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Dos Pueblos High to Celebrate Completion of Elings Center for Engineering Education

Benefactor Dr. Virgil Elings will perform the honors during a public ribbon-cutting ceremony on Saturday

Dr. Virgil Elings, who donated $1 million to the Dos Pueblos Engineering Academy, will cut the ceremonial ribbon at 4 p.m. Saturday at Dos Pueblos High School, signaling completion of the $6 million facility, built by Schipper Construction, and kicking off the long-awaited opening of the Elings Center for Engineering Education. The public is invited.

Funding of $3 million came from a 2007 state grant, and a matching amount of $3 million was raised in a capital campaign spearheaded by the Dos Pueblos Engineering Academy Foundation, a dedicated parent group that now raises the annual operating budget for the academy.

“The new facility will give the Engineering Academy the equipment and space to make four-year project-based education a reality,” said an enthusiastic Amir Abo-Shaeer, founder and director of the Dos Pueblos Engineering Academy. “The DPEA will be a model for the future of education, and we will use the Elings Center for community outreach and teacher training. I can’t wait to get in there and start working!

“This could not have happened without all the volunteers, parents, friends, corporate sponsors, and district and county supporters who have been with me through this intense and exciting period.”

Abo-Shaeer received a 2010 MacArthur Foundation Fellowship in recognition of his innovative ideas and pioneering efforts to transform secondary education.

“I am very proud of what the students and staff have accomplished,” said Dr. David Cash, superintendent of the Santa Barbara Unified School District. “The program makes a statement for relevant curriculum to get students engaged with real ‘contextualized learning.’ The nice new facility says to students and the community that the program is important. What happens inside the building will excite students.”

He said he hopes the concept of the Engineering Academy and other significant programs in the school district will expand into the community far beyond Dos Pueblos High School.

“Expanding into the new building will encourage a deeper study of not only engineering, but also creativity,” Cash said.

The Engineering Academy operates under the umbrella of the Santa Barbara County Education Office’s Regional Occupational Programs, which provide career education on local campuses.

“We are very proud of the amazing student outcomes Mr. Abo-Shaeer has been able to accomplish with the academy to date, and we are confident this new facility will vastly expand opportunities for student learning, which is the bottom line for all of us,” Principal Shawn Carey said. “We are so thrilled to be opening the Elings Center for Engineering Education in order to accommodate the expanding Dos Pueblos High School Engineering Academy.

“The academy offers students a transformative educational experience based on a vision of integrated, project-based learning that equips students with the skills they need to pursue success in a variety of 21st-century careers. The new facility is not only expressly designed to meet the needs of the academy students, but will allow us to extend the benefits of the academy experience to more than 400 students over the next four years. I am confident we can expect even stronger learning outcomes, community partnerships and program diversity as a result.”

The new facility, named in honor of Dr. Virgil Elings, reflects his belief in creative learning opportunities.

“Life is about opportunities and taking advantage of them,” Elings said. “I am trying to help make opportunities come true. The Engineering Academy is all about that. Amir (Abo-Shaeer) knows his students have to take a lot of tests, and that’s reality. But outside of that, he makes sure they actually get educated. ‘Educated’ is not passing a test.”

His advice to students: “Learn more math. It is the one kind of book learning that I believe in because it is useful in so many areas like engineering, physics and everyday life. Amir and the Engineering Academy understand this.”

Elings is a UCSB professor emeritus, inventor, businessman and community leader. He founded Digital Instruments, a company focused on developing and manufacturing custom electronic applications.

Raytheon, a major corporate sponsor of the capital campaign, has also provided DPEA with volunteer technical mentors.

“Raytheon’s partnership with the Dos Pueblos Engineering Academy program is a model for effective industry/community collaboration in the area of STEM education,” said Pete Gould, vice president of engineering for Raytheon Space and Airborne Systems. “The unique, hands-on curriculum offered by the academy furthers our mission of engaging and inspiring tomorrow’s innovators today. We look forward to helping them develop our future technology leaders for years to come.”

Raytheon provided $175,000 for construction of the new Elings Center for Engineering Education. In honor of Raytheon’s support of the academy, the electrical engineering classroom in the Elings Center is named the Raytheon Electrical Engineering Laboratory.

In 2011, the Dos Pueblos Engineering Academy received a grant of $250,000 toward the purchase of machinery and capital equipment for the new center from the Change Happens Foundation. In recognition of the grant, the conference room in the new facility is named the Change Happens Meeting Room.

The mission of the Change Happens Foundation is to act as a meaningful catalyst toward positive change on a global level. The foundation funds the development and implementation of innovative technology and progressive ideas to generate a positive force for change.

“The Change Happens Foundation is very pleased to support the Dos Pueblos Engineering Academy Foundation,” said Doug Troxel, president and CEO of Change Happens. “With DPEA addressing both of Change Happens Foundation’s targets of science and education in one public facility, we feel doubly rewarded for assisting in this project.”

Don and Linda Rose’s daughter Lindsay would have been a senior in the academy this year. Lindsay died in a tragic surfing accident in April 2009. The Rose family requested that in lieu of flowers, donations be directed to the DPEA capital campaign, which resulted in an outpouring of community support. The foundation expressed gratitude to Lindsay’s parents for ensuring that Lindsay will forever be a part of the DPEA family by allowing the mechanical engineering classroom in the Elings Center for Engineering Education to be named in her memory.

“Lindsay saw the outreach program the robotics class did at La Colina Junior High and came home and said she wanted to build a robot,” Don and Linda Rose said. “We were surprised and asked her several times if she was sure, that it was a four-year commitment. Lindsay enjoyed the hands-on aspect of the Engineering Physics class. She was proud to be part of the Engineering Academy and excited about the new building.

“We recently found a note she had written: ‘Mr. Shaeer promised we could build a non-Newtonian fluid pool if the Engineering Academy is built!’ Lindsay embraced all of life’s opportunities and had a great enthusiasm for learning. Lindsay’s life touched many people in our community. Because of their generous contributions to the Engineering Academy in Lindsay’s memory, we are able to establish the Lindsay Rose Mechanical Engineering Lab as a memorial to her.”

Parking for those attending the ribbon-cutting ceremony will be available in the lot at the corner of Alameda Avenue and Cathedral Oaks. Student guides will direct guests to the site. After the ribbon cutting, light refreshments will be served and guests are encouraged to tour the Elings Center for Engineering Education.

The Dos Pueblos Engineering Academy provides an engineering program designed for secondary students. Its initial course was offered during the 2002-03 school year. The capstone senior-level ROP Robotics course, offered by the Santa Barbara County Education Office ROP program, was added in 2005. DPEA’s broad base of community support includes UCSB, SBCC and local industry partners. The DPEA is a public school program, operating on campus at Dos Pueblos High School, 7266 Alameda Ave. in Goleta.

Click here for more information about the Engineering Academy.

— Barbara Keyani is the administrative services and communications coordinator for the Santa Barbara Unified School District.

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