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Seeking science-minded students

Galt High School will open enrollment in its engineering and biomedical academy to all of the area's students

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Posted: Thursday, February 9, 2012 12:00 am | Updated: 8:08 am, Thu Feb 9, 2012.

Want to build a robot that can shoot basketballs through hoops? What about learn to use computers to study strains of DNA, looking for a cure to a genetic disease?

Now is your chance.

Even if you attend Liberty Ranch High School or a high school in the Lodi Unified School District, Galt High School has opened its Biomedical, Engineering, Science and Technology Academy to students who live outside the district.

The series of courses — which provides students an opportunity to explore engineering or biomedical courses while still in high school — is only one of eight in California recognized by the National Academy Foundation.

Over four years, students learn critical thinking skills through hands-on experiences such as building mousetrap cars to prepare for careers in the engineering and science fields.

Sophomore Matthew Swank enrolled last school year because he is planning to work as an engineer.

"The best part about being in the academy is you get to work with great teachers and learn a lot about engineering and what it takes to become an engineer," he said, adding that that he's proud to also be a member of the G-Tech robotics club.

The G-Tech club is one of two affiliated with the program. The other is the ACE mentor club, where mentors from the fields of architecture, construction and engineering work with students to familiarize them with those fields and then coach them in a design competition.

The G-Tech club's members recently competed in a robotics competition in San Francisco.

Career academies are shown to increase the engagement of high school students and provide a way for those outside the walls of the school to enhance students' educational experiences, according to Galt High engineering teacher Debra Crane.

Academies are different than electives because academy students have common English and math teachers working alongside career-focused teachers as mentors. Students in the small learning community spend all four years of high school together earning college credit focused on a common career path or industry.

In addition, the BEST academy works with companies to provide students with opportunities for paid summer internships related to engineering or biomedical science between their junior and senior years.

Crane is currently looking for business representatives willing to volunteer as speakers, host field trips or donate equipment.

Galt High has offered engineering classes since 2001. In 2010, under Crane's leadership, the school added a biomedical program and the academy was founded.

Today, about 165 students are enrolled.

Both strands of the new academy — engineering and biomedical — use curriculum from Project Lead the Way, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to getting more students interested in the fields of engineering and biomedical science.

Galt High is certified with PLTW which allows students to receive college credit for specific courses they take in high school.

Last week, Galt High opened enrollment to any ninththrough 12th-grader who lives within or outside the district but can attend the school daily. Interim principal Maria Orr said it's too early to know how many have applied.

"The district is just so proud of the program that they wanted to open it up," Crane said, adding that administrators are also hoping it will boost the district's declining enrollment.

Contact reporter Jennifer Bonnett at jenniferb@lodinews.com.

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