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GVSU, WMAA partner to advance STEM education

  • West Michigan Aviation Academy in Grand Rapids.

Posted on February 17, 2016

A new collaboration between Grand Valley State University and West Michigan Aviation Academy will support high school students learning about science, technology, engineering and math as they pursue careers focused on aviation.

President Thomas J. Haas and WMAA CEO Patrick J. Cwayna signed an agreement February 17 that outlined the university's commitment to helping develop STEM curriculum and extra-curricular activities for WMAA. 

The collaboration specifically includes support from faculty in the Padnos College of Engineering and Computing who will work with teachers and department chairs at WMAA to enhance STEM courses and student learning. In addition, a Grand Valley graduate student will assist the academy's FIRST Robotics team and the university will donate equipment to support hands-on learning. 

"It's important that our students receive the strong, broad-based education that is needed to put airplanes in the air," said Cwayna. "Engineering and robotics is a huge component for that, so we are thrilled to have access to the expertise found at Grand Valley."  

Haas said it's important that the university invests in the future of students before they start college. 

"We live in a community that values innovation and entrepreneurship, so it is only natural for Grand Valley and West Michigan Aviation Academy to work together to prepare students as they create, design and build," he said. 

Cwayna said six engineering courses are currently offered at WMAA, making it the school with the most extensive STEM curriculum in any high school in West Michigan, if not the state. 

Cwayna compared WMAA's rapid growth to that of Grand Valley's. The academy admitted its first class of 80 students in 2010. Today's class consists of nearly 550 students. 

"We are a lot like Grand Valley was back in the day. It amazes me to see the university's progress and growth," he said.