The National Center for Simulation (NCS) and Dignitas Technologies recently collaborated to engage, inspire and financially support the future modeling and simulation workforce at Crooms Academy of Information Technology (Crooms AOIT).
For the past 13 years, the Crooms AOIT Business Advisory Council (BAC) has organized TechFest, an educational fundraising event, to raise funds for scholarships and to support career and college-related activities for their students. This year, TechFest XIII, which took place March 14, encouraged community guests and parents to join the students in learning opportunities that included keynote speakers, workshops and interactions with industry members in the exhibit hall.
“National Center for Simulation serves on the Crooms AOIT BAC and has not missed a TechFest yet!” said Hank Okraski, NCS board member and chair for the Education and Workforce Development Committee. “We not only participate as a sponsor for TechFest, but every year we set up a booth on the exhibit floor to educate students and families about the many high-tech career opportunities in the modeling, simulation and training industry (MS&T). It’s so important to continue to share the need and opportunity to our students.”
Located in Sanford, Florida, Crooms AOIT offers 687 high school students an opportunity to learn through specialization in programming, multimedia design technology, game and simulation, network systems technologies and cybersecurity.
Elizabeth Burch, president and CEO of Dignitas Technologies, a small woman-owned business, is one of the NCS member companies that actively supports STEM initiatives in the schools through events like TechFest, and also provides internship opportunities to students.
“We find great benefit in being involved in STEM-related events with the high schools because it gives us the opportunity to encourage and influence our younger generation of future engineers, as well as help them devise paths and direction for their careers,” Burch said. “It also gives us the opportunity as a business to meet and potentially hire and help grow our future employees.”
Dignitas employees, including a former Crooms AOIT graduate, set up two virtual reality training systems. Students and community members had the opportunity to experience sitting in the cockpit of a helicopter and understand more clearly how industry uses simulation to train helicopter maintenance technicians. Students also had the opportunity to “play in the dirt” through their interaction with a construction equipment virtual reality trainer.
“The hands-on experience provided the opportunity to ask questions about careers from the simulation user and creators’ perspectives,” Okraski added. “National Center for Simulation and Dignitas Technologies not only engaged and inspired the future MS&T workforce, but we left TechFest XIII inspired by the future workforce!”
Aside from working alongside the schools, NCS also offers scholarship opportunities to seniors graduating from several high schools and technical schools across Central Florida, including Crooms AOIT. At least one senior from Crooms AOIT will be awarded a $1000 scholarship based on a student application process.