New VCS program turns students into cutting-edge creators


Among the leaders for the new Viera Charter School Digital Arts and Engineering Academy are math teacher Scott Beaudry, left, U.S. history teacher Mary Rabun, principal Dr. Julie Cady, program coordinator Carlyn Clark, robotics coach and TV Studio coordinator Kristin Cook and language arts teacher Diane Carr.

photo by Linda Wiggins

A new program at Viera Charter School will virtually be an entirely new school experience, emphasis on the word virtual. But unlike a mere sliver of a program, the Digital Arts and Engineering Academy will incorporate all core subjects through the perspective of a personal computer.

Program designers envision the multidisciplinary, project-based system as a feeder effort into the huge digital arts program at Viera High School and ultimately into careers with business partners like NASA, the Florida Institute of Technology, Northrop Grumman, Florida Power & Light and beyond.

“Our students, in collaboration with our business partners and industry personnel, will engage in socially relevant design challenges in an effort to increase student awareness, foster exploration, and prepare students for a successful transition into high school, college, and eventually for the vast career options available to them in the STEAM industries,” program coordinator and VCS teacher Carlyn Clark said, referring to the acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics that is the specialization for the charter school, which serves students in kindergarten through eighth grade.

And should the students design and prototype a product or service that could make them an entrepreneur or a contractor to government or private industry, so much the better.

“We are not only preparing students for today’s changing world, but training them to anticipate changes coming in the future that are unforeseeable to the untrained eye,” VCS principal Dr. Julie Cady said. She pointed to VCS School Board president Robert Jordan, who transitioned from an employee spanning the NASA space shuttle program to a contractor himself, as a good role model for the advanced seventh and eighth grade students in the program.

VCS math teacher Scott Beaudry is thrilled to be part of the program for that reason. He’ll teach geometry to help students as they envision, measure and create new objects, and statistics to gauge outcomes of projects and ultimately gauge where markets are headed. 

“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had students ask how what they are learning in advanced math is going to be relevant to them after they are out of school. It’s a thrill to be able to show them, ‘This! This is why you need to know this!’ ”

The program’s focus on digital engineering, rocketry, robotics and computer programming is a given, but core subjects like U.S. history and language arts, and giving back to the community through service learning, are just as important components, leaders said.

“Students will be able to create amazing out-of-the-box history projects with these computer design skills,” U.S. history teacher Mary Rabun said. 

Chimed in language arts teacher Diane Carr with a smile, “And you’re not going to have much of a report on anything without a proficient use of the English language.”