‘Tools to create an impact now.’ Centre County school districts to launch IDEA Hub

In an effort to enhance students’ learning experience, local school districts have partnered with institutions and businesses to create the IDEA Hubone of three youth innovation centers in Pennsylvania — aimed to empower and encourage kids to think in innovative ways.

The IDEA Hub — an acronym for innovation, design, entrepreneurship and action — is a collaborative program between three area school districts, Bellefonte, Bald Eagle and Penns Valley. The hub, located on Central Pennsylvania Institute of Science and Technology’s campus, will host opportunities for idea development and networking, entrepreneurial activities and STEAM programs.

“It will be a place where our students can go to conceptualize, design and build real world solutions from start to finish,” Penns Valley Assistant Superintendent Sherri Connell said in a statement. “Instead of just learning through solving hypothetical problems, students can manage projects and collaborate with others to address issues and themes that have meaning to them. Then there really is no limit to what directions our students can take.”

The collaborative space will be available for students grades 6 through 12 and will be open after school for teachers to use as a classroom extension. An entrepreneurship program, D3, is scheduled to begin next year and will be housed in the hub.

Connell said the hub will help enhance Penns Valley’s career and college advising programs. Penns Valley will also be offering a two-credit course that fuses English with project management, so students will be able to practice technical writing while creating products and programs within STEM fields.

“We believe this is another option that can ensure our students are graduating with the skills and experiences post-secondary institutions and employers value,” Connell said.

The IDEA Hub is part of a statewide after school programming initiative and is one of three YouthHubs recognized in Pennsylvania, joining Sunrise of Philadelphia in Philadelphia County and YouthPlaces in Allegheny County.

BASD Superintendent Michelle Saylor, who was unavailable for comment, included information about the IDEA Hub in her report for Tuesday’s board meeting. In her remarks, Saylor said YouthHubs are led by “the informal learning community and youth” and “provide the greatest impact to students for STEAM activities, career-readiness, pathway models and entrepreneurial programs.”

In Bellefonte student testimonials, kids said the hub will provide additional space for them to enhance their learning experiences and find ways to make their ideas a reality while collaborating with new people.

Bellefonte student William Kothe said he wants to use the hub to find a way to improve the process of laying carbon fiber, something that has yet to be mechanized and is still done by hand.

According to its vision statement, the goal of the hub is to build a “broad-based, coordinated system of entrepreneurial programming” that will combine skill sets across academic and professional fields.

“It would be nice to have readily-accessible resources to try constructing different ideas such as a card shuffler that uses a rubber belt to move the cards in a less damaging way than typical card shufflers,” said Bellefonte student Alexander Doebler. “Having the input from a number of professionals and other students within the Idea Hub would be an extremely valuable resources for figuring out which ideas actually have merit.”

An official launch ceremony will be held at the hub at 6:30 p.m. Nov. 7. Students, staff, educational and business partners will lead activities and presentations following a ribbon cutting.

Connell and Saylor said summer programming will be offered at the hub. Connell said she hopes the IDEA Hub will teach kids that learning can happen anywhere and that they can make a difference in the world.

“Students sometimes are made to feel that they cannot go out and solve real world problems — solving real world problems is something that older, more established people do,” Connell said. “We want to transform their thinking so that they feel their ideas have merit. The IDEA Hub will give them the tools to create an impact now.”

Marley Parish reports on local government for the Centre Daily Times. She grew up in Slippery Rock and graduated from Allegheny College.