For more than nine years, Shadow Ridge High School students have had a unique opportunity not afforded at other schools: to take part in an immersive architecture program that prepares them for a career and earns them college credits.
Created by teacher Scott Thomas, the Signature Architecture Program (SAP) at Shadow Ridge is a four-year program of study in residential, commercial, structural steel detailing/modeling, civil and geographic information system (GIS) subjects. The SAP integrates STEM subjects along with other academic subjects to develop “hands-on” industry-standard projects to demonstrate academic relevance to real world problem solving.
The program has attracted students from other schools in and outside the Dysart Unified School District, including students from West-MEC interested in taking architecture courses. Dual-enrollment credits from Glendale Community College also are offered for completing the courses.
The lessons and tools provided to students are directly applied to work with clients and mentors like Toll Brothers Homebuilders on floor plans, foundation plans, exterior and interior elevations, site plans, electrical plans and cost estimating.
For some students, SAP has proven to be more than just an elective course, it has been a transformational experience.
James Moore is a senior at Shadow Ridge and has cerebral palsy. Normally, his physical limitations would prohibit him from taking part in architectural design and drafting, but Scott Thomas discovered that, with use of retinal scanning technology and CAD software such as Softplan Architectural Design, the sky was the limit for James. The retinal scanners follow the movement of James’ eyes to move the computer’s cursor, allowing James to draw architectural designs, floor plans and other basic illustrations.
“When James was able to draw that first wall utilizing the retinal scanner and design software, he looked up at me and smiled,” says Thomas. “I thought to myself that it can’t get any better than that, and I could retire. But, but of course I won’t because there is still so much work to be done.”
Thanks to a $2,500 STEM mini-grant from APS and the Phoenix Suns, Thomas will be able to purchase two additional retinal scanners to make this technology available to all SAP students and any other student wishing to work with the SAP at Shadow Ridge High School.
“What is being done at Shadow Ridge is exactly what this STEM mini-grant program was created for,” says Mallory Lebovitz, Senior Corporate Giving Specialist at APS. “This retinal scanning technology opens opportunities for students like James, and allows other students to be even more creative and innovative in their architectural education. Funding these hands-on projects helps connect concepts students learn in class to the real, life-changing impact that technology can have on our society. The goal of this program is to spark the curiosity of the next Edison or Jobs.”
Beyond the classroom, Thomas hopes to fine-tune the marriage between the retinal and architectural design software so that individuals with physical disabilities, wounded veterans and others have opportunities to pursue careers where the technology can be utilized.
“Seeing James’ progress and excitement using this technology has inspired me to dig deeper and think about where else this could be used,” said Thomas. “APS and the Suns have paved the way in how corporations can make a lasting impact on students’ futures, providing innovative opportunities that would not be afforded otherwise.”