Washburn Tech receives grant from Dane G. Hansen Foundation to benefit northwest Kansas technical education
TOPEKA — The opportunity for a technical education has become more convenient for high school students in six counties in Kansas.
Washburn University Institute of Technology has received a $438,000 grant from the Dane G. Hansen Foundation for creation of the Virtual Technical College Initiative. A two-year pilot program, VTCI will provide technical education via video conferencing, augmented reality and virtual reality technologies to high schools in Ellis, Logan, Mitchell, Osborne, Ottawa and Sherman counties.
“We are thrilled for the support of the Hansen Foundation for our Virtual Technical College Initiative,” said Clayton Tatro, associate dean for instruction, Washburn Tech. “With the help of the Hansen Foundation, we can expand and enhance technical education in our rural communities, serving students, industry and our communities.”
Upon implementation, Washburn Tech will direct academic resources to introduce curricula to high school juniors and seniors in technical programs of study beneficial to rural Kansas. Programs to be offered are data analytics, advanced systems technology, climate and energy control, computer networking, graphics technology, technical drafting auto CAD, basic electricity and health occupations.
One learning tool will be the Microsoft HoloLens, which is a mixed-reality headset that can transform how traditional education is delivered. The device allows students to interact with physical and holographic objects in real time. This technology allows an instructor to be virtually transported into the classroom. Students can look at holographic 3D models, move models around and create hands-on learning experiences.
“The Washburn Institute of Technology pilot is an innovative approach to technical education in our rural high schools,” said Gary Poore, president of the Hansen Foundation Board of Trustees. “If this pilot program is successful in encouraging students to pursue technical degrees and both filling and creating jobs in northwest Kansas, all our communities will benefit.”
The over-arching objective of this initiative is to develop the next generation of technically-trained workers in northwest Kansas. Training through the VTCI will help students identify programs of study they may not have previously considered. These programs will show students they can apply these industry skills where they live instead of leaving the region for work.
“We are very thankful for the important partnership and the shared vision on education in rural Kansas between the Hansen Foundation and Washburn University,” said Marshall Meek, president, Washburn University Alumni Association and Foundation. “Their continued generosity has impacted the future careers of many Washburn students and will lead to economic benefits for rural Kansas.”
Some key parts of the program include:
Washburn Tech has already established connections with and plans to pilot the VTCI at Ellis High School, Oakley High School, Beloit High School, Lakeside High School at Downs, Minneapolis High School and Goodland High School.
Washburn Tech will train personnel on site at each location to operate video conferencing technology allowing students to interact live with Washburn Tech instructors. The instructors coordinate live sessions to interface with the bell schedules of the schools, but sessions are also recorded for students who were unable to attend the class.
The on-site personnel will be trained to operate the virtual and augmented reality technology which already has content available for the healthcare course.
The Excel Initiative in Career and Technical Education funding through the State of Kansas will pay the tuition for high school juniors and seniors enrolled in these courses. Students enrolling in VTCI courses will receive a 50 percent reduction in course fees. This results in students paying $10 in course fees rather than $20.
The Dane G. Hansen Foundation was established in 1965 with a generous estate gift from Dane G. Hansen. Reflecting Hansen’s lifelong love of northwest Kansas, the charitable foundation that bears his name has a mission to improve the quality of life for the residents and the communities in the 26 counties that make up the northwest quarter of Kansas. A native of Logan, Kan., he was an entrepreneur whose business interests over the course of his life included, among others, retail, lumber, road and bridge construction and oil.