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Saghalie Middle School scores grant for engineering program

Saghalie Middle School has scored a major technological grant.

The school was awarded a $22,000 grant to start a pre-engineering program. The money will primarily go toward special engineering computers and software, which can cost two to three times as much as a standard computer the district buys for between $900 and $1,000, said Nancy Hawkins, director of career and technical education. The grant was awarded by the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI).

The pre-engineering program is a precursor to the high school level program at Decatur High School, which has registered about 140 students each year. The Decatur program is in its second year and runs both semesters.

The Saghalie program, called Gateway to Technology, will start the second semester this school year.

The class will teach all aspects of engineering, including automation and robotics, design and modeling, computer software and hands-on activities including working with "Legos on steriods," as Hawkins called them.

The program will also teach students about aerospace engineering — something that the high school course covers.

"They will really have to understand the science and math of it," Hawkins said. "There are several practical problems they will go through. We hope they see the hands-on connection."

The program will start with one class, but will expand if there is an interest.

Middle school students will also visit the high school program to understand where the program will take them in the future.

The district applied for the grant in August.

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