UA Little Rock to Mentor Little Rock School District Students Through New Partnership

Original article can be found here: https://ualr.edu/news/2024/03/15/new-skills/

Faculty, staff and guest of UA Little Rock and the Little Rock School District participate in a press conference at Metropolitan Career-Technical Center to announce a new partnership where LRSD high school students will learn valuable new skills from UA Little Rock’s Emerging Analytics Center, a research center that focuses on visualization, augmented and virtual realities, and interactive technologies. UA Little Rock students who work at the Emerging Analytics Center will mentor LRSD students attending the Metropolitan Career-Technical Center. Photo by Benjamin Krain

Little Rock School District (LRSD) students are set to embark on an innovative educational journey to learn advanced tech skills, thanks to a new partnership between the University of Arkansas at Little Rock (UA Little Rock) and LRSD.

This unique collaboration will see college students from UA Little Rock’s Emerging Analytics Center (EAC), a research center that focuses on visualization, augmented and virtual realities, and interactive technologies, sharing their expertise with LRSD students attending the Metropolitan Career-Technical Center (Metro), a campus that prepares students for high-wage, high-demand careers through hands-on learning and realistic technical training.

This innovative partnership exemplifies the power of collaboration between academia and industry to equip students with the skills and knowledge needed to succeed in today’s dynamic workforce. Partnerships like these help Little Rock School District prepare students to tackle the challenges of higher education and the workforce with confidence and competence, according to Dr. Jermall Wright, superintendent of Little Rock School District.

“We understand that achieving these objectives requires robust partnerships,” Wright said. “We firmly believe that collaboration with industry leaders, community stakeholders, and educational institutions is essential in providing our students with well-rounded and relevant educational opportunities.”

The collaboration provides LRSD students with the chance to work alongside students and faculty from UA Little Rock’s EAC. High school students will receive mentorship and training in programs like Unity, 3D Studio Max, and Adobe Creative Cloud.

“These interactions provide insights and inspirations in a way that textbooks and lectures simply cannot,” UA Little Rock Provost Ann Bain said. “This partnership will help UA Little Rock students learn how to communicate complex ideas in simpler terms, enhancing their ability to lead, to empathize, and to inspire. These are soft skills that are crucial in today’s workforce. Through this program, our students are preparing to be not just better employers but future leaders.”

During a tour of the UA Little Rock Donaghey College of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (DCSTEM), Regina Howard, instructor for the networking and cybersecurity pathway at Metro, identified a trip to the Emerging Analytics Center as the highlight of the tour. Later, Metro students had the opportunity to participate in a pilot Intro to Project 360 course, where they learned how to develop 360-degree virtual reality tours with guidance from EAC mentors.

“The demand for these types of applications increased after the pandemic,” Howard said. “We are very appreciative to the EAC for providing us with not only field experiences but project opportunities. Profession-based learning allows students to immerse themselves in projects they are passionate about. This approach to learning creates a dynamic and exciting energy between partners, students, and instructors.”

Trelan Washington, a senior at Little Rock Central High School who has been taking classes at Metro for three years in the networking and cybersecurity pathway, had the opportunity to learn valuable tech skills by developing a virtual reality tour of the automotive classroom at Metro along with a racing game embedded in the tour.

Little Rock Central High student Trepan Washington demonstrates an educational video game he created while working through a partnership with UA Little Rock and the Little Rock School District during a press conference announcing the new partnership where UA Little Rock students who work at the Emerging Analytics Center will mentor LRSD students attending the Metropolitan Career-Technical Center. Photo by Benjamin Krain

“I got the idea of creating a 360-degree tour after our class took a field trip to UA Little Rock, and I saw all their 360 tours,” Washington said. “Through the making of this project, I did learn a lot. I better acquainted myself with Unity and the C# language. I also learned about GitHub and the importance of backing up your work.”

After showing the audience a demonstration of his virtual tour and racing game, Washington announced that he has chosen to attend UA Little Rock in the fall.

“His commitment to academic excellence has always been stellar,” Howard said of Washington. “This project allowed him to increase his technical skill set and improve his soft skills. While working on Project 360, Tre has gone from being reserved to being more assertive in expressing his opinions and advocating for solutions. Last fall, Tre confidently presented at UA Little Rock’s DCSTEM Nerd Night.”

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