Vista AST Brings STEM Projects to 800 Students

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – The forced implementation of distance learning and new technologies in schools driven by COVID-19 had a profound impact on Vista AST the last two years, reports Julie Michael Smith, vice president.

A $140,000 grant from the Ohio Department of Education allowed Vista to pilot STEM and entrepreneurship projects in the Youngstown City School District and all Columbiana County districts through its Invent2Make program.

More than 800 middle school students and 20 teachers remotely completed projects such as learning to compost and recycle, building Mars rovers, writing coding applications and creating puppets using 3D printers and laser cutters. The projects related lessons to real-world scenarios and career possibilities, Smith says.

“Education has changed, from focusing on the three R’s and mandated testing to greater emphasis on career exploration and preparing for careers that are yet to exist,” she says. “The rapid developments in technology, fluidity in the job market, increasing flexibility of workers to work anytime, anywhere and growth in entrepreneurial opportunities is creating a sea change in education.”

Vista, in collaboration with America Makes, trained more than 20 teachers at 10 Ohio high schools who received 3D printers funded by a grant from the office of Gov. Mike DeWine.

“As we emerge from this pandemic, we see a greater interest and willingness by schools to integrate new technologies, try innovative programming and engage more with community partners,” Smith says. “I see this as a ‘silver lining’ of COVID.”

In 2021, Vista welcomed Elijah Stambaugh, who leads sales and marketing. Stambaugh founded Lightning Grader, an educational assessment technology, that he sold to Illuminate Education Inc.

With new product offerings and enhanced sales capacity, Vista looks to expand its market beyond the region by continuing to invest in its virtual learning environment, Smith says.