Pictured above – Tower representatives join Laker officials by a full-size Fanuc robot donated by Tower Automotive in Elkton for the future Laker Innovation Center, which will be created in the summer of 2019. Pictured from the left, Bill Junge, Tower plant manager, Brian Keim, Laker superintendent, Todd McKnight, Tower controls engineer supervisor, Tyler Williams, Tower trade supervisor, Scott Miklovic, Laker technology director, Gretchen Roestel, Tower human resources manager, and Jon Good, Laker Secondary School principal.
In the summer of 2019, many areas of Laker Secondary School will undergo major renovations, including the woodshop and agriculture/FFA areas. These two areas have not been renovated since the school was built in 1960, and the resulting improvements will result in a state-of-the-art space to be named the Laker Innovation Center.
To help support the hands-on projects students will experience in the innovation center, two companies recently made donations. Tower Automotive in Elkton donated a full-size Fanuc robot and Sempra Renewables (which constructed the local Apple Blossom Wind Farm) donated $2,000 and several hands-on modules yet to be designed. The cash donation will be used to purchase new equipment.
Representatives from Tower and Sempra, along with a representative from the Huron County Community Foundation, attended a breakfast meeting at Laker Secondary School and heard information from Superintendent Brian Keim and Principal Jon Good about what the Laker Innovation Center will include and what it will provide for students. Mr. Keim provided a blueprint and an image of what the center will look like once completed, with the names of the two companies displayed on the walls. The center will include new equipment, such as 3D printers, CNC, laser cutting/etching, robotics, welding and more. A professional style collaboration lab will be included for meetings, planning and presentations. A renovated computer lab will provide an updated Computer-Aided Design (CAD) program, along with other uses. The current tractor shed will be renovated, along with the ag classroom, which will be relocated to what is now a computer lab. A project-based “Genius Space” for individual and small group learning also will be incorporated into the new design.
Mr. Keim and Mr. Good said the innovation center will provide new course opportunities for junior high and high school students, featuring skilled trades and project-based learning components. It will be a hub where students can take innovative ideas from concept and design to creation and marketing. In the innovation center, students can work together on projects that would include a variety of academic areas, such as computer science, visual and graphic arts, industrial arts, media and communications, skilled trades, robotics and ag science.
Interested students who have an idea for a product or how to improve on an existing product can work in the “Genius Space,” Mr. Keim added. Teachers will assist these students by answering questions and helping students connect to the people and resources they need to complete their projects.
The collaboration lab, Mr. Good said, will be used for local businesses to come in and present problems that they need solutions for. Students will be able to work in groups to develop solution ideas. The businesses will then return to listen to the ideas presented by the student groups. Ideas could be used by the businesses if the solution is viable.
Tower and Sempra representatives were excited by what they heard, stating the skills students will learn in the innovation center will help them in whatever career they pursue, and these skills are what businesses are looking for.
“I welcome this – this is, wow,” said Bill Junge, Tower plant manager. “It’s a step in the right direction.”
Andrew Johnson, Sempra facilities manager, said the innovation center will offer a place for students to get inspired in many areas of industrial arts.
“This is making industrial arts sexy – not as old school. It resonates with me very well,” Mr. Johnson said.
He noted not all students are interested in careers that require four or more years of college, and the innovation center will open doors for students so they can find their own niche. The opportunities they have in the innovation center can help show students a career path they may otherwise have never considered, he said.
Mackenzie Price-Sundblad, Huron County Community Foundation (HCCF) executive director, is excited about what is planned for the innovation center because it coincides with the HCCF’s initiatives to retain local talent and encourage entrepreneurship in the Thumb area. She said having students trained on business development and understanding the steps involved will help them in any endeavor.
“We want to help facilitate that (for students),” she said.
Mr. Keim noted after the meeting that Tower and Sempra are the first to make donations specifically for this space but other partners are being sought to add specialty equipment and help train students to use it.
“We want this to be a facility that has great value to both our students and the local companies that may one day employ them,” he said.
After the meeting, Mr. Keim and Mr. Good led the group on a tour of the area where the new Innovation Center will be located.
Sempra Renewables donated $2,000 for the Laker Innovation Center, along with several hands-on modules yet to be designed. The cash donation will be used to purchase new equipment. Pictured from the left, Brian Keim, Laker superintendent, Mackenzie Price-Sundblad, Huron County Community Foundation executive director, Andrew Johnson, Sempra facilities manager, and Jon Good, Laker Secondary School principal.
Tower representatives tour the woodshop area of Laker High School. This is one of the areas that will be renovated into the Laker Innovation Center.
An updated drawing of what the Innovation Center will look like once completed (updated in December 2018).