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German STEM delegation tours Plattsburgh makerspace

Dr. Gero Stoffels tours IT room of Strand Center makerspace
Pat Bradley
Dr. Gero Stoffels tours IT room of Strand Center makerspace

A delegation of German experts in the STEM fields, science, technology, engineering and mathematics, are in Plattsburgh this week to tour advanced manufacturing facilities and the local educational centers that support them. One of their stops was the Strand Center for the Arts, which has created a maker-space in a newly renovated building.

The Strand Center for the Arts has been renovating the former federal building adjacent to its theatre. The building features studio, exhibit and classroom space along with what’s called a makerspace.

ETS Staffing Education Director Michele Armani volunteers at the Strand and explains what the makerspace is.

“It’s really a space where the arts and technology merge. This makerspace allows for the time, the space and hopefully the expertise as well for people to be able to tap into their creative sides. You know whether it’s through sewing or music or integrating technology such as computer programming and coding. You know everything from a hobby level to learning a new skill to professional development.”

Strand Board member Joshua Kretzer led the group of University of Seigen, Germany STEM experts on a tour and explained how a makerspace at the cultural center can integrate with the business community.

“It’s still not completely finished but we’re getting very close. You were at CVTEC where they offer state accredited credentialed courses. We are not bound by the state to offer a specific curriculum so we can kind of do whatever we want to. Work with local crafts people who understand how to use the equipment to teach classes for us. If they need to recreate a specific type of moulding they can put it into the computer programs and the C&C router and it’ll do all the work for you! And really we’ve always been able to offer arts curriculum to our community but this is the first time that we’ve really been able to integrate STEM which is just something that we’re really excited about.”

University of Seigen mathematics professor Dr. Gero Stoffels said the German college is collaborating with the North Country Workforce Development Board on a pilot STEM program.

“We as a university we are looking forward to developing a project which is called Authentic STEM Connect US where we really get into contact, for example, we were just like minutes ago at Schluetter Systems in Plattsburgh and getting to know the companies and really want to connect them with for example CVTEC and also connect them to our students in Germany. And really thinking about what an international cooperation also focusing on employment can bring to the students and also to us as a community.”

Educators in the U.S. have been trying to get more youth interested in technical fields and Dr. Stoffels says it’s also a challenge in Germany.

“We try to enhance by this project Authentic STEM to really see what the workplaces are, how they really can use their STEM knowledge they get in school. So I think we can interest some students by this project more on STEM. And in Germany it’s the same. STEM is not on their top tier list.”

The North Country Workforce partnership is developing a tool kit so that this pilot program can be replicated.