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The Path To Innovation

At first glance, Craig Fox looks like most of the La Salle College High School students who have shown up on a Monday night to introduce and tout the school’s innovative and forward-thinking science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) programs to potential middle school parents and students. 

It’s only when he starts talking to those parents and students that you realize that he’s there not just to explain the technological aspects of some of the nearly 150 electives offered to students at the school.  

He’s there as a prime example of the schools’ culture of giving back, and to personify where those STEM courses might lead. 

Fox, 20, graduated from La Salle in 2019 and is entering his senior year at Temple University on a full scholarship. Those numbers only add up when it is disclosed that he graduated La Salle in 2019 with enough advanced credits to enter Temple as a Junior.  A data science major, decided to stay in college for three years because he wanted to work in their research department (and get paid for it) while attending school. 

His research? 

“It’s high-performance computing, virtual reality, neuroscience simulator,’’ he said. 

Got it? 

“In my job, the next oldest person is five years older than me,’’ he said.  

Computer Science, Engineering, Technology, Multimedia Design and Robotics – the families that attended the school’s recent STEM Night saw an aspect of La Salle that was as exciting and imaginative as any play made in the school’s football defeat of St. Joseph Prep a few days before. Indeed, the presentation that night in the school’s newly created WEXPtv Content Creation Lab featured teams of students filming that game, editing its highlights into exciting slow motion and real time replays, and offering interviews and analysis. 

With fundraising that toppled $4.6 million in 2021 despite a pandemic, La Salle is aggressively seeking to equip its current student body – which includes its largest freshman class ever -- with tomorrow’s skill sets. Infused with a robust mentoring program that features experts from places like Comcast and Lockheed Martin, the school has invested more than $75,000 in robotics equipment to not only respond to current trends in the job marketplace, but anticipate what the future might hold for them.  

“We are trying to meet students where they are and also trying to take it to another level where we build those skills for whatever future is out there,’’ says Kurt Schollin, the Director of Digital Learning in La Salle’s Innovation & Design Department. “We always talk to the students about how the jobs they are going to hold might not even exist yet. Things are changing so quickly.’’ 

Schollin also serves as the moderator to La Salle’s Esports Club, which has quickly become one of its most popular. Students flock to the makeshift space after school and during the down times of their day to challenge each other, and the computers’ capabilities, as well. Intended as a fun release from the stresses of their day, the club has become both an opportunity to apply science and technology skills in an understandable manner and a vehicle for students from all walks of life to socialize and form friendships that continue beyond the school’s walls. 

“I played video games growing up, but never even imagined it being part of education and teaching,’’ Schollin says. “We’re trying to make sure they are good communicators, good at collaborating. And really also good at problem solving. You see that played out daily down here.’’ 

You see the same thing in the WEXPtv Content Creation Lab and in the school’s Robotics Lab. Bolstered through upperclassmen mentors, two freshman-only robotics teams allow incoming students to build small, mobile robots in a collegial after-school setting, even offering the chance to compete against other schools in regional and national events. Visitors on La Salle’s STEM night walked into a gymnasium of student-built and operated drones maneuvering around and through obstacles. Upperclassmen move on to the design and implementation of larger industrial grade robots, also competing in regional and national events.  

Each year two robotics students are mentored while performing independent research, then present it at The Interservice/Industry Training, Simulation and Education Conference (I/ITSEC) in Orlando, Fla. La Salle has placed among the top three nearly every year it has competed.  

“Robotics,’’ said Ryan McDowell, the robotics coach and Science Department Chair, ``is a varsity sport for the mind.’’ 

There are internship programs available in both robotics and media content creation as well. Robotics has found internships for as many as five students with local tech companies in some years.  

Harrison Karsch, a junior student heavily involved in the WEXPtv Media Program, has already been an intern at KYW radio. He credits Robert Johnson, the Department Chair of Information Sciences & Technology and a former Emmy-Nominated Comcast Sportsnet television producer for his and others early exposure to professional media opportunities.  

“I’ve seen kids leaving this room with a huge portfolio,’’ said Karsch, 16. ``He makes it a priority to do your own creation, make your own stuff. Put your name out there. I wouldn’t have done the news studies program if he didn’t say you could get a job if you’re really committed to the business. And it got my name out there.’’ 

For Fox, who hails from Newtown and now lives in Brewerytown, it did even more than that. It jump-started a career he is already clearly passionate about, even as he ponders where it will ultimately lead him. Besides data research, he also currently works at The American Philosophical Society Museum in Old City. 

“My philosophy right now is to pick the things that interest me,’’ he said. ``I like the educator side and I like the technical side. So maybe a teacher or an educator. But where I can still do data science. 

“Maybe even a teacher during the school year… and a data scientist over the summer.’’ 

Learn more about all of our programs at www.lschs.org/innovationhttps://www.lasallerobotics.org and www.lschs.org/WEXPtv.

La Salle College High School is an independent, Catholic, college preparatory school for young men of varied backgrounds, taught in the tradition of St. John Baptist de La Salle. It is a thriving and growing community of faculty, young scholars, scientists, artists, musicians, athletes, innovators and leaders. Students excel in a faith-based, high-tech and high-energy community that fosters, academic excellence, leadership and service to those in need. Since 1960, LSCHS has been located on a sprawling, 84-acre campus in Springfield Township in Montgomery County that includes an array of technologically-advanced classrooms, laboratories and arts and athletic facilities. For more information about joining our academic community, please visit www.lschs.org

 

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