COLUMBIA (WIS) – When you step inside Lexington-Richland 5's new career and technical high school, you may feel like you're at a small technical college.
The Center for Advanced Technical Studies serves all three high schools in Lexington-Richland District 5 and offers seventeen different programs of study for students. Think of it as having a "major" in high school. Students from Dutch Fork High School, Irmo High School and Chapin High School all have the choice to spend part of their school day studying a particular program within the career and tech center.
Ask any student and they'll tell you the best part about the new center is the ability to learn hands-on. Our first stop in a tour around the school was inside the Biomedical Science lab.
"There are a lot of new toys here, like the microscopes that we have," said Andrew Czeresko, a 10th grade Biomedical Science student. Andrew already has is eyes set on a career in the medical field, as does his classmate Tyler Wilson. "When I get older I want to be a pediatric cardiologist, so this is a class in the right steps to where I want to be," said Tyler.
Students also have the opportunity to receive credit towards college. "This class has an end of course test and if they pass that then they will have the opportunity to receive dual credit, which is similar to AP credit. So they'll actually get college credit," said Julie Krusan, the Biomedical Science instructor.
So what's the difference between this class and your regular high-school Biology? "It's a flipped classroom. So instead of me giving lectures like a traditional class and them taking notes, they're actually figuring it out themselves."
"It's so much fun," said Tyler. "I get to see and feel what I would be reading about." And if you take a walk around the school, you'll find that's happening in every program.
Media Tech instructor Ashlon Langley says only four months in, his students already have a good handle on the equipment. "We're doing some three point lighting and we're setting up for an interview," said Langley pointing out the set-up in the media lab.
The Media Tech program focuses on corporate communications for TV and web, broadcast journalism and on film making. "There are other Media Tech programs across the state, however our focus on film really sets us apart as a different kind of program," said Langley.
Head around another corner in the school and you'll find a program that may be the first of its kind. "[Students] are learning the basics of energy, energy conservation, and energy technology," said Patrick Smallwood the Alternative Energy Instructor.
Students are developing their own green technology, as well. "Our students built solar panels from scratch, so they had to learn about solar photovoltaic technology," said Smallwood. "They literally started with the individual silicon cells and constructed their own solar panels."
Aerospace Engineering students are building their own technology, as well. They let News 10's Mary King take a ride on a student made hovercraft. (That video clip is posted above!)
Whichever room you have a chance to sneak a peak in, it's clear that every room at the Center for Advanced Technical Studies is full of opportunities. "We haven't found anything like this in the country, so we believe that we're a national leader in advanced technical skills for our students," said Mark Bounds, a spokesperson for the Lexington-Richland 5 School District.
The skills that students are learning are also opening doors beyond each student's imagination. "It's the ability for students to explore all of their interests and be able to find their niche and feel free really to learn," said Dr. Bob Couch, Director of the school. "I think we're building a future of innovators and creators here at the center."