Utica Community Schools Superintendent Christine Johns and UCS Board of Education President Gene Klida unveil a plaque for the dedication of the Stevenson MADE academy during an Oct. 25 open house.

Utica Community Schools Superintendent Christine Johns and UCS Board of Education President Gene Klida unveil a plaque for the dedication of the Stevenson MADE academy during an Oct. 25 open house.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes


Young tech careers to be ‘MADE’ at Stevenson

By: Eric Czarnik | Sterling Heights Sentry | Published October 30, 2018

 Freshman Rama Kacho demonstrates a hand-built radio in the Design Thinking classroom during the open house.

Freshman Rama Kacho demonstrates a hand-built radio in the Design Thinking classroom during the open house.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

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As someone eager to explore working with advances in manufacturing and technology, Stevenson High School ninth-grader Annalisa Marck has it MADE. 

“Growing up, my dad built tank bridges back in Iraq and such, and that was pretty cool,” Marck said. “And I wanted to follow in an engineering field pathway.”

Marck is one of around 85 ninth-graders who started the brand-new Stevenson Manufacturing, Automation and Design Engineering, or MADE, program this fall. The district held a student-run MADE demonstration and press event about the facilities Oct. 25. 

Marck said she previously took programming in eighth grade, and now she loves Stevenson MADE. She described what she will be working on at the demo event. 

“I am doing pneumatic systems, which is air pressure and air power,” she said.

Utica Community Schools Superintendent Christine Johns said the MADE program’s first year of implementation has opened it to ninth-graders. Those students are expected to stay in the program throughout their four years in high school as they develop a clear postsecondary plan toward a future in the fabrication, automation and design engineering fields.

“The focus for the ninth-grade class is really in design thinking,” Johns said. “At this point, it allows them to learn through ... empathy, defining, ideating, prototyping and testing.”

School officials say the students should get a chance to acquire certifications, as well as get a head start on their career trajectory once they graduate. 

The program is an outgrowth of the school district’s career and technology education department, and it connects the classroom and workplace, thanks to partnerships with local businesses and industries.

Johns said the Stevenson MADE program is an academy model within the high school and is currently open to students who attend its three feeder junior high schools: Davis, Jeannette and Heritage.

She described what she has personally seen of the program.

“When I recently visited, students were working to solve a locker challenge,” Johns said. “They were redesigning school lockers to meet the needs of students. There would be things like lights in the inside because they’re dark,  a USB port to plug in their phone. There was a refrigerator in one to keep their lunch cool.”

Stevenson Principal Steven Pfannes said the MADE environment is not like a typical classroom.

“You see a lot more problem solving and a design thinking process, so kids have to actually do challenges ... and it’s OK to fail, as long as you learn in that failure,” he said.

Pfannes added that at Stevenson MADE, design thinking is integrated into various school subjects, like English and social studies, “so they are no longer learning in silos.” He added that the program is successfully exposing and encouraging young women to consider careers in technology.

“Close to half of our MADE program has female students,” he said.

Marck talked about the locker prototyping project and said her student group’s locker has movable shelves to accommodate shorter people. It also has a cooler to store lunches, because a refrigerator would be too expensive, she said. 

Marck also confirmed that the program is reaching out to girls and young women.

“It’s lots of fun to see people with similar goals for the future,” she said. “There are a lot of other female students, and they have just as much fun as I do.”

Bruce Osani, the general manager of Fori Automation, represents one of the businesses involved with Stevenson MADE. In a statement, he called it a “truly special” experience, adding that the program should produce “entry-level employees who understand our systems and have the ability to be creative thinkers, work collaboratively with others, communicate effectively and support company innovation.”

Find out more about Stevenson MADE by visiting Stevenson.uticak12.org or by calling (586) 797-1900.

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