Highland Park school officials announced the appointment of Dr. Geoffrey Orsak as executive director of the Moody Innovation Institute.
The institute, which is currently in the design and planning phase, will focus on science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics (STEAM) education in HPISD. It will be funded by a $5.8 million grant that the Moody Foundation gave to the Highland Park Education Foundation in August 2016.
Orsak is the former Dean of the Lyle School of Engineering at SMU.
“Dr. Orsak is a perfect fit for this position not only because of his demonstrated ability to execute bold ideas and engage communities, but because of his deep and profound passion for K-12 education,” HPISD Superintendent Dr. Tom Trigg said. “The Moody Innovation Institute will provide learning opportunities in STEAM subjects for every HPISD student, and Dr. Orsak’s scientific and technical expertise and experience in innovative learning programs will help launch this program.”
The Moody Innovation Institute will work to advance teacher professional development and a cross-disciplinary alignment of STEAM curricula in grades K-12. The grant it received will help establish the Moody Advanced Professional Studies Center (MAPS), which will serve upper grade level students in a modern, professional, business setting. Students will work with business and community partners and be mentored by actual employers in finding solutions to real-world problems
Orsak was one of the very first advocates in the country for including engineering in K-12 curricula with the purpose of teaching creativity and design while simultaneously bringing excitement to math and science. The Infinity Project, which Dr. Orsak both created and led, is today serving pre-college students in approximately 40 states and six countries. Before joining HPISD, Dr. Orsak served as the Executive Director of the Texas Research Alliance.
“I am honored by the opportunity that HPISD and the HP Education Foundation have extended to me,” Orsak said. “I am excited to be part of such a dynamic and ambitious organization with incredibly worthy goals.” .
As an educator, Orsak was selected as the first ever national “Educator of the Year” in science and engineering by the technology magazine, EE Times. He has also received numerous teaching awards from his peers and his students.
Orsak led a team that developed the first collaborative Skunk Works Teaching Lab in the nation based on the innovative practices of the iconic and top-secret Skunk Works in Palmdale, CA, a recipient of the National Medal of Technology and Innovation in 2007. He also led the effort to bring the impactful TED conference to Dallas branded as TEDxSMU and created the first TED program for kids, TEDxKIDS.