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Dept. of Education Announces Winners in $200,000 CTE Makeover Challenge

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Guest blog post by Lovey Cooper

Ten winners were announced today in the U.S. Department of Education's $200,000 Career and Technical Education Makeover Challenge in Washington as part of the kick-off for President Obama's upcoming National Week of Making.

The challenge called for high school groups to create models for transforming spaces in their own schools into top-notch makerspacesfacilities designed to encourage hands-on activity and experimentation—in hopes of strengthening next-generation career and technical schools.

The Obama administration has been cheerleading for innovation among young people, and the creation of makerspaces to support it. In June 2014, the president announced the launch of the Nation of Makers initiative, an all-hands-on-deck effort in part to help provide these technological spaces in schools in hopes of lowering the barriers to entry to entrepreneurship and design.

In April, more than 640 schools from all 50 states and Washington entered first-round submissions for the Challenge, and eligible schools were invited to participate in an intensive six-week boot camp program to further develop their plans.

The winners, who were announced by Johan E. Uvin, the acting assistant secretary for career, technical, and adult education, will now each receive $20,000 in cash and a share of prizes from the $378,000 sponsor prize pool to help build their proposed makerspaces into a reality. 

They are:

  • Burlington Technical Center, Burlington, Vt.
  • Capital City Public Charter School, Washington, D.C.        
  • Carl Schurz High School, Chicago
  • Clearwater High School, Piedmont, Mo.      
  • Dominion High School, Sterling, Va.
  • John H. Reagan Early College High School, Austin, Texas
  • Palisades Public Charter High School, Pacific Palisades, Calif.
  • Theodore Roosevelt High School, San Antonio
  • THINC College & Career Academy, Lagrange, Ga.
  • William B. Travis Early College High School, Austin, Texas

Based on their individual expertise, judges recommended the honorees for designing spaces that are innovative, replicable, multifunctional, feasible, and sustainable, with bonus points awarded if the student population served is low-income.

"This is a thrilling opportunity to validate and support high school learners who could have good jobs and well-supported lives without college education," said Kristin Fontichiaro, a clinical assistant professor at the University of Michigan School of Information, who served on the panel of judges.

The White House event today included a panel Q&A session with Champions of Change maker-tech experts, who stressed the concept of makerspaces as a way to use tangible, physical tools as a kind of "great equalizer" in the technological realm.

"We are a nation of makers, and we are what we celebrate," said Limor Fried, and engineer and one of the judges and panelists. In a statement read at the event, Obama declared that the Week of Making be used to celebrate healthy competition, creative confidence, and entrepreneurship, both in and outside of the classroom.

The event also announced a call to action from NASA soliciting students across the country for their creative problem-solving on issues like global warming.

The Challenge is part of a series of prize competitions that aim "to spur development of new technology, products, and resources that will prepare students for the high-skill, high-wage, and high-demand occupations of tomorrow," according to a press release from the Education Department.

"While some makerspaces in schools serve important roles as self-soothing stations, portals to new tools and materials, and socialization, today's winning schools had to make powerful connections showing making as an amplifier and accelerator of CTE," Fontichiaro said.

"Today's CTE is about the future you can't prepare for with just a textbook," Secretary of Education John B. King Jr. said in prepared remarks at the launch of the challenge. "It's about learning how to build your own business, from an idea to a prototype and beyond. It's about creating new tools to solve everyday problems."

The winning schools will now produce and submit a video tour of their constructed models for use in the CTE Makerspace Showcase, to be held at the World Maker Faire in New York City in October.

Watch the archived live-stream of today's White House event below:

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