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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Spokane Valley Tech expands hands-on learning curriculum

Spokane Valley Tech Academy Principal Camille Nielsen, left, and SVT director Scott Oakshott demonstrate the school’s new computer science facility July 25 in Spokane Valley, Washington. (Dan Pelle)
Spokane Valley Tech Academy Principal Camille Nielsen, left, and SVT director Scott Oakshott demonstrate the school’s new computer science facility July 25 in Spokane Valley, Washington. (Dan Pelle)

Last year, the Washington State legislature approved $1.5 million for Spokane Valley Tech to pay for the second phase of construction.

Now that the building is closer to completion, the hands-on school that serves high school juniors and seniors from throughout Eastern Washington is offering more classes. This fall, students will be able to take AP computer science and app development, and advanced bioengineering applications.

In the AP computer science course, students will not only learn how to write the programming languages of Java and Python, but they will learn how to create their own apps.

Scott Oakshott, director of Spokane Valley Tech, said the need for employees with computer science backgrounds is growing – the skills are needed in almost every field these future employees might enter.

Students will also learn to create their own smartphone and tablet apps.

“Part of the curriculum is entrepreneurship,” Oakshott said. He hopes many students can put their apps up for sale in places like the iTunes App Store.

The class was offered during summer school this year and is being held in the building’s new computer lab. “They are so engaged,” Oakshott said. “They just get electronics. It’s unbelievably cool to watch the kids use this.”

Students interested in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) who have finished taking biomedical applications or advanced engineering applications can now take advanced bioengineering.

Camille Nielsen, principal at Spokane Valley Tech Academy, said the course has a strong environmental focus, and is one of 10 being piloted through a nationwide effort called Project Lead the Way. Students will explore water filtration systems, biofuels and more.

The engineering and the biomedical students will work together to take a look at real-world problems and find solutions.

Oakshott said that last year, some of the cosmetology students teamed up with engineering students to create a new kind of clippers.

“They used their expertise,” he said. “It couldn’t have been designed any better.”

These two new courses expand the curriculum at Spokane Valley Tech to 11, including the academy program. The academy includes language arts, social studies and math. Nielsen said last year, about one-third of academy students took all of their classes at Spokane Valley Tech, but they still maintained a connection with their home high schools for extracurricular activities and social events.

Any junior or senior attending high school or being home-schooled in the area can attend Spokane Valley Tech for free. Oakshott said because schools are funded differently in North Idaho, those students can’t be accepted. Sophomores may be eligible to enroll in some of the after-school programs offered.

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