In December 2016, the Amon G. Carter Foundation awarded a $95,000 grant to Tarrant County College Foundation to establish the Senior Capstone Program of the Texas Academy of Biomedical Sciences (TABS) Early College High School at TCC Trinity River. The program provides the opportunity for senior TABS students to examine and research issues within the community related to science and technology so they may design and implement a solution (Capstone Project) to a specific challenge/issue. After six months of planning, procuring equipment and preparing TABS teachers, the Senior Capstone Program became operational during the 2017-2018 academic year. This past May, the first class of Senior Capstone Program students graduated with a high school diploma and many with an Associate of Science degree.
The Senior Capstone Program is modeled after the NuVu Studio in Cambridge Mass., where students have the opportunity to explore their interests beyond a set curriculum. The studio design allows coaches (instructors) to guide students in thinking “outside of the box,” and to imagine endless possibilities to solving problems. “There were no rubrics or teacher-enforced checkpoints. Our projects relied on intrinsic motivation to complete, allowing us to think freely and find innovative ways to complete our projects,” said Rebeca Galindo, Senior Capstone Program participant and May 2018 TABS graduate.
Jay Kurima, science instructor at TABS, presented the idea of incorporating this program and style of learning environment to the school's administrative team. After gaining approval from the TABS principal, Kurima – along with Liz Sisk, senior donor relations officer at the TCC Foundation, developed a proposal to fund the program.
When the Amon G. Carter Foundation approved the funding request, it was time to put all the pieces together and set it in motion. “This grant established the Senior Capstone Program at TABS and has been a game-changer for the program. We are so pleased to offer the senior TABS students a robust, independent research and design project; this grant has allowed TABS to create one of the best makerspaces in the area, for use by all TABS students. We could not be more grateful for this support that has served to enhance and strengthen the TABS program,” said Kurima.
Senior Capstone Program participants learned innovative maker technologies like 3-D printing, laser cutting, micro controllers and CNC. Students in the program have the opportunity to build relationships with their community, as they collaborated with companies and employees to solve real-world problems. “The IDEAS class (Senior Capstone Program) allowed me to think independently and work through projects. This was extremely valuable because it was modeled after real- life situations,” said Galindo. This past year, students from the Senior Capstone Program created the light and color exhibits at the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History; they also worked with the Tarrant Area Food Bank. According to Kurima, students in next year’s program will have the opportunity to work with Gamestop and MHMR to develop alternative input devices for gamers with disabilities.
The future looks bright for Galindo, who continues her education at the University of North Texas majoring in Public Health, and for all Capstone program participants. “The support of the Amon G. Carter Foundation helped us think big,” said Kurima. “And the students are the beneficiaries.”