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By Tina Fisher Cunningham
The Forde Files 

Full STEAM ahead for education corp

Forde Shorts


A new educational hot spot is taking shape in a field on a far corner of the Tehachapi High School campus. An additional resource for the Tehachapi Unified School District, It will be open to all youngsters from public school, public charter schools, private schools and home schoolers. It will be a place where students can explore tech education and “blue collar” training, run a real Space Shuttle cockpit simulator and practice rodeo skills.

It’s the STEAM Center, the creation of the non-profit Arts, Science and Technology Educational Corporation of Tehachapi (AST), led by board chairman Joel W. Beckmann.

STEAM is science, technology, engineering, arts/agriculture and math. It’s STEM with arts and ag added. Its forerunner was the THS pre-engineering program called Project Lead the Way. Beckman and his board – Gary Magelssen, Richard Swanson, Tara Clarke and Laura Lundberg – explored the possibility of establishing the center in the old agriculture buildings adjacent to Jacobsen Middle School on Anita Drive. The buildings had not been used for ag projects for at least a dozen years and were in bad shape (see story on previous page). Joel and his team then looked at the two existing animal stables built for ag education at THS.

“Lead paint [at the old ag buildings] moved our dream to Tehachapi High School,” Beckmann said. Plans were drawn up and approved by the state. The school district poured a concrete slab. The site awaits the transfer of a 30x32-foot portable building from Monroe High School.

The purpose of the center is to motivate Tehachapi students to look at careers in STEAM occupations and to supplement the existing Tehachapi Unified School District STEAM curriculum.

“We want to prepare our students to be college or career ready for our region’s employers,” Beckmann said. The Center will provide a robust place to teach welders, electricians, metal fabricators, computer technicians and car mechanics and to prepare students for entry to college. It will provide a platform for entrepreneurship, Beckmann said, and it will become an economic engine.

The STEAM Center will hold science fairs and science Olympiad competitions, robotics demonstrations and art fairs, provide mentors, schedule speakers and provide a place for regional and local businesses to set up interactive displays.

The Center has been the beneficiary of several generous grants. Fund raising is in progress for the purchase of the Space Shuttle simulator -- $56,000 is the price.


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