Agreement between area high school, Padnos College of Engineering and Computing has far-reaching benefits

Samantha Spurr, far right, stands with West Michigan Aviation Academy students who participated in the Women in STEM Club. Spurr served as the graduate assistant at WMAA for the past three semesters.
Samantha Spurr, far right, stands with West Michigan Aviation Academy students who participated in the Women in STEM Club. Spurr served as the graduate assistant at WMAA for the past three semesters.
Image Credit: Courtesy photo

The Padnos College of Engineering and Computing renewed its agreement with an area high school but the partnership goes far beyond a piece of paper.

PCEC's agreement with the West Michigan Aviation Academy in Grand Rapids dates back to 2016 and includes placing a graduate engineering student in the school to assist in labs and classrooms. WMAA is a charter high school established in 2010 and located at the Gerald R. Ford International Airport. Its curriculum is designed for students who have a passion for aviation and/or an interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Samantha Spurr spent the past three semesters at WMAA as a graduate assistant and said the experiences she had "dramatically changed my life and how I view education."

"It's really the type of high school I wish I could have attended," said Spurr, a native of Woodhaven. "I learned leadership skills plus the soft skills that come from being in a classroom."

Among her duties at WMAA, Spurr organized and ran the Women in STEM club for ninth-12th grade students, with about 30 students regularly attending meetings. Spurr arranged for industry speakers and the club worked on prototypes and projects.

She also helped Kaitlin Peterson, WMAA engineering teacher, develop a curriculum for a senior capstone course in biomedical engineering that will begin in the fall, and assisted a class with building a Halloween costume for a child in a wheelchair.

 Samantha Spurr, an engineering graduate student, helped a WMAA class build a Halloween costume for a child in a wheelchair. PCEC has a long-standing agreement with WMAA.
Samantha Spurr, an engineering graduate student, helped a WMAA class build a Halloween costume for a child in a wheelchair. PCEC has a long-standing agreement with WMAA.
Image Credit: Courtesy photo

Spurr, who will graduate with a master's degree in biomedical engineering in August, said she is grateful for her own experiences at Grand Valley and enjoyed the opportunity to work with WMAA students.

Her connection with the school will continue as Spurr was asked to join WMAA's STEM Advisory Board.