Academies of Nashville Blog

The Academies enable students to learn through the lens of a career or academic theme in a personalized learning community. Through their academy, students are exposed to a multitude of career and college opportunities, industry skills, and potential employers by way of classroom speakers, site visits, job shadowing and internships.

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  • President Barack Obama visits the Academies of Nashville at McGavock High School
  • Students demonstrate the relevance of general education subjects through real-world application.


Internships allow student to see the realities of a profession or industry and the connections between learning and the real world.
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Job Shadowing

Job Shadowing

Job shadowing connects students with the real working world and gives them an insider's view of a profession and the everyday duties and responsibilities.
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Externships give teachers an opportunity to have a real world professional experience at a host organization to develop a project-based curriculum.
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Business and community partners are essential factors in preparing students for life after high school and are integral to the educational experiences students receive.
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That Somebody Way You

The Relentless Entertainment Group and Pearl-Cohn Entertainment Magnet High School sent a very special welcome to Dr. Shawn Joseph on his “First Official Day” at work. The 2016 President of Relentless Entertainment Group, senior, Bre’Monte Carpenter was inspired to write this song in honor Dr. Joseph’s first official day.  A multi-talented Relentless vocal artist, senior, Shondia Pride provided the stirring vocal performance.

Check out the newest release from Pearl-Cohn Entertainment Magnet High School, Our New MNPS Director of Schools, Dr. Joseph, That Somebody Was You!


Audio Production Students compete in Skills USA


What Is Skills USA?

Skills USA is a convention for students to compete against each other by showcasing their professional and career abilities.

What It Was Like To Compete

We were given a lot of freedom to create during competition. With only a simple prompt to follow, they would let us go out and record anywhere we wanted in the city. It was a lot of fun bouncing ideas off each other and having so much creative freedom.

Chattanooga Was Awesome

Chattanooga is such a beautiful city, its tasteful, timeless atmosphere made me feel right at home there. The relaxed, laid back scenery of the area was so calming it almost felt like a vacation!

Getting to hang out with all the other students competing was also a ton of fun.

What We Took Away From The Experience

I learned how enjoyable and satisfying it is to work on a professional level project and also the focus and work ethic it takes to pull one off.

Learning not to have many expectations for any task before it is given was an important tool I picked up during competition. It prepared me for my career world while also simply giving me a good fundamental rule to live by.

The Medals


Greetings from the New Academies of Nashville Director

030As I start this new chapter in my career, I can’t help but to look back with thankfulness and look forward with hope and excitement. My professional career started more than 25 years ago as a teacher at Glencliff High School. It was there that I fell in love with teaching and helping shape the lives of young people. Within the first couple of years of teaching, we piloted some curriculum being offered by Ford Motor Company. Little did I know that exploration would be the catalyst for the journey that I have been blessed to travel for the past quarter of a century.

It was in those classrooms that we worked with teams of students to solve real business problems and allow those students to get dressed in their best to deliver their solutions to the executives of companies. It was in those classrooms that we learned to bring business partners into the classrooms to make learning authentic and to spark the curiosity of students that had once sat quietly in neat rows of desks. It was there that the Academies of Nashville dream began.

Spring forward twenty-five years and the dream of all students learning in this manner is at hand in MNPS high schools. In 2006, we were able to get a Small Learning Communities grant that would allow us to put the structure into place to build what we know as The Academies of Nashville. This work could not have happened without the dedication, vision and hard work of two great leaders that I have been blessed to learn from: Starr Herrman and Chaney Mosley. Each was able to bring the work that was needed at the time to the Academies of Nashville and each of their personalities and commitment will be forever etched on the organization.

As I look forward, I do so with hope and excitement that we can continue to nurture the process that has brought us to this place. As we approach our tenth year for the Academies of Nashville, I am honored to take on the role of director and want to build on the success that has brought over 2500 educators from around the country to study our work. My goal is to help support our stakeholders to move this work forward into the next quarter of a century. In the beginning, we wanted to improve the high school graduation rate—we moved that percentage from a dismal 58.2% in 2006 to a current rate of 81.6%. As we look to the future, I want to help many of our first-time college seekers believe that they can succeed at both college and career. I want to continue to give them the tools that are required not only to go to college, but to complete college and move into a career where they can begin to change the culture of poverty.

I continue to believe the tools for student success are bundled in the Academies of Nashville and my goal is to continue to learn from and nurture the 350 business partners that are committed to our work. Further, I hope to mentor and help develop the Academy Coaches as they are the “boots on the ground” at each of the academy schools that keep the spirit of the academies thriving. Indeed, it is with great hope and excitement that I believe the best days for the Academies of Nashville are yet to come.

Team Sparta Bots advances to FIRST Robotics Championship

Originally posted to MNPS Children First


Congratulations to Sparta Bots, the robotics team at Stratford’s Academy of Science and Engineering, for coming out on top at the Smoky Mountain Regionals!

Stratford was part of the alliance team that included Rohawktics from Knoxville and Roboteers from Tremont, Illinois. They outperformed nearly fifty teams from Kansas, Illinois, Arkansas, Pennsylvania, Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina, West Virginia and Tennessee.

IMG_0309“Our team was supported by so many at the event and our students rose to the challenge and specialized in a great defender robot,” said Academy Principal Dr. Jennifer Berry, in an email to Children First. “A special and huge thank you to Ms. Hansen for guiding the team to victory and Ms. Bartley for assisting. A big shout out to David Peters and Universal Robotics for mentoring our team! It was truly a great moment to witness for our students and our school!”

Stratford has participated in the Smoky Mountain Regionals since 2013. Learn more about the robotics competition here.

Sparta Bots will now compete in the FIRST Championship competition set for later this month in St. Louis, Missouri. You can follow the results by watching live or visiting this page.


The Story of a Student Athlete- Hillsboro High’s Darius Ferguson

By Rashed Fakhruddin

Darius Ferguson picStudent athlete Darius Ferguson has a game plan both on and off the basketball court. The Hillsboro High School varsity basketball player averages 11 points and six assists per game and helped lead his team to the state tournament two years in a row, but his priorities remain focused on academics and potential career opportunities.


A year ago, I was sitting next to Darius’ parents during one of his games at regionals. They mentioned he was interested in engineering and I offered the opportunity for him to shadow me on the job at Nashville Electric Service (NES).


During fall break, Darius took me up on the offer and spent the day at NES learning different engineering applications, asking questions and talking about career development. During our lunch break, the roles reversed and Darius taught me a few things on the basketball court over a couple of games at the nearby YMCA.


Earlier this month, I turned on the television to see Hillsboro playing Mt. Juliet. Darius had a monster fourth quarter advancing the team to state. The very next day, I received an email from Darius asking about the possibility of an NES internship this summer. I was so impressed! This senior just had one of the biggest games of his life and he still has his future in mind.


Darius Ferguson basketball picWe recently had a long phone conversation that was the highlight of my week. It topped my winning three-point buzzer beater for NES against the Nashville Fire Department in the Metro Parks Basketball League. It even meant more than a personal spotlight in Nashville Scene’s annual People’s issue.


It epitomizes the dream we have as business partners with Metro Nashville Public Schools to see our students motivated, challenged and prepared for college and careers.

Hospitality and Business Experiential Learning at McGavock High School


Hospitality & Tourism students visit Gaylord Opryland Hotel every year. Here are some students during a job shadow. They shadow employees of the hotel gaining experience and insight to the world of hospitality. They learn about all aspects of the hotel such as the front desk and human resources, which are pictured.



Banking and Finance students benefit from having the U.S. Community Credit Union as a business partner. Pictured are banking and finance students discussing marketing tactics with the head of marketing for the USCCU, J.R. Jerningan. McGavock has a fully functioning branch of the USCCU inside the school where students work gaining banking experience while other students have to ability to open accounts and learn about financial responsibility.



Entrepreneurship students benefit from having Deloitte as a business partner. Betsy Oleska, the Senior Engagement Manager at Deloitte is a member of the advisory board for the Academy of Hospitality and Finance. She helped to facilitate the job shadow for the students. They learned about consulting and auditing while there.



The culinary students help to prepare meals while at The Gaylord Opryland Hotel. They gain valuable experience in a real life culinary atmosphere. The students also create menus to serve to the staff at McGavock High School in their Bistro. Once a week, the teachers can go to the Bistro and enjoy a pre-fixed menu prepared and served by the students.

Personality comes with many names at McGavock HS CMT Academy of Digital Design and Technology

We’re the kids from McGavock’s Audio/Visual Production pathway. At least that’s what we think it’s called… It’s either that, or Broadcasting. We’re not sure… “Broadcasting” makes you think of old guys in suits reporting the Evening News, and we’re not really that.  And “A/V Production” makes you think about nerdy kids with pocket protectors. And we’re not really that either. Well, some of us are. Anyway, what we do know is that we learn how to make Television. How to write, produce, light, edit, and share video projects. Things like music videos, commercials, news programs, documentaries, web features, and short films. Some of the major projects we do every year are the DDC Awards Show, the Film Festival, and the Senior Showcase. We think our pathway is the best one in Nashville. And we’ve won awards that back up this claim. Now if we only knew what to call ourselves….





Pearl-Cohn named to Grammy Foundation Signature Schools List

Screen-Shot-2016-03-17-at-8.55.33-AMThe Grammy Foundation announced 13 U.S. schools have been selected as Grammy Signature Schools for 2016 and have been awarded cash grants totaling $61,000. This program recognizes top U.S. public high schools that make an outstanding commitment to music education during an academic school year. Each of the 13 Grammy Signature Schools will receive a custom award and a monetary grant to benefit its music program.

Included this year is Pearl-Cohn Entertainment Magnet High School, which is awarded the Grammy Signature Schools Enterprise Award and will receive $5,500.

“We created the Grammy Foundation’s Grammy Signature Schools initiative to highlight the excellent work being done through music programs at public high schools across the country, and since 1999, we have provided more than $1.3 million to close to 300 schools,” said Neil Portnow, President/ CEO of The Recording Academy and the Grammy Foundation. “We are proud to offer these financial resources to augment what are often limited budgets, so that teachers may continue to provide the enriching and lasting benefits of a musical education to their students.”

For more information about the Foundation, visit

Signarama Visits Digital Arts and Design Classes at McGavock

Screen Shot 2016-03-21 at 7.59.55 AM

Mr. Hinchman’s Digital Arts and Design II students at McGavock High School had the pleasure of hearing Greta Miller, of Signarama, speak about the graphic design industry in October. Ms. Miller, the production manager of the company, passed along valuable firsthand information to the students about the field and what it takes to become not only a graphic designer, but a highly-successful graphic designer. She also talked about the different software she uses on a daily basis, which is the same software the students use, and the importance of building relationships with customers.

McGavock students “rock” at Rocketown

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A group of students from McGavock’s audio production class had the opportunity to visit the full studio at Rocketown on a scheduled experiential learning day. With the prior help of teacher, Mr. Oquendo, the students were able to run a full session from beginning to end with little instruction.


They used production software, Logic Pro X, which they have been trained to use during class-time. All students involved helped write a script for a commercial that Rocketown will use in the future and on their website. Each student took a turn running Logic and being in the sound booth. Back at the full studio in McGavock, the students will finish their project by writing a jingle and editing what they produced.

Overton Student’s Work Featured in Two Science Publications

Overton High School senior Yasmin Alvarado-Rayo yasmin photois being published in the IEEE Robotics and Automation Magazine and Young Scientist journal for her work on a modular robotics kit that can be used to support STEM education.

Yasmin, pictured right, is a student in the Overton Academy of Health Sciences.

As part of the team at The School for Science and Math at Vanderbilt, she will share publication honors for “eSMAC: an Affordable Modular Robotic Kit for Integrated STEM Education.”

The rest of the team members for the publication include include: Vanderbilt postdoctoral student Ekawahyu Susilo, Vanderbilt undergraduate student Jianing Liu, Vanderbilt undergraduate student Ashley Melissa Peck, Hume-Foggg teacher Justin Montenegro, local high school teacher Mark Gonyea,  and Vanderbilt engineering faculty member Dr. Pietro Valdastri.

Yasmin worked in Vanderbilt’s STORM lab with Dr. Pietro Valdastri and her SSMV mentor was Dr. Stephanie Weeden-Wright.

Click here to visit the Young Scientist journal website.

Click here to visit the IEEE Robotics and Automation Magazine website.

Congrats, Yasmin!

Congratulations to the 2016 Academy Awards Nominees


The following categories will be decided through an anonymous online ballot


Academy Partnership of the Year, Arts, Media & Communications

  • Frist Center For the Visual Arts and the Academy of Art, Design, & Communication at Hillwood High School
  • Stones River National Battlefield and the CMT Academy of Digital Design & Communication at McGavock High School
  • Warner Music Nashville and the Academy of Entertainment Management at Pearl-Cohn Entertainment Magnet High School


Academy Partnership of the Year, Business, Marketing & IT

  • Bridgestone Americas, Inc. and the Academy of Entrepreneurship & Innovation at Maplewood High School
  • HCA IT&S and the Academy of Information Technology at Overton High School
  • The Tennessee Credit Union and the Tennessee Credit Union Academy of Business & Finance at Antioch High School


Academy Partnership of the Year, Engineering, Manufacturing & Industrial Technology

Presented by Nissan North America, Inc.

  • ACE Mentor and the Academy of Architecture & Construction at Cane Ridge High School
  • Cummins, Inc. and the Academy of Aviation and Transportation at McGavock High School
  • LP Corporation and the Academy of Alternative Energy, Sustainability & Logistics at Whites Creek High School


Academy Partnership of the Year, Hospitality & Tourism

  • Community Hospitality and the Academy of Business & Hospitality at Hillwood High School
  • Holiday Inn Express & Suites, Antioch and Academy of Hospitality & Marketing at Antioch High School
  • Omni Hotel and the Academy of Hospitality at Hunters Lane High School


Academy Partnership of the Year, Health & Public Services

  • American Red Cross and the Academy of Global Health & Science at Hillsboro High School
  • HCA/TriStar Health and the Academy of Health Science at Hillwood High School
  • Meharry Medical College and the Academy of Medical Science & Research at Glencliff High School


2016 Externship Project of the Year
Presented by The Memorial Foundation

  • Frist Center for the Visual Arts and the Academy of Art, Design, & Communication at Hillwood High School
  • Meharry Medical College and the Academy of Medical Science & Research at Glencliff High School
  • US Community Credit Union and the US Community Credit Union Academy of International Business & Communication at Hillsboro High School


Freshman Academy of the Year
Presented by Fifth Third

  • Hillwood Freshman Academy
  • Maplewood Freshman Academy
  • Stratford Freshman Academy


2016 Academy of the Year

  • Glencliff High School’s Hands On Nashville Academy of Environmental & Urban Planning
  • Hillwood High School’s Academy of Health Science
  • Maplewood High School’s Academy of Entrepreneurship & Innovation


The following categories will be decided by a judging panel of community leaders through blind vote.


Academy Teacher of the Year (CTE or Thematic Pathway)
Presented by Deloitte

  • Robert Kriebel with Antioch High School’s Tennessee Credit Union Academy of Business & Finance
  • Jeff Sherry with Hunters Lane High School’s Griffin Academy of Design & Technology
  • Jon Stephens with Stratford STEM Magnet High School’s Academy of National Safety & Security Technologies
  • Denise Wiggington with Overton High School’s Academy of Health Science
  • TJ Williams with Maplewood High School’s Academy of Entrepreneurship & Innovation


Academy Teacher of the Year (General Education)

  • Elizabeth Brewer with Glencliff High School’s Academy of Medical Science & Research
  • Sheree Cumberlander with Whites Creek High School’s Freshman Academy
  • Adam Lightman with McGavock High School’s Academy of Aviation & Transportation
  • Chad Prather with Pearl-Cohn Entertainment Magnet High School’s Academy of Entertainment Management
  • Laticia Skae with Hillsboro High School’s Academy of Global Health & Science


Academy Team Leader of the Year

  • Deante Alexander with Pearl-Cohn Entertainment Magnet High School’s Academy of Entertainment Management
  • Jeremiah Davis with Whites Creek High School’s Academy of Education & Law
  • Angela Lake with Maplewood High School’s Academy of Energy & Power
  • Martha Mitchell with McGavock High School’s CMT Academy of Digital Design & Communication
  • Jason Proffit with Hunters Lane High School’s Academy of Health & Human Science


Counselor of the Year

  • Amy LeVally, McGavock High School’s Academy of Aviation & Transportation
  • Stephanie Pate, Overton High School’s Academy of Engineering
  • Ashley Shaver, Hillwood High School’s Academy of Art, Design & Communication


Academy Coach of the Year 

  • Sonya Mansfield, Maplewood High School
  • Brad Meyers, Hunters Lane High School
  • Mary York, Overton High School


Academy Assistant Principal of the Year
Presented by Altria

  • Dr. Keely Jones-Mason, Maplewood High School’s Academy of Entrepreneurship & Innovation
  • Laura Lee Morin, McGavock High School’s Gaylord Entertainment Academy of Hospitality & Finance
  • Dr. Meghen Sanders, Pearl-Cohn Entertainment Magnet High School’s Academy of Entertainment Communication
  • Stephen Shaeffer, Overton High School’s Academy of Event Marketing and Musical Performance
  • Russell Young, Hunters Lane High School’s Academy of Health & Human Services


Executive Principal of the Year Presented by Altria

  • James Bailey, Whites Creek High School
  • Michael Steele, Stratford STEM Magnet High School
  • Sonia Stewart, Pearl-Cohn Entertainment Magnet High School



Glencliff High School sweeps ASCE bridge competition in 7 out of last 8 years.

Originally posted to Vanderbilt School of Engineering site. 

From left, Vanderbilt University School of Engineering’s Janey Camp; Christian Mejia, third place; Ivan Estrada, second place; Si Thu Min, third place; Glencliff High engineering teacher Edward Dunning; ASCE Nashville chapter’s Tony Snyder. (Heidi Hall/Vanderbilt University)

There’s not a lot of drama reflected in little plaques adorning the grand-prize trophy for Nashville’s largest high school-level bridge competition.

They show the award has lived at Glencliff High School for five years, then took a brief trip to Montgomery Bell Academy. But when the newest ones are added, they’ll chart the trophy’s journey back to Glencliff for 2015 and 2016.

Click here to see a photo gallery of Saturday’s competition.

The real drama was Saturday among the individual competitors, strategically placing colorful weights in a hanging basket attached to their model bridges, waiting for the inevitable spectacular collapse. The local American Society of Civil Engineers chapter distributed free basswood kits and instructions to high schools, and then students brought their finished work to the annual Music City Bridge Building Competition.

It was held at Vanderbilt University’s Laboratory for Systems Integrity and Reliability for the second consecutive year. Also for the consecutive year, the top three prizes all went to Glencliff High School students in Edward B. Dunning’s Principles of Engineering and Technology class.

“Both the students and the bridges are under stress during the testing,” Dunning joked. “But it is exciting. They learned a lot about platforms and trusses and then decided which ones they wanted to use.”

The winning students said Dunning makes learning civil engineering concepts fun.

“I came up with the ideas and asked Mr. Dunning if they were good,” said Glencliff sophomore Si Thu Min, who took first place with his bridge efficiency of 1,148.69. “I also looked at the bridges that former winners designed so I could see what they did.”

Once the bridges collapse under the weight — often sending wood shards flying — the students get to take the pieces home.

Janey Camp, research assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at Vanderbilt and a competition organizer, said she was thrilled to see students competing from as far away as Portland (TN) High School, plus more spectators this year.

Winners receive cash prizes and trophies, and the top two qualify for the international competition to be held in Chicago later this spring.

Second place went to Ivan Estrada and third place to Christian Mejia. Both are Glencliff freshman.

Other schools that participated Saturday were: Montgomery Bell Academy, Overton High School and Donelson Christian Academy.

Overton paving the way for Biliteracy

In world that’s globally connected at the push of a button, multi-cultural exposure is an invaluable asset to youth.

At Overton High School, students are being rewarded for breaking language barriers.

The Seal of Biliteracy is awarded to students who have mastered two languages.

The program is designed to place value on bilingual students’ skills and culture while encouraging them to seek academic success. It also gives them college and work force appeal.

Samantha Singer, an English teacher at Overton High School, is currently working with the program and hoping to expand to other Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools.

“The Seal of Biliteracy program fosters family engagement and community trust, while also assisting language acquisition in English and other academic areas,” says Singer.

More than 175 Overton students have applied for the Seal of Biliteracy award this year alone. This doubles the number of applicants from last year, proving the program’s success.

“With over 56 percent of Overton High School students speaking languages other than English at home, it is crucial that we, as educators and community members, work to reinforce the validity and importance of student’s cultural identity and language,” says Singer.

Singer believes this boosts students’ confidence by focusing on individual students rather than the school as a whole.

This program also builds community-wide awareness of the value bilingual students attain.

This program began in California and has spread across the United States. Overton High School is currently the only Tennessee school taking advantage of this program.

“As we work to build and expand the Seal of Biliteracy program in MNPS, we believe that students, families, school, and community partners will see the importance and benefits of recognizing and honoring Nashville’s linguistic diversity,” says Singer.

Whites Creek Students Visit Vanderbilt Wind-Solar Demo Site

Originally posted by Vanderbilt School of Engineering 

When Whites Creek High School students and teachers looked for a ground-mount solar cell installation to visit, they didn’t have to go far. It’s a mere 15 miles to the Vanderbilt School of Engineering’s wind-solar energy demonstration site at the top of Love Circle, one of the highest points in Nashville.

The Vanderbilt wind-solar alternative energy site offers a 4.8 kW (kilowatt) solar array and a 3kW wind turbine. The site was set up in 2012 by Professor Amrutur Anilkumar in collaboration with Nashville Metro Water Services. It has been used as a one-stop field teaching ground for wind and solar renewable energy facilities for both Vanderbilt engineering students and students from Nashville schools.

Eight teachers and 70 students representing Whites Creek’s Academy of Alternative Energy, Sustainability and Logistics explored the site Nov. 4 as part of a “field-based experiential day” of learning. The academy is a three-year program in which students study wind and solar energy, biodiesel and ethanol fuels, and nuclear energy, among other topics, and they have hands-on experience on a farm adjacent to the school.

In 2014, the academy won the Governor’s Environmental Stewardship Award for Excellence in Energy and Renewable Resources, a high-level state environmental prize that represents the academy’s efforts in building a future in alternative fuels.

Jason Carney, an energy consultant with the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, works with the academy as part of a graduate school project, and joined the students and teachers at the Love Circle site.

“I’m surveying how interested these students are in careers in renewable energy by exposure to photovoltaic (PV) and green economy curriculum, site visits, and the institutions and professions that support the industry,” Carney said.

Students got a rundown of the PV and turbine siting, energy estimation, facility design, installation, operation and other engineering issues related to the Love Circle site. Students were also referred to the public access site – VU/MWS Renewable Energy Showcase – to follow-up on the details.

“We broadened the scope of solar energy capture by introducing space-based solar energy capture and the latter concept led to multitudes of questions as the students followed handouts for both of these methodologies,” said Anilkumar, professor of the practice of mechanical engineering and director of the showcase wind and solar facilities.

Three Vanderbilt engineering students also were on hand to take questions and encourage pursuing engineering as a career. They were mechanical engineering seniors Robb Rutherford and Matthew Kelley, and computer engineering senior Mitchell Masia.

“I am very appreciative of Dr. Anilkumar and his students for being so flexible with their time and engaging with the students during our visit to the Love Circle site. I believe interest, engagement and real learning will follow when students are able to combine hands-on work with meeting and talking with professionals who do that work every day,” Carney said.

“The teachers were very interested in the presentations and were sure to take the experience back to their classrooms,” Anilkumar said. “Several students found it inspiring to talk directly with the engineering students about engineering as a career.

“It is extremely important that more young people from all demographics become familiar with the increasing interest in alternative energy technology. This technology has the potential to alleviate, if not solve, many of the world’s needs for reliable, sustainable power sources, yet much of our population have little to no concept of that possibility,” said Willie Sweet, Whites Creek academy teacher who specializes in automotive technology.

Sweet was joined by seven other teachers, Rayna Eberhart, Leigh Siegfried, Roosevelt Williamson, Rachel Amescua, Thommye Davis, Suzanne Dixon and Savington Nickens.
Sweet said teaching students about technology is one thing, seeing it in action and talking to experts “makes it real.”

“The evidence is in the many questions our students asked, and have continued to ask, since the visit to Love Circle,” Sweet said. “From experiences such as this, we may be able to inspire future innovators in the alternative energy field who will create more efficient and cost-effective technology to benefit all mankind.”