Sectors' Maps New Type of Summer Camp
Eric Morath, MLive.com, June 16, 2005
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What will your
kids tell classmates they did this summer? Attend soccer camp?
Swim at the pool? Study nanotechnology? Instructors at Oakland
Schools hope the response will be the latter as the school
system is modeling much of its summer enrichment programs after
the county's Emerging Sectors initiative.
The curriculum received praise from government officials and
industry leaders, who say getting technology training into
youngsters' hands is essential in creating tomorrow's
Emerging Sectors is the county's program intended to attract
high-technology companies in fields outside of the auto industry
to Oakland. Areas such as nanotechnology, robotics, alternative
energy and homeland security are both among the sectors
identified for job growth by the county government and areas
where courses will be offered to Oakland elementary, middle and
high school students.
"The emerging sectors program is the vehicle for public
education to get on the right track," said Karen Winters, a
career-focused education consultant at Oakland Schools. She
leads the summer program.
"It told us the areas where we needed to accelerate our
Oakland Schools is not under the county government's control.
The idea to use emerging sectors as a model for the summer
programming came after school officials spoke with the county's
economic development teams, Winters said.
"When the county is trying to attract high tech companies it is
our, along with the parents, responsibility to provide a work
force," she said. "Emerging sectors gives us a road map."
Of the 41 programs planned for this summer, 31 will have
students study emerging technology and industries. Last summer,
21 programs were offered. Construction at several schools closed
classrooms and held program enrollment to 71 students. More than
75 have enrolled for this summer's program which can accommodate
Some classes began June 15, but many others are not slated to
begin until July.
County officials applauded the programs, saying working to
ensure a high-tech workforce will assist them when attempting to
attract companies to the area.
"We think it's fantastic … economic development is a long term
plan, not just a 12 months project, and this fits with our
vision," said Maureen Krauss, deputy director of economic
development and community affairs for Oakland County.
"The number one thing we have to offer companies is a tech
trained worked force. This program will help get everyone in the
mindset to start that training as young as possible."
The idea of sending children as young as five to nanotechnology
classes or enrolling high school students in homeland security
camp may be jarring parents who expect their children to take on
more relaxed pursuits during the summer, or to those who expect
the county's school system to stick to reading, writing and
However, Winters, a longtime proponent of career-focused
education, said the education system needs to be shaken up and
this summer's classes are just a first step to bring the
emerging sectors theme to Oakland Schools teaching and four
"This country is not the top dog any more and people don't
understand that," she said, arguing that if educators consider
the population in just China, Russia and India they'll see that
every U.S. student must have strong, career-ready skills to
compete against the top workers in other countries.
"If (those other counties) only highly educate 10 percent of
their people, it's still 300 million people - that is the entire
population of this country," she said.
The classes just don't teach students technology, "but allows
them to apply high level academics in a way that has meaning to
them and in the real world."
While the classes are rooted in technology and academics, they
are intended to be of interest to grade level for which they are
designed. Classes with an emerging theme, include:
Homeland security camp.
Students will conduct vulnerability studies and mock disasters
to learn about emergency response and community security issues.
Biotech laboratory preparation and crime scene investigations.
Students will learn the scientific method and proper lab
procedure and visit with police.
High school students will receive hands-on training at on
Among the most interesting classes is a course designed by
Michigan State University associate professor Dean Aslam, which
introduces kindergarten through high school students to micro-
In the class, students will interact with small robots and learn
the concept of "small tech" within the context of examples they
"We didn't get to use a small robot and learn how to program it
as a second or third grader," he said. "When these students when
they go to universities, they can create revolution because
they'll have been exposed to logic and math at an early age."
Introducing students, even kindergartens, to nano- and micro
technologies is something that needs to be done, said Rick
Snyder, CEO and founder of Ann Arbor-based Ardesta LLC.
Ardesta is an investment firm that focuses on "small tech"
"In the technology field, the sooner someone gets exposure, the
better," he said. "If someone doesn't get on track early, then
typically they won't take the background classes they need. That
leads people into liberal arts or business fields and they may
find out too late that they have an interest in fast-growing
The Oakland Schools program also was well received by Troy-based
Automation Alley, which counts mostly technology companies among
its more than 500 members.
"It is definitely important to expose kids to exciting career
opportunities at an early age," said Lisa Mauch, assistant
director of the Automation Alley Member Consortium. "Not only
does it get them excited about their future in a way that they
can see and touch, but it helps them make the right choices when
they are mapping out their academic coursework."
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