By Tyler Leeds

The Bulletin

With the help of a major grant, students in the Sisters School District will have access to new tools and courses aimed at building everything from houses to robots.

The state Bureau of Labor and Industries and the Oregon Department of Education awarded the district a nearly $200,000 Career and Technical Education Revitalization grant to expand its offerings in engineering, manufacturing and design.

The Jefferson County School District received an award of $30,000 to support its natural resources program.

The goal of the grant program, which earlier this school year brought $700,000 to Bend and Redmond, is to expand programs tied directly to growing industries such as engineering, construction and robotics.

“For most of these grants, they’re going to the restoration of programs,” said Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian. “Fifteen or so years ago, we began systematically eliminating career education from middle and high schools.”

Avakian noted that today’s career and technical education courses are at a level that seems to go beyond the typical realm of high school.

“These are 21st-century skill sets that are in high demand by Oregon industry and nationwide,” Avakian said.

In Sisters, students will receive access to a 3-D printer and the computer-aided design software needed to operate it. Additionally, the grant provides funding for teacher training and tools for programs in architecture, engineering, computer programming, manufacturing and other fields.

“This is beefing up our programs and adding new services, so we’re just thrilled,” said Sisters Superintendent Jim Golden. “We’re replacing an entire computer lab and will build an outdoor covered workspace so students can frame and put together houses through the year. We’re excited — especially in a time of very, very difficult budgets, this is a real boost.”

Golden noted that some of the award will be used to support work in robotics pegged to Project Lead the Way, an Indianapolis-based nonprofit that has developed STEM — science, technology, engineering and math — programs used across the nation.

Jefferson County award

In Jefferson County, the district’s $30,000 award is being pooled with other grants to continue the natural resources program, which includes opportunities for students to shadow professionals in the field.

“The Jefferson County program is incredibly important, as it supports traditional Oregon industries of agriculture, timber and others,” Avakian said. “Of note, this whole effort started a few years back in a cafeteria in Prineville, where I was talking to some teachers and parents about public education. They brought up the fact that their FFA program would not make it because of lost support. That’s when we decided to launch our program.”

— Reporter: 541-633-2160,