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PA Secretary of Education Pedro Rivera visits York Tech during summer STEM tour John A. Pavoncello, York Dispatch

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York County School of Technology turned heads at the state level this week after partnering with Lincoln Intermediate Unit 12 for a summer career camp.

State Secretary of Education Pedro Rivera and Rep. Kristin Phillips-Hill, R-York Township, visited the campus Tuesday, Aug. 7, as part of a summer tour of STEM programs for K-12 and higher education across the state.

A student showed Rivera a big "S.K." indented into a yo-yo on the computer.

Instructor Bob Bierman explained that using the Inventor program, students draw an indent of their initials, which are 3D-printed onto a yo-yo. They also printed their initials in plastic that fits perfectly into the indent.

It's one of several projects that exemplify the camp's project-based learning approach.

More: York Academy charter high school to open this summer

Another involves students improving how video games are played by making their own versions of controllers with a Play-doh-like substance and Styrofoam — which plugs into electronics that connect to the computer with wires.

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"That's what video games looked like when when I was a kid," Rivera joked, while Phillips-Hill tested out one of the controllers on classic arcade game Space Invaders.

"Experiential learning really hits home with students," Rivera said. "The students are learning by doing, and they'll retain that knowledge — not only for their academic careers but for the rest of their lives."

LIU program: The Summer Academy Career Camp for grades 3 through 8 took place July 16-20 and was new to LIU 12 this summer.

The school had always offered summer academies, said interim Executive Director Jody Nace, but this year it decided to partner with York Tech for a career focus.

"One of our missions at the LIU is to really support challenges that we see in the community ... preparing our kids for high-priority occupations," she said, such as advanced manufacturing and many medical fields in the area.

The five-day camp had about 74 students studying disciplines such as engineering and manufacturing, commercial and advertising art, culinary arts and sports tech and exercise science, according to Deb Ayers, coordinator of student programs.

"The neat thing about this is that no matter what technical area we're talking about, they were all doing hands-on authentic projects in their technical areas," said York Tech Principal Andrew Loehwing.

Learning from other institutions: Rivera said the tour serves to highlight the governor's investment in science, technology, engineering and math programs, as well as to identify successful programs to share with other districts and inform state policy. 

"We're really looking at revamping and updating our computer science standards, revamping our post-secondary goals," he said.

By visiting different schools and centers, the department can see what they have and what's still needed as well as work to make sure the state is providing for the needs of the business community.

"At the end of the day, our college and career readiness standards have to align to good-paying jobs," Rivera said.

More: Southern York kindergarten teacher receives highest honor for math

His visit to York Tech highlighted the need to get hands-on and engaged with learning, he said, and showcased teachers who were not only instructing but developing their skills — on new platforms, equipment and material — which made them better teachers.

"I think today we got to see a little bit of everything that really constitutes a good school and good teaching," Rivera said.

"We know first-hand that we're educating kids for careers that don't yet exist," he added, and since technology is the foundation for those careers, it's important for kids to engage early and often.

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