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Danbury Career Academy Announces Cutting-Edge Tech Programs

A high school in Connecticut will offer students six "academies" to choose from, giving them experience in fields such as emerging and business technology, scientific innovation, information technology and cybersecurity.

career crossroads
(TNS) — In a few years time, some 11th-graders in the city will be expected to create a prosthetic hand that can move and grasp objects.

It's one example of a course students at the proposed $164 million career academy would take — that is, if they're part of the medical technology and engineering pathway.

Danbury school administrators gave the education board's Curriculum Committee an inside look into the career academy experience during a Monday evening meeting.

Students in ninth through 12th grade at the proposed new school and the existing high school campus will pick among several pathways within six so-called "academies" that will allow them to study what it'd be like to be a teacher, engineer, designer or work in numerous other career fields.

They'll take a blend of courses designed to give them experience in their chosen pathway, in addition to the typical general education requirements.

"We've just upped the challenge and rigor quite a bit in here, but are also offering our regular courses in terms of college prep," said Kara Casimiro, assistant superintendent for teaching and learning.

The pathways were picked based on research of career fields that are in high demand and could earn students high wages nationally and in the state, Casimiro said.

"When putting these together in the academy model you design these specially to meet not just student interest but also that there's a potential for employment after that," she said.

Last week, Danbury earned a state grant to cover 80 percent of the cost of a new middle and high school proposed to be constructed on the former Cartus Corp. property. A referendum is scheduled for June 7 to approve city funding for the project. With that approval, the school is expected to open in fall 2024.


Administrators are developing the "program guides" that will indicate to students which courses they may take within their pathway. College preparatory, honors and advanced placement courses are available. Counselors will guide students during these decisions, Casimiro said.

Officials have been working with industry leaders to develop the courses and have based them on what students would need for their career fields and post-secondary programs.

During Monday's meeting, officials used the example of the medical technology and engineering pathway, which is within the Academy of Emerging Technologies and & Entrepreneurship. This is one of two academies that will be hosted at the new school.

At the end of eighth grade, counselors will come into their classrooms to discuss the course options available at the high school.

As freshman, all students, regardless of the pathway, will attend Danbury High School and take an exploration seminar that will help them pick their pathway.

"They're not picking a college major here but they're engaging in some focused electives that would help produce something that they would not otherwise get if they had not been in the wall-to-wall academy," Casimiro said.

In 10th grade, they'll take an introductory class related to their pathways. For students in the medical technology and engineering program, this would be "Engineering Essentials," where they'll learn basic engineering design.

"It talks about just how engineers go through a process of brainstorming ideas, researching ideas, developing prototypes for ideas, and that is pretty high level stuff," said Melissa Nadeau, curriculum administrator.

There will also be required electives, some of which will "support the knowledge base that students are gaining through that career connected learning course," she said.

As juniors, those students would put their learning into action with "Intersections of Innovation." The course was designed with NeuroMaker, a curriculum used in more than 200 schools, universities and programs around the country that "allows students to not only build a prosthetic hand and explore concepts within brain computer interfaces (BCI), but also tie their learning back to real-world applications," according to its website.

Students will build the hand and "as part of the process understand the mechanics of our own biology and how our tendons and our ligaments operate within our hands to make it move," Nadeau said.

They'll use electrical engineering to make the circuits in the hands and program the hand to make it move. Eventually, they'll use artificial intelligence so sensors on the hand know that an object is going toward them and how to hold it, she said.

In their senior year, they'll take "Application of Innovation Design," where they'll create something within the medical and engineering field to solve a problem, Nadeau said. Students will meet with industry professionals for their project.

One school board member asked if one of the academies — centered on art, engineering and design — could be renamed to include visual and performing arts.

"That would encompass more of the theater program and your musical program as (well) as the regular art courses," school board member Theresa Buzaid said. "I think art is very limiting, and thinking of WestConn if they're going to go on to...that new school, they call it visual and performing arts."

Casimiro said theater, arts and music courses will be part of the electives available to all students.

"We feel those are important for everybody to have an experience and exposure to," she said.


What are the academies and pathways?

  • Academy of Emerging Technologies & Entrepreneurship
    • Includes pathways in: Business & Entrepreneurship, Investment & Finance, Environmental Conservation & Renewable Energy; Medical Technology & Engineering
    • Hosted at the Danbury Career Academy

  • Academy of Scientific Innovation & Medicine
    • Includes pathways in: Biomedical, Sports & Human Performance, Allied Health Services CNA/EMT
    • Hosted at the Danbury Career Academy

  • Academy of Information & Cybersecurity
    • Includes pathways in: Networking, Computer Programming & Gaming, Cybersecurity
    • Hosted at Danbury High School

  • Academy of Professional & Public Service
    • Includes pathways in: Justice & Law with ROTC option, Education & Human Development; Hospitality Management & Culinary Arts
    • Hosted at Danbury High School

  • Academy of Art, Engineering & Design
    • Includes pathways in: Art, Architecture & Civil Engineering; Computer Integrated Manufacturing; Applied Engineering
    • Hosted at Danbury High School

  • Academy of Communication & Design
    • Includes pathways in: Broadcasting & Multimedia, Audio Engineering & Design, Graphic & Digital Design
    • Hosted at Danbury High School

©2022 The News-Times (Danbury, Conn.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.