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Running at full STEAM

Cambria Heights opens new lab

Cambria Heights 11th grade students Nathan Nihart (left) and Henry Warner practice a robotics simulation at the high school’s new STEAM lab. Mirror photo by Calem Illig

PATTON — Industrial grade equipment will now be easily accessible for Cambria Heights High School students.

In part of its initiative to create a well-balanced curriculum, the district unveiled its new STEAM — Science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics — lab Friday.

“The world is advancing more technologically, and we have to advance with it,” Cambria Heights 11th-grade student Henry Warner said. “Engineering, mathematics and computers are being used more in everyday life. It’s important for us to stay up with the times.”

The new STEAM lab was part of a $28 million renovation project on the high school campus that was recently completed.

Much of the project was funded through the renovation, and the district received an additional $25,000 from an Educator in the Workplace Grant through the Department of Education.

Cambria Heights 10th grade students Ian Hall (left) and Zach Mislevy complete work on a CNC machine at the high school’s new STEAM lab. Mirror photo by Calem Illig

The lab is a substantial upgrade for the district, Cambria Heights technology and engineering teacher Rachel Manack said, and the facility offers several new opportunities for students.

“Pretty much everything in here is new,” Manack said. “We’re trying to be diverse and provide as many opportunities to our students as possible. We’re hoping this can open up doors for students that might not have been there before.”

The lab, which was built to replace the commons area on the high school campus, is divided into sectors, with individual areas for computers, prototype and fabrication.

The district previously offered wood shop and CADD courses, but outdated technology and separate courses limited students’ opportunities.

Both sections will be sequenced under the new lab, Manack said, as students will first draft their project on the computer then manufacture it.

“One of the biggest benefits of this lab is that we’re being exposed to modern tools and equipment,” Cambria Heights sophomore Ian Hall said. “We’re using the same equipment that is used in machine shops and other industries.”

The computer and prototype area includes new CADD and graphic art software along with 3D printers, laser engravers and vinyl cutting machines.

The fabrication lab possesses large industrial equipment such as a CNC router machine, saw-stop table and other shop-related power and tools.

“There’s a wide variety of equipment, and there’s really something for everyone in the building to use,” 11th grader Nathan Nihart said. “This lab has more than just woodworking that you would expect from your average shop.”

Sophomore Zach Mislevy, who is a member of the district’s Technology Student Association, said he used to be forced to travel to other school districts such as Altoona Area to successfully complete projects.

Now, the required equipment is readily available in his own classroom.

“It’s a lot more accessible, and I can use it more often,” Mislevy said. “There are a lot more learning opportunities available.”

Advancements in STEAM have been a major focus for the district.

While the high school renovation project included upgrades to its classrooms, science labs and auditorium, the district administration diverted its attention to improving its capabilities in technology and engineering.

“STEAM is the buzzword of every part of education right now, and mainly because it covers so many cross-curricular topics,” Manack said. “It allows the kids to see relevance in their work and hopefully spark something for the future.”

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