TEC-SMART students tell all

FONDA – Students at Fonda-Fultonville Central School District shared their TEC-SMART experience with the Board of Education Monday.

TEC-SMART is Hudson Valley Community College’s energy and technology training facility in Malta. The acronym stands for Training and Education Center for Semiconductor Manufacturing and Alternative and Renewable Technologies.

High school juniors John Oevering, Riley Cook and Austin Antis are enrolled in the Early College High School program at TEC-SMART.

The program has enrollees from 20 school districts in seven counties.

“It’s not just centralized to Saratoga County; it’s all the way up to Essex County and as far down as Montgomery County,” Oevering told the board.

TEC-SMART students work in classrooms and laboratories to learn about semiconductor manufacturing green technologies, including photo voltaic, home energy efficiency, geothermal, alternative fuels and wind energy. The program also includes courses in business and liberal arts, sciences, areas like English, psychology and math classes.

Antis explained what a regular school day is like for them.

“We get picked up [by bus] around 6 in the morning to head to TEC-SMART and when we arrive there we either have college classes or regular high school classes,” Antis said. “The high school classes we take there are English, Math and Science and it’s all combined into one [session]. We’ll do that for a few hours, then around 11 we’ll head back to our school and we’ll have lunch, history, gym or study hall for the last remainder of the day. Then after school we’ll probably attend our clubs or do something else like projects that we get for TEC-SMART to do with our laptops, since we’re allowed to take them home to do our work on.”

The students alternate high school classes and college classes on different days of the week. They receive college credit for their work while earning their high school credits for Regents diplomas, and they don’t have to pay any college tuition.

A $200,000 grant to the TEC-SMART program from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority was announced in January. The grant covers the cost of tuition, course development and equipment, such as the laptops the students use.

The students get to collaborate with students from neighboring districts and counties to discuss answers to energy, technology and engineering problems.

Cook explained that the program is different compared to attending high school.

“Our on-site collaboration is a little different than a typical classroom,” Cook said. “We don’t use a pencil and paper as much, we mostly get in groups and use the laptops that we got to work on projects about things that are going on in the world, and we talk about current events. We also travel to different places for projects. It’s a lot more hands-on.”

Oevering said he doesn’t think the program is too overwhelming because he still has time to participate in an after-school IT program and be a volunteer firefighter.

“Even though we’re taking college-level classes along with our high school classes, it’s not so overwhelming that we can’t do things outside of school, or even during school,” Oevering said.

He said the program is a great opportunity for him and the rest of the enrolled students.

“In just TEC-SMART alone we’ll have 25 college credits,” he said. “After the program you could either go into a two-year or four-year school. Basically we could take one semester of college after high school and get a business degree all because of TEC-SMART. It’s a great opportunity.”

F-FCS Superintendent Ray Colucciello praised the students for their hard work in the program and said the Pathways in Technology grant program, which was announced last August, is going to be modeled after TEC-SMART.

P-Tech is a $2.4 million state grant that was awarded to the Hamilton Fulton Montgomery Board of Cooperative Educational Services, its component school districts, Fulton-Montgomery Community College and 16 regional businesses. Students in the HFM BOCES region will be chosen to participate in the program. P-Tech will help students prepare for high-skill jobs, including health care, advanced manufacturing, engineering and technology and business management. They will be able to earn an associate degree tuition-free from FMCC.

Elizabeth Donovan, principal of the middle school, said she has started talking to seventh and eighth-grade students about P-Tech, since they’ll be eligible to start the program next year.

“Depending on the student, they can be in the program for four, five, six years, and by the end of their term, they’ll have a Regents Diploma plus an Associate’s Degree,” Donovan said. “The program is partnered with regional businesses, and all of those ninth graders entering high school are eligible to apply for it. P-Tech is set up to house 50 students regionally, so 13 participating school districts.

We’re looking to send five [FFCS] students. Students would pick an area they’re interested in and they’ll be fully capable of getting the Regents Diploma and an Associate’s Degree in four to six years.”

Oevering said any program similar to TEC-SMART will be good for students.

“We don’t all work on the same projects, the program is engineered for the individual student,” he said. “Any program designed like that is better, in my opinion.”