Several central Ohio school districts showcased their Innovation Generation programs February 5 as part of an Ohio Straight A Fund grant spotlight at the Ohio Statehouse.

Canal Winchester Local Schools, Marysville Exempted Village Schools, Reynoldsburg City Schools, and Westerville City School District all staffed booths designed to show the work to link career education, college credits and industry credentials to the region’s need for skilled professionals in advanced manufacturing and robotics, logistics, health care and IT.

More than 50 students and educators provided Statehouse visitors with a glimpse into how the Straight A Fund grants are leading to new innovative programs in Ohio’s schools. Partners, legislators, industry thought leaders and business leaders, participated as well.

“The Straight A Fund has inspired creativity, efficiency and collaboration in Ohio’s schools,” said Richard A. Ross, superintendent of public instruction at the Ohio Department of Education, before the event. “We are pleased with the overwhelming response and with the innovative ideas that are now being implemented throughout the state.”

Created in 2013, the Straight A Fund invested $88.6 million in round one funding for the 2014 fiscal year and an additional $144.6 million in round two funding for 2015. Nearly 300 school districts have now used the money to launch innovative, locally created programs around the state.

It's Fun, It's Free, It's the Future

Students in high schools across central Ohio already are making plans for their future by enrolling in classes for the 2015-16 school year, and a multitiered promotional campaign is helping to spread the word. The campaign highlights career pathway opportunities available to students in some of the region’s most important and needed industries.

The promotional campaign builds awareness about options available to students at their local high schools, and supports the districts’ enrollment efforts. The approach includes ads at movie theaters in urban and suburban communities; banner ads on Pandora; and ads and PSAs on Radio One, the number one urban contemporary station in Columbus. The campaign messages tout options available to students and underscores that these options are free, fun and are pathways to the future. In addition, the campaign incorporates a bold visual display about Innovation Generation on the doors at key entrances at Polaris Fashion Place.

Teacher Spotlight: Integrating Pathways into the Classroom

Brad Gintert, the industrial technology teacher at Grandview Heights High School, teaches robotics, engineering, technology and woodworking to high school students and eighth-graders. Gintert has worked diligently over the course of the school year to integrate the manufacturing and robotics pathway into his classroom. And while he notes that this can sometimes be challenging, the reward has been great, as his students are enthusiastic about the hands-on coursework and real-world skills they’re gaining.

Gintert says of the pathway, “Innovation Generation has offered my students the opportunity to problem-solve using current technology.” He adds, “The greatest success of the program is when students can go from conceptualization to design, and then to prototype creation. Before, we could design it, but now we can build it with the industry-grade equipment in our MIT Mobile Fab Lab.”

Recently, Gintert’s high school students in the engineering and robotics class designed and printed – using a 3D printer – smartphone cases. Gintert notes that, “The students are proud to share their products with their peers, and it serves as a great way to promote all the cool things they are doing in these courses to those students who are not in the program.”

When asked about the biggest challenge he has faced incorporating the pathway into his classroom, Gintert says it was the timeline to get the program up and running.

“For me, training and getting up to speed on how to work the equipment was a challenge,” he says. “I don’t always have as much time as I’d like to work on the equipment and to get a deeper understanding of how the different pieces all work.”

Gintert has overcome this challenge by creating a more collaborative environment with the students.

“I let them know early on that I might not have all the answers, but we’ll solve the problems together,” he says. “This has been very rewarding in my classroom as the students are receptive to that additional level of engagement and teamwork. I see myself as a facilitator of their learning rather than just instructing.”

Making Headlines: Innovation Generation in the News

Media has a keen interest in the programs and pathways that are changing the way students are learning and teachers are teaching in today’s classrooms. From a recent editorial in The Columbus Dispatch, to a ThisWeek article about the Westerville program, to the WTVN radio interview with Scott Reeves, executive director of Secondary Academic Affairs at Westerville City Schools, the coverage has been informative and showcases how schools are transforming career education in the classroom.

Early Exposure, Early Engagement

Elementary school students at New Albany-Plain Local Schools district are learning that making dolls and airplanes is way cooler than it used to be. It’s all part of the district’s focus to reinvent education and expose students early on to careers in engineering, advanced manufacturing and robotics. Watch this video to learn what the students think about Innovation Generation.

Resources Just For You

School districts participating in Innovation Generation have a number of resources available to them to help counselors, teachers and others communicate about the initiative. All the materials can be customized to individual districts. These include:

To request any of these materials, please contact Paul Werth Associates at info@innovationgenerationohio.com.

About Innovation Generation
Innovation Generation, a collaboration of 15 central Ohio school districts, is made possible by a $14.4 million Ohio Straight A Fund grant from the Ohio Department of Education. Innovation Generation gives students options to gain credentials AND earn college credits while still in high school. Each participating district tailors courses to meet the unique needs of its community and students, while highlighting the rewarding careers available in advanced manufacturing/robotics, business logistics, health care, or IT, some of the region’s fastest-growing and most important industries.