High school students from the Governor's STEM and Technology Academy (GSTA) at Landstown High School are one step closer to a degree at Old Dominion University.
The Batten College of Engineering and Technology and Virginia Beach City Public Schools (VBCPS) recently entered an agreement to accept credit for GTSA's Introduction to Engineering Design course.
Engineering-track students who pass the course can waive Explore Engineering and Technology, a two-credit-hour introductory course offered at ODU.
The engineering agreement is a first-of-its-kind for both academic institutions.
"This new partnership strengthens our regional connections and benefits both the GSTA students and the University," said Khan Iftekharuddin, interim dean of the Batten College. "The goal is to build a long-lasting partnership with the partner high school and also replicate this program with other area schools."
The memorandum of understanding (MOU) was developed by Rachel Sparks White, GTSA coordinator, and Rafael Landaeta, associate professor and associate dean at the Batten College. It was signed by VBCPS representatives and Brian Payne, ODU's vice provost of academic affairs.
A total of 450 of Landstown's 2,200 students are enrolled in GTSA's three programs of study: engineering and technology, information technology and STEMarketing communications. Engineering students make up about 45% of the program.
Engineering-track students are required to take Introduction to Engineering Design, a Project Lead the Way-designed course before choosing one of four focus areas: aerospace technology, engineering drawing and design, biomedical or robotics.
"We learned the basics of engineering drawings, and what an engineer has to do before they have to create a design - what goes into the planning process of making that design and solving a problem and identifying a problem," said Tyrel Rivers, a GTSA student enrolled in the course.
Karina Arcaute, senior lecturer and director of first-year engineering programs, worked with White and Landaeta to evaluate the two courses.
"It was great to be involved in this partnership," Arcaute said. "Although I have not met Rachel, or the LHS staff in person as we worked on this during COVID and all the work was done virtually, it was an awesome collaboration."
White believes the MOU gives the high school students an incentive to stay on the engineering path.
"This opens doors to students that financially might not think that they can afford college," she said. "This might give them a little push to continue on."
Students in the program are happy to have their hard work validated.
"We have to apply and get accepted to this academy," Lily Snook said. "We are going through rigorous courses on top of our already advanced courses.
"For that to be acknowledged by ODU, it's just wonderful."