From wsaw.com: “Middle Schoolers Compete in STEM Academy Final Competition” — Summer vacation is well underway for most students, but for more than one hundred middle school students class is far from dismissed.

Middle schoolers from seven different schools throughout the state are spending their first weeks of summer learning about science, technology, engineering and math.

Through video conferencing, all seven schools worked together on projects like building water rockets and marshmallow catapults. Friday, they all met face to face for the first time to show off and test their projects in a friendly competition.

“Our passion for this program is for them to understand that science, technology, engineering and math they are exciting fields and that it’s not scary and they can do it,” Program Director Jamie Lane explained.

Their methods seem to have worked. Students tell us the program made STEM subjects fun and more interesting to learn.

“I’ve never really been a big fan of math,” Rosholt sixth grader Cora Kertzman confessed. “But now I’m understanding it more and I like it a lot more.”

Even teachers say they’ve learned from this experience and hope to bring the fun back into the classroom this fall.

This was the first year for the STEM Project Academy. Organizers tell NewsChannel 7 the program was so popular they already have a waiting list for next year.

The STEM project was made possible through a partnership with the Erving Network and Northcentral Technical College.

From wisconsinrapidstribune.com: “Mid-State enrollment projected to increase for first time in 3 years” — GRAND RAPIDS — After three years of steadily declining enrollment, Mid-State Technical College’s student body is slowly ticking upward.

This upcoming academic year will be the first time the college has projected an increase in student body population since the 2010-11 year. The school expects enrollment will rise 3.5 percent to 2,144 full-time equivalent students in 2014-15 from 2,070 in 2013-14.

Vice President of Student Affairs Mandy Lang attributed this year’s increase in students to the opening of the new Stevens Point campus and its new and expanded course offerings. She said the three-year enrollment decline was due to the economy.

“When the economy gets better, there can be a drop in enrollment for colleges,” Lang said.

After the recession hit in 2008 and layoffs became more common in central Wisconsin, MSTC saw enrollment increase as dislocated workers decided to return to school and acquire new skills. Government funding for dislocated worker training also increased during this time, Lang said. However, as the effects of the recession mitigated, the school’s numbers steadily declined from 2011 to 2014.

Still, these trends in enrollment are not unique to MSTC. According to the Wisconsin Technical College System’s 2011-13 Biennial Report, all Wisconsin technical colleges saw a decrease in full-time equivalent students from the 2009-10 academic school year to the 2011-12 year. Across the technical college system, there was a 3.9 percent drop in enrollment from 2009-10 to 2011-12, totaling a decrease of 3,175 students.

Conor Smyth, director of strategic partnerships and external relations at WTCS, said enrollment rates in the state’s technical colleges were the highest in the system’s history during the recession. The tendency for people to return to college during times of economic hardship is a historic trend, he said. Likewise, when the economy gets better, people tend to go back to work. This phenomena, he said, explains the subsequent decline in enrollment.

“There’s a preference for work and earning money,” Smyth said.

Katie Felch, director of public relations and marketing at Northcentral Technical College in Wausau, also noted the economy’s role in determining enrollment at NTC. Since 2006-07, Felch said NTC’s enrollment increased by 50 percent and in 2012, it was recognized as the 21st fastest-growing community college in the nation by Community College Week. This past May, NTC graduated its largest class ever.

This year, NTC’s enrollment is down 8 percent, but Felch expects it to rebound.

“We saw a big bubble due to dislocated workers,” Felch said.

However, the recession isn’t the only factor influencing enrollment. MSTC’s pool of potential students is much smaller because of its district’s demographics.

According to MSTC’s calculations in its 2014-15 budget, residents in the school’s district are significantly older than the national average. Compared to the national average, there are 16 percent more people per capita who are older than 50. Combine this with the fact that MSTC’s district has only grown 1 percent in population since 2001 and it puts MSTC at a notable disadvantage in enrolling students. For context, Wisconsin’s population has grown 7 percent and the U.S.’s has grown 11 percent since 2001.

Another cause for concern in technical college enrollment is the diminishing number of students in high school. Smyth said the total number of high school graduates is expected to decrease in the next decade and with fewer students enrolled in high school, it is likely to impact enrollment at all colleges.

However, the technical colleges are especially starting to notice.

“There are just fewer students in the pipeline,” Felch said. “So we’re working to attract those students.”

But, as Smyth said, recruitment for students is especially hard for technical colleges because of their constant battle with a “four-year bias.” High school students, in particular, might feel more pressured by their peers, parents and school counselors to enroll in a four-year university even though their academic interest might be better aligned with a technical college.

Still, Smyth admits that breaking this bias is especially hard.

“We’re trying to get people to think along the lines of, ‘What do you want to do?’ rather than, ‘Where do you want to go?’” Smyth said.

In addition, student financial aid is growing harder to attain because of government regulations, further hindering student enrollment. Although technical colleges might be more affordable than a four-year university, Smyth said the number of students eligible for state-funded, need-based financial aid far outpaces the sufficient funds available to them.

At MSTC, Lang said the declining accessibility of financial aid is impacting the number of students it enrolls.

“It has been a factor (in enrollment) over the past few years,” Lang said about financial aid. “Those regulations do continue to tighten.”

Lang said MSTC anticipates a “moderate growth” in student body population during the next few years but would not speak to whether maintaining a steadily increasing enrollment was a high priority for MSTC. Instead, she emphasized student success as one of MSTC’s largest priorities.

From wjfw.com: “NTC’s Ag Center of Excellence gives students valuable, hands-on dairy experience” — WAUSAU – Programs offered at the Northcentral Technical College’s Ag Center of Excellence help students interested in the agriculture industry.

The Ag Center offers hands-on learning opportunities for its students.

That includes learning about a robotic milker and feeding calves.

Right now, more than 100 students are involved in Ag Center of Excellence programs.

“I think it’s a great opportunity. Just the learning experience and being able to see the different aspect of the farming industry, or part of the agriculture business. I don’t have much experience myself, so any opportunity is a great opportunity,” said Rylee Gregoriche, a Dairy Science Student at the Ag Center.

Gregoriche says she appreciates learning more about agriculture and being able to participate in the internships that are available with the Ag Center.

The center offers Associate degrees in dairy science, veterinarian sciences and agriculture business.

There’s also a technical program for operating agriculture equipment.

Leaders at the Ag Center believe these programs adequately prepare students for their futures.

“They can go on to do a variety of things in the agriculture world. Most of the time, that experience coupled with the degree, [agriculture] people are more than happy to hire them because they’ve had that experience,” Katie Vandergeest, Agriculture Sciences Development Manager.

The Ag Center of Excellence opened its doors in June of 2011.

There is still room available in summer and fall classes.

From wisconsinrapidstribune.com: “MSTC Vex Robotics Camp exposes students to mechanical skills” — About 25 middle schoolers and their parents descended on Mid-State Technical College to watch robots compete against each other Thursday.

And the neat part? The children built the robots themselves.

Over the past four days, coaches at MSTC’s Vex Robotics Camp taught students the basic process of building and developing their own robots. Thursday’s competition was a culmination of the students’ week-long effort and gave the youths an opportunity to showcase what they learned.

Richard Breen, an adjunct professor at MSTC, is one of the camp’s coordinators and coaches. He said he hopes the children take what they learned and apply it to life outside the camp.

“We hope that we inspire them to go on and do more — and a little bit with programming,” Breen said.

However, Breen noted that programing and mechanical techniques are not the only lessons they learn. The students also practice soft skills such as teamwork, problem solving and time management in their race to build the ultimate robot.

“It’s got all those great elements that culminate in the competition to see who designed the best unit that can perform the task to the best ability,” said Gary Kilgas, associate dean of MSTC’s technical industrial division.

The robotics camp introduces students to different facets of math and science they might not encounter in the classroom.

“What I see is that they’re able to use cellphones and computer systems very well, but their mechanical skills are not necessarily there,” Breen said.

Exposing today’s youths to these mechanical and engineering skills is especially important, said Kilgas, because many employers looking for workers are unable to find qualified people because of the skills gap.

“We need those types of talents here. We have got businesses looking for CNC (computer numerical control) operators or people who understand automation,” Kilgas said. “And those are all the types of things you’re learning here (at camp).”

This is this summer’s second week of the Vex Robotics Camp. And according to Kilgas, it’s been a success so far.

“It’s not only the right thing to do with these young people — keeping them interested in technology, engineering and math — but it’s a wonderful way for them to learn new skills and work as team,” Kilgas said.

From leadertelegram.com: “Math, science lessons propel camp” — Gina Filkins figured it would be fun to build a race car, so she signed up for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Race Camp, which took place this week at Chippewa Valley Technical College.

Filkins, of River Falls, was among 19 high school participants at the camp, but one of only four girls.

“I think more girls should do camps like this,” Filkins, 14, said. “I’ve always been into science and math, so this has been really fun.”

Throughout this week, race camp participants learned about career opportunities in the disciplines of science, technology, engineering and mathematics in a hands on environment, camp director John Wagner said.

Campers focused on powering race cars using three different petroleum-independent technologies: wind, solar and hydrogen. Participants were divided into teams to modify the cars before a race Thursday afternoon.

Along with making the vehicles run with an alternative fuel source, participants learned to adjust the cars’ alignment, gears and tires to optimize their performance, Wagner said.

Elliot Voelker, 15, who will be a sophomore at Regis High School next school year, said he enjoyed racing cars while getting to know other camp participants.

The camp is part of a nationwide effort to expose students to opportunities in STEM-related professions. The event, funded by grants, was started by CVTC staff. Grants provide scholarships to help qualifying students afford the camp.

Tucker Manderscheid, 14, who will be a freshman at Chippewa Falls High School, enjoys modifying cars. His team powered their vehicles with solar power, which he thought was the easiest of the three alternative power sources to use.

Chicagoria Yang, 15, who will be a sophomore at North High School, was part of a team using wind to power its car. Team members adjusted the car’s gears and experimented with different wheels in an effort to enable it to drive more efficiently.

Wagner said some camp participants showed up early to spend extra time working on their cars.

“The kids are so exceptional,” Wagner said.

From wisconsinrapidstribune.com: “Workshop makes a compressed earth brick press from scratch in one day” — WISCONSIN RAPIDS — Extreme manufacturing techniques were on display June 17 to 19 at Mid-State Technical College’s Wisconsin Rapids Campus.

A three-day workshop led by Marcin Jakubowski, founder of Open Source Ecology, or OSE, showcased how extreme manufacturing techniques are used to build a complete, automated compressed earth brick, or CEB, press in one day.

The machine was completely built from scratch, with parts cut via computer numerical control. These pieces then were welded, and then assembled together with the automated controller and hydraulic system.

“It was exciting to get hands-on training in the process of building this sophisticated machine out of nothing more than basic resources,” said MSTC Sustainable Heating & Cooling Technician Instructor Ben Nusz.

A CEB press compresses clay earth into bricks that can be used for building. These bricks are cheaper because they can be made with dirt on site and are consequently more environmentally friendly. They are also highly energy efficient, insulating well against both heat and sound.

The workshop was designed for people interested in hands-on training, especially those individuals who want to use a CEB press in future endeavors. Participants were immersed in concept and production, including crash courses on key elements of design, fabrication, computer-aided design, microcontrollers, hydraulics, open documentation and open enterprise models. A total of 30 people attended the workshop.

Event planners partnered with MSTC and the Midwest Renewable Energy Association in co-organizing this event.

Nusz emphasized that this workshop is just the tip of the iceberg for people interested in careers related to renewable energy and conservation.

“This workshop is just one of many great opportunities in sustainable energy technology available here at MSTC,” said Nusz. “MSTC is home to numerous career programs and certificates in the field of renewable energy, many that are available nowhere else in the Wisconsin Technical College System.”

MSTC currently offers career programs in Process & Biorefinery Technology, Renewable Energy Specialist, Solar Electric Technician, and Sustainable Heating and Cooling Technician. Individuals who are interested in learning more about these and the more than 100 total programs and certificates available at MSTC are encouraged to visit www.mstc.edu or call 888-575-MSTC.

From stevenspointjournal.com: “UWSP, MSTC officials hope transfer agreement increases enrollment” — Officials from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point and Mid-State Technical College say they hope a recent statewide transfer agreement will mean an increase in enrollment as students see more opportunity to move from one campus to another.

Signed by University of Wisconsin System President Ray Cross and Wisconsin Technical College System President Morna Foy earlier this month, the Universal Transfer Agreement identifies 48 core general-education courses for which students can transfer credits within the two systems. The agreement goes into effect July 1 for the 2014-15 academic year, can be renewed annually and is open to private and tribal institutions that choose to participate.

“Building on the hundreds of existing articulation agreements between the UW System and the WCTS, along with the innovative Transfer Information System, this agreement is another step in our joint efforts to make post-secondary education accessible for more students, facilitating their progress to becoming successful contributors to the Wisconsin economy,” Cross said in a statement.

Gov. Scott Walker, who proposed the agreement as part of the state’s biennial budget adopted last summer, said in a statement that he believes the agreement will allow students more flexibility and speed up the process for those looking to finish their degree.

Greg Summers, vice chancellor for Academic Affairs at UWSP, said the agreement will provide an even playing field for students looking to attend a university after completing their studies at a technical college.

“Before, you would have some credits that would be accepted at Stevens Point that might not be accepted at UW-Eau Claire or UW-Superior,” Summers said. “This agreement broadens the access students will have if they decide to pursue their degree.”

Mandy Lang, vice president of student affairs for MSTC, said students most often transfer to a university to pursue degrees in areas such as nursing and business. Lang said it’s too early to tell whether the agreement will increase enrollment, but making it easier to transfer general education credits is good step for students wherever they choose to attend school.

Nearly 90 students from MSTC and Northcentral Technical College in Wausau transferred into UWSP in the 2012-13 school year, and Summers said he expects that number to increase because of the agreement.

“That would be the goal. I think as students see there is a predictable pathway to get their degree, there will be more interest,” Summers said.

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