Sunday, February 22, 2009

Learning educational entrepreneurship

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Farmington's Regional Technology Center has created the first accredited program in composite technologies as described in the following news article. What can we learn from this example of educational entrepreneurship? It seems as if the drive for change has come from John MacDonald, a teacher at the Center. He seems to have built from some prior experience with the technology. He recognized the opportunity and marshaled support for development of the comprehensive program. He seems to have developed visions of opportunities for his students and their school. Note that Harbor Technologies in Brunswick and Custom Composite Technologies in Bath, two innovative employers, are engaged supporters of the program despite the more than 60 miles that separate the program and the businesses.
In Farmington, MSAD 9's Foster Regional Applied Technology Center is the first Maine school to develop a state-accredited program in high-performance composite technologies. After years of teaching short units to his technology and pre-engineering classes, John MacDonald decided to make the technology a complete program.

"My goal is to provide a way for students to become skilled in this growing industry," MacDonald said. "At the same time, we can plant the seed for future entrepreneurial ventures."

The Maine Technology Institute gave him a $30,000 grant with the stipulation that FRATC must raise matching funds from in-kind donations of materials and expertise. MacDonald's grant funding launched the renovation of the school's 40-year-old converted industrial-arts lab. Old wiring, poor air quality, inefficient shop layout, and outdated equipment had to go. He replaced outdated sanding devices with dustless sanders and collectors, added vacuum infusion and pressure molding stations, a freezer, and a curing oven. He hasn't looked back.
"Six of my eight students in my 2007 class have continued their education in the composites field." he said. "Ten students completed the training in 2008, and I have a full class enrolled for the next year."
"I found Mr. Macdonald's composites program and facilities to be a classic example of educational entrepreneurship," he said. "What seems to make this program so unique is the innovative combination of basic educational elements, technical skill exercises, and 'adult-style' mentoring."
What can we do to help make this program less unique? How can we develop our own examples of educational entrepreneurship so that they become the norm rather than the exception?

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