MAPS Center Offers College-Level Classes, Expert Speakers

The new Moody Advanced Professional Studies (MAPS) Center in Highland Park High School offers students the opportunity to take college-level classes and learn from experts in the fields of science, technology, engineering, the arts, math (STEAM), and business.

Juniors and seniors get the opportunity to combine traditional coursework with college-level classes, including business design and leadership, and engineering design.

The MAPS Center has 10 3D printers, six plug-and-play monitors for students to work collaboratively on projects, up-to-date software, a laser etcher and cutter, and other technology. Students began using the center this fall.

The business design and leadership class incorporates entrepreneurship, AP Microeconomics, and Economics Advanced Studies, and the Engineering Design class combines the practices and procedures used in engineering and in making aesthetic decisions.

“You’d have to be crazy to put engineering and design in the same class at the same time unless you wanted to do something remarkable,” Moody Innovation Institute executive director Geoffrey Orsak said. “We’re mixing two classes at the same time, so (students) can see how these two ideas intersect together.”

MAPS Director Michael Warren said the district developed the curriculum and built the space based on student interests and preparing them for the workforce.

“It takes a lot of support and buy-in from more than the school district,” Warren said. “It leans on the support of the community; it leans on the support of professionals.”

MAPS Business Design and Leadership teacher Jerry Howland said the new curriculum and facility allows him to take a different approach with his students.

“We try to bring a lot of guest speakers in from the business world,” Howland said. “I feel I’m a better teacher.”

Lauren Hickey, a student, said she enjoys the speakers and experience the MAPS Center offers.

“It provides a different learning experience than any other class,” Hickey said. “It’s an interactive experience.”

Adelaide Aiken said she uses programs like the 3D modeling program SketchUp, MATLAB, Adobe Photoshop, and InDesign in her Engineering Design class.

The center is also home to the EarthX globe until around February.

“Our hope is (students) can use (the globe) in their lessons,” STEAM Coach Ericca Vandagriff said. The globe can enhance lessons on a wide range of topics, from climate to bird migration.

Original funding for the MAPS program came in the form of a $5.8 million STEAM grant from the Moody Foundation.

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Rachel Snyder

Rachel Snyder, former deputy editor at People Newspapers, joined the staff in 2019, returning to her native Dallas-Fort Worth after starting her career at community newspapers in Oklahoma. One of her stories won first place in its category in the Oklahoma Press Association’s Better Newspaper Contest in 2018. She’s a fan of puns and community journalism, not necessarily in that order.

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