By Dolly Rairigh Glass

Last month, Orange County Public Schools Tech Centers opened its doors to welcome the first students to the Launch Site, a new state-of-the-art facility at the Mid Florida Campus, featuring a specialized modeling and simulation program.

Members of the Team Orlando Board of Directors were invited to the Launch Site last month to tour the center and visit with program chair, Alan Lynch.

The planning for the program, however, had been in the works for several years, and in order to ensure the facility would meet the future needs of the workforce, OCPS reached out to several companies and organizations to form a partnership, realizing that together, they could focus on how to best prepare their students for careers in modeling and simulation.

Team Orlando was one of those partners. “We had always had some connection to Team Orlando, even at our Orlando Campus (their sister school),” said Alan Lynch, program chair. “Last year’s Simulation Summit was our final pitch to verify with industry what we were thinking and planning, and that’s where the partnership was solidified. We secured a lot of partners at that event.”

Members of the Team Orlando Board of Directors were invited to the Launch Site to tour the center and visit with Lynch last month. They received a facility capabilities briefing, and the discussions ranged from hiring opportunities for graduates to students working on actual simulation projects for Team Orlando.

“This is the perfect example of how industry drives training needs that OCPS Tech Centers seeks to meet,” said Dr. Michael Armbruster, senior executive director, Career and Technical Education. “This collaboration exemplifies the power of partnerships. It’s a beautiful thing.”

“The Launch Site is an outstanding facility, and we’re excited to know that their focus will be working to develop people with the technical expertise that our industry will be able to use,” said Diana Teel, Industry Outreach Program Manager for NAWCTSD.

Lynch described some of the features of Launch Site: a highlight is a motion capture stage, which is 50 feet by 100 feet and will be the largest on the east coast once the set up is complete. He also said they’ll be adding a likeness capture system to make digital characters and a 3D scanner for building out environments or scanning them.

Partners will play an important role in the future of the Launch Site and for that reason, Lynch said they are always looking to add them. In the beginning, as they worked on their set up and then into their construction, the group of partners was smaller, but now that they are up to about 90 percent of facility completeness, they’re ready to continue to build that group.

“We’re not all about just teaching the technical skills here,” Lynch said. “Some of the most important skills our partners will help teach our students are the soft skills: the ability to work with a project manager and how best to work with clients are skills we’re partnering with companies to develop.”

One of the unique features about the partnership will be the ability to reach out to Lynch, the other teachers and students, to request their work on a project. These real-world opportunities allow students to hone their skills, while having professional supervision and using top of the line equipment. Lynch said he wouldn’t recommend this for a very important or time-crunched project, but for a project where time is not the first priority, it’s a great way for the students to get experience and for partners to get some help.

When the students aren’t working on partner projects, they will be working on virtual field trips from a K-12 history book. They’ll be choosing paragraphs out of a history book, expanding on it and building out the virtual environment, giving students the opportunity to get out and “walk around” during a certain period or event in history.

“Orange County is a one to one school district, so they have laptops for digital curriculum, but what we have found is there’s not a whole lot of available curriculum,” Lynch said. “We want to push military tactics in simulation and those kinds of teaching standards, and evolve it into the classroom of the future. “The K-12 students that choose to go into the military will already be accustomed to the military’s practice of using simulation in the workforce.”

The Launch Site is an adult program, however high school students, whether traditional, home-schooled or virtual school can dual enroll.

“We have the facilities, and our facilities are for teaching students,” Lynch said. “Workers for simulation companies are our main products, so we’re really focused on getting quality graduates out and working.”

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