The Mitchell Board of Education on Monday heard reports on a greenhouse project and the Workforce Education Grant Implementation at its most recent regular meeting.
Shane Thill, director for the Mitchell Career and Technical Education Academy, spoke to the board along with several other MCTEA and Mitchell Technical Institute officials to give an update on the project.
The Mitchell School District recently received a grant from the Bayer Fund to go toward the construction of a greenhouse on campus that will allow instructors from multiple programs to work together on projects.
Cindy Gerlach, with the MCTEA culinary arts program, said there are many benefits to having a functioning greenhouse within easy reach of faculty and students.
“From the culinary side of it, we talk about sustainability and also talk about farm to table. The cool part is having the kids learn about how to sustain our program and them coming out and starting the process of planting seeds, which is the starting point, to the point of when we need these things, well, let’s go to the garden and get it,” Gerlach said.
The products grown in the greenhouse can be used as ingredients of dishes prepared by the culinary arts program, she said.
“They can pick it and take it back to the kitchen and utilize it in different dishes. It’s cool for the kids to see the process from that start to the product we put in front of you to eat,” Gerlach said.
Karen Roudabush, with the MCTEA agriculture program, said the greenhouse will expand on the learning experience in ways that can be difficult to do in the classroom.
“There are a lot of things we can do with a greenhouse that we can’t do in the classroom. We can do everything from different types of propagation, to how we clone plants. So that will be really exciting,” Roudabush said. “They’ll also get to see how an environment works. We can tie that in with the wildlife and fisheries classes and give them a good opportunity of how our world works.”
She said the greenhouse will help students understand the link between various disciplines studied at MCTEA.
“It’s also my hope that we can use this to show the students that we’re not just ag, we’re not just culinary. We all work together and the whole world has to work together, so we can make everything happen,” Roudabush said.
Thill said the project is in the bidding process, but hopes to have the greenhouse, which will be designed in the shape of a geodesic dome and will be located behind the fencing on the east side of the Mitchell High School Performing Arts Center, up and running by spring if the weather cooperates.
The board also heard a presentation from Tom Berg, who heads up Project Lead The Way Engineering and Robotics at MCTEA. Berg said part of the project will involve SCADA, which stands for Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition.
The program recently received a Workforce Education Grant to upgrade equipment in the program. It will also allow a strong communication link between MCTEA and MTI students, Berg said.
“Having a link between MTI and us here, they can control what’s going on. That’s kind of what the manufacturing world is doing right now. You don’t need a person right there dedicated to what they’re doing,” Berg said.
One item Berg demonstrated was a mechatronics kit that students must build so that it sorts marbles of various shapes and other characteristics. The kit allows students to construct a device that must handle the intake and sorting of marbles.
It’s a good way to teach what can be a tricky subject, Berg said.
“That’s what this will do for us. The kids will learn how to program, set it up and the wiring of it. Putting it together,” Berg said. “The hardware will be hard, but the software is the hardest part. You can build something but to make it work, it has to have a brain.”
Thill said the direct communication link between MTI and MCTEA is an opportunity for students in the district, and a fairly rare one for South Dakota.
“It will be networked where MTI will be able to communicate with us and help problem solve and help us with any glitches. I think we’re probably the only district that has something like that, where we’re working with a technical school hand in hand,” Thill said. “What it means for our students? We would love to see them go to the SCADA program, but if they decide to go into a similar field, they are going to be steps ahead of other students. This field offers such a big opportunity. Control automations is only going to get larger, and the opportunities there are great.”
The board also visited a classroom to hear an update on upgrades to the 3-D printing equipment.
The board took no action on any of the presentations.
The board also appointed Deb Olson as the delegate to the Associated School Boards of South Dakota Delegate Assembly, with Neil Putnam as an alternate.
The next meeting of the board is scheduled for Oct 14 at L.B. Williams Elementary School. The meeting is scheduled to begin at 5 p.m.