Bill Schuyler laughed with his students in the lab as they reflected on the first day of school.
The Forsyth Central High School biotechnology teacher had asked his class in early August to measure out 5 milliliters and saw some less than orthodox methods that day.
During Wednesday night’s grand opening of the school’s STEM Academy, the 10th-graders demonstrated how much they’ve learned since then.
They used pipets to properly measure small liquid volumes and rattled off phrases some parents struggled to pronounce.
The Science, Technology, Engine-ering and Math Academy at Central provides a specialized curriculum for students.
The program features tracks for biotechnology and engineering, as well as expanded advanced math and science offerings.
About 200 people gathered in the courtyard outside of the renovated classrooms to listen Wednesday as officials welcomed the program.
Forsyth County School Superintendent Buster Evans marveled at the speed in which the academy came together.
Possibility Construction Company completed the project in nine weeks over the summer, in time for classes to start at the beginning of the school year.
“What you do every day, day in and day out, will truly be what makes possibility a reality for students of Forsyth County,” Evans told the academy’s students and staff.
The 800 Building was modified to house a new engineering and robotics lab with materials processing shop.
The modification project, which totaled about $985,000, was funded by capital projects money and investments.
Wednesday night, engineering students demonstrated what they could do in their new space as they worked on a computer design project.
Teacher Scott Walker said the students will premiere their work on catapults in an early December competition.
Walker, who previously taught at a STEM academy in Florida, said the program presents a “great opportunity” for students and their futures.
“The proof is in the pudding,” he said. “I had students that graduated from [top engineering schools]. I know that STEM works.”
Freshmen in the academy said getting a leg up on the competition was one of the primary reasons they signed up.
“I think it’ll give me a head start on colleges,” said Hannah Carr, who is considering a veterinary career.
Allie McConnell, who is in the academy’s engineering track, said she enjoys everything about the new labs and appreciates the challenge her classes present.
“It’s amped-up courses with a lot more content,” McConnell said.
Fellow engineering student Trent Callan said he enjoys the hands-on approach in his classes.
For the time being, ninth- and 10th-graders are the only ones in the academy.
However, Central has big plans to expand the program as the teenagers advance and new students enter, Principal Rudy Hampton said.
“To say we’re excited would be a huge understatement. This is a great opportunity for the kids in Forsyth County,” Hampton said.
“To be able to have this on your transcript and have colleges see that when you graduate is going to be a marvelous thing.”