Hancock County Technical Center students Katie Gell (left) and Elizabeth Leaf have the opportunity to attend a biomedical research program at Vanderbilt University this summer. SARAH PETROULIS PHOTOS

City schools consider STEM Academy

ELLSWORTH — Science, technology, engineering and mathematics — known in academics as STEM — have received a boost at Hancock County Technical Center. Director Amy Boles informed the city School Board of a $1,000 STEM research grant received from the Society for Science and asked for approval for two students to attend a biomedical research institute at Vanderbilt University this summer.

Board members also heard the basic outline of a future STEM Academy at Ellsworth High School, following a presentation at the March 10 meeting. A Humanities Academy was also presented to the board, and both academies will be the focus of a future board workshop. Initial comments included ensuring the programs were not only for “elite students who are achieving a high level and have been all along,” board member Paul Markosian said. “It could benefit students who are struggling or with special needs. We don’t want to leave those kids by the wayside.”

The academies would be open to freshmen and sophomores to apply, with students from higher grades decided on a case-by-case basis. In addition, students would not have to be enrolled in the academy to take academy courses.

“Our goal is to get kids excited about school enough that they keep showing up every day and walk down the aisle with that diploma,” Vice Chairwoman Abigail Miller said. “I feel like this is a very clear move in that direction.”

HCTC teacher Sarah Petroulis is one of 85 teachers nationwide and from Mexico, Peru and Uruguay to be awarded STEM research kits by the nonprofit Society for Science. The kits include four trail cameras, two pocket-size laboratories for students to explore physics, weather, climate studies and engineering topics in the field, four Arduino Starter Kits, an open-source hardware and software platform to further learning in electronics and four water monitoring kits.

The Aspirnaut Summer Research Internship is a six-week, hands-on, mentored program at the Vanderbilt University campus in Nashville, Tenn. Students Katie Gell, a Deer Isle-Stonington student attending HCTC, and Ellsworth student Elizabeth Leaf were selected out of more than 200 national applicants to intern at the research institute.

The six-week immersion-style program will have the two students, if they choose to attend, live on campus and spend 40 hours a week in the lab “doing cutting-edge research,” Boles said. “This is going to be an amazing experience.”

The two students are paid a stipend for their lab work, and participate in lab meetings, lunches with Vanderbilt University Medical Center faculty and staff and SAT prep courses.

Boles also thanked Brian Langley and the Bridge Academy program he helped establish in 2011 and continues to lead.

The two STEM projects point to how technical education is changing, Boles noted.

“People still talk about it as alternative education, not college prep, not good enough,” she said. “We’ve had some kids do amazing things.”

HCTC will host an open house on March 24 from 6 to 8 p.m. for Hancock County families with students in grades 8 to 11, to learn about programming, the Bridge Academy and HCTC and complete applications for 2022-23 enrollment. The first deadline for applications is March 25.

Anne Berleant

Anne Berleant

Reporter at The Ellsworth American
News Reporter Anne Berleant covers news and features in Ellsworth, Mariaville, Otis, Amherst, Aurora, Great Pond and Osborn. When not reporting, find her hiking local trails, reading or watching professional tennis. Email her at [email protected]

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