or visit us on our website. If you still need some convincing, check out our brand new promo video!

We are excited to announce that Kent ISD – in partnership with GRCC – is debuting an early college program called Launch U. This program is focused on skilled trades in the following areas: Mechanical Design, Industrial Maintenance, and Tooling and Manufacturing. Registration is now open to current 9th graders throughout Kent County for the start of the 2017-18 school year. Check out our Launch U website for details. Employers looking for more information should contact Amy Pierce ( while Counselors should contact Eric Kelliher (

Transferable Skills: Your Career Path is Not Linear

A few months ago, my wife went back to work. With our youngest starting kindergarten, we decided it’d be great to have some extra income. Armed with a degree in graphic design and plenty of experience under her belt, she went about looking for some part-time employment. Whatever the reason, however, whether it be a shortage of need, not having been in the game in a while, only wanting part-time, etc., she was struggling to find opportunities.

Then she found a posting for a Lab Coordinator at an Orthodontist’s office. It mentioned graphic design in the job description. She applied and got the job. When she asked why graphic design experience was listed in the description, they mentioned some design and marketing, but primarily it was because there was a good deal of computer software savvy and visual acuity and hand-eye coordination needed for the role.

Her office is unique in that they have their own version of Invisalign trays (think mouthguards that rotate your teeth; they’re like braces, but you can take the trays out and they’re clear, so they’re extremely inconspicuous). Most of the work they do in-house. They take the molds/impressions and scan it.  They then create a detailed plan in 3D software, and build it out with plastic via a 3D printer. Then, the mold is hand-sculpted to eliminate the “excess.” From this mold, clear plastic trays are created. For each stage (and there can be several) a new 3D model is needed to create a new tray based on different positioning of the teeth.

The job is a very technical one and can be quite tedious. The role requires a comfort with design software, precision in accurately cutting the molds, and a whole lot of organization to make the process run smoothly with so many moving parts and when deadlines are always an issue. Finally, it requires a great deal of patience, as the machines do not always work as they should and molds sometimes break.

I know I’m biased, but she’s doing an amazing job (though, I also thought she was an amazing designer too). She picked the role up very quickly, actually, even though everything she was learning was entirely new to her.

Only 27% of college grads have a job related to their major

I share this story for two reasons (three if you include me simply wanting to brag on my wife!). First, a while back, my wife was wrestling with the new role; not because the position was bad, but because she was struggling to accept that this was what she’s doing for a living when “this is not what I went to school for.” She was a designer who wasn’t designing. My guess is many people initially feel this way if at some point they begin doing something that was not what they were originally trained to do. The fact is, according to a 2013 Washington Post article, “only 27% of college grads have a job related to their major.” Yet we spend so much time preparing and training for a certain career field that it can be a bit of a shock to us to consider that we may not do that for our entire career. The reality is, many people get trained for a field they may never enter!

Which leads me to my second point. While you may not stay (or even start) in the field in which you were trained, many of the skills that you learned during that training – the ones beyond the technical – are transferable! Computer skills are transferable. Organizational skills are transferable. Soft skills like critical thinking, problem solving, collaboration and flexibility are transferable. When you begin to understand that most of the skills you learn in any job can be transferred and applied to something else, it is freeing. You are no longer stuck in one lane or one career trajectory when you realize your career path is not linear. Whether you are a middle school Social Studies teacher that becomes an instructional designer for a Fortune 500 company, a graphic designer who moves into a Orthodontics Lab Coordinator role or a student who is transitioning from high school to college or directly to a career, the experience and skills gained are what matter most. Help your students to see and understand this, and when they do, the possibilities are endless.

Questions or comments? Share them in the section at the beginning of this article.