After announcing plans to create a “mobile STEM lab” in late August, Warsaw Community Schools Chief Academic Officer David Hoffert announced in Tuesday’s WCS school board work session that the bus could come to fruition as early as May.
The lab, which will be funded in part through a donation by OrthoWorx, which committed a total of $300,000 toward the school corporation’s “Moving STEM Forward” plan, and through the school corporation, which provided approximately $182,000 of it’s own funds toward the plan. According to WCS Chief Financial Officer Kevin Scott, the provision by the corporation for the STEM initiative is a part of the school corporation’s planned budget and will not be taken out of the WCS general fund.
Hoffert and his research team presented information about the development of the mobile STEM lab stating that as far as they know, this will be the only mobile STEM lab owned by a school and not a research institute or similar establishment.
“To our knowledge, we will be the first school system to own one of these ourself. I would guess there are probably 25 to 30 in the U.S. A lot of time these are owned by colleges, but we are going to have the privilege of having this in our school system 365 days a year.”
According to tentative plans released by Hoffert at the meeting, the bus will be approximately 40 feet long and will weigh between 40,000 to 50,000 pounds. The team noted the bus will be a challenge for whoever is chosen to drive it due to an overhang on the back.
Hoffert added the bus will be able to support up to 30 elementary school kids at a time and will be equipped with touch screen monitors, two iPads at each of the six learning stations, a wireless network and computers as well as a flap that opens outside of the bus with a monitor that will show students and parents outside the bus a live view of the activities within. The bus, which will act as an interactive mobile laboratory, will cater toward community strengths by keeping the biomedical industry in mind.
When asked for a time frame, Hoffert stated he and his team will soon be seeking bids for work on the bus and hopes to keep as much of the project locally contracted as possible. Hoffert said he plans to have bids returned for action in December and hopes to take action on constructing the mobile STEM lab in January.
“For ease and comfort levels we will be taking a look at local vendors. The same thing goes with technology. We feel very comfortable with our local vendors. Other companies might sublet out and though you hope for the best, you never know what is happening,” stated Hoffert.
In other news, WCS Superintendent Dr. Craig Hintz requested that the school board approve a 3-year donation to OrthoWorx, whose campaign to raise $3.5 million to receive a $3.5 million match from Lily Endowment Inc. ended yesterday.
Hintz stated that the school could legally contribute $1 per student and could pay the donation over the next 3 years. According to Hintz, his donation would total $20,100 taken from the school corporation’s general fund.
As he asked for a vote he noted that the organization has provided WCS with a total of $750,000 over the past 3 years. The donation was approved unanimously by a 5-0 vote.