Galt High School engineering students and teachers are celebrating the program's 10th birthday with the opening a new million-dollar lab on campus.
On Friday, staff held an open house for the new Engineering and Bio-Medical Science Academy and officially unveiled the state-of-the-art facility to the public. It is the only accredited program in Northern California.
Prior to the remodel, students were learning in a computer lab less than 1,000 square feet.
In addition to the existing lab, a lecture room has been added. Each room has windows looking into and access to the prototype lab/shop, which is nearly 3,300 square feet.
"Having the lab allows the students to design larger and more involved projects. The extra space has also allowed us to enhance our program and pursue our dream of becoming an academy," said engineering teacher Debra Crane.
Closing down programs
In an era of closing down shop programs, the district used state money to gut four English and math classrooms and transform them into a large, state-of-the-art, fully equipped prototype lab, according to Crane.
Although it took years to secure the funding, the construction took less than six months.
"We are so proud to be able to show off the new equipment and the remodel. It turned out even better than we hoped," Crane said in an e-mail.
Among the items to be housed in the new lab are an interactive classroom whiteboard and digital projector, awards Crane brought home with her from a Texas trip last fall when she was one of 10 teachers across the country to be recognized by Project Lead the Way. The New York-based nonprofit encourages students to pursue science and engineering.
Galt High's new shop is divided into four work areas:
- A high-tech manufacturing section with two routers that include a robotic arm, a laser engraver, an injection molder, and a 3-D printer that prints student CAD drawings as an actual plastic model.
- Assembly and working area with large work tables, counters and storage cabinets for keeping student projects and materials.
- An area of wood-working tools including a drill press, band saw, table saw, wood lathe, two floor-mounted belt and disc sanders, a scroll saw, grinder and miter saw.
- Metal-working section with a metal lathe, a metal shear, and a box and pan brake.
Crane founded Galt's program in 2001 with only 75 students, and today it has grown to include courses such as introduction to engineering, digital electronics, computer integrated manufacturing, and civil engineering and architecture.
Galt High is the only school in Northern California accredited by Project Lead the Way for the Engineering and Bio-Medical programs, according to Principal Charles Howell.
This year there are 90 students in the engineering program and 34 students in the introduction to bio-medical class, he said, adding that the school hopes to grow to 75 students per grade level between these two programs. They were consolidated here this school year.
The remodel cost $975,000 and was funded through a matching Career Technical Education grant that the school applied for in fall 2007, according to Crane.
Half of the funding came from the district and half was from the state through a grant to enhance Career Technical Education programs.
The building that almost wasn't
The new lab was part of a series of Galt school construction projects temporarily stalled when the state's Pooled Money Investment Board decided to stop financing infrastructure projects throughout California two years ago. The high school district took one of the biggest immediate hits and stood to lose $9 million in construction loans at the time.
The news left officials trying to determine what effect the decision would have on its projects, including the modernization of the Galt High buildings that housed the mechanics and pre-engineering and manufacturing programs.
The state released the funds last February and construction began in April with the majority being completed by August, according to Crane.
Classes actually began in the remodeled lab when school started in the fall.