Interested in game design? Here’s how to get started

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hello-my-name-is-400x300We are privileged to have Andrew Greenberg who serves as the President of the Georgia Game Developer Association, provide us with a blog series on what information is needed to get involved in Game Design. This all-volunteer organization is committed to improving Georgia's video game industry. They are known for their SEIGE (Southern Interactive Entertainment & Game Expo) event.

Essentials of Game Design

It looks like all those college game degrees are starting to gain some respect from the industry. Students are now graduating from some of these programs and making immediate marks on the industry, with Portal being only the most obvious example.

With that many students in these programs, you need to stand out from the rest. The best way to do that is to enter college already knowing the basic skills. That way you can get the most out of college, honing your skills rather than learning them new. You can also start making games even before your classmates. The best students understand that they need to do far more than the basics, and they work like mad in their spare time perfecting their portfolios, making mods, meeting pros and more.

Having your teachers work on an existing foundation instead of having to build even that makes a dramatic difference. Students who begin with a decent skill set are not bored. Instead they get to dig deeper into the subject matter than do their peers. The following list shows some of the main skills and accomplishments students should have before they hit college. I recommend that you try your hands at all of these and focus on the ones that most click with you.

  • Build a web site. This is such a basic skill right now that I don’t think anyone should be allowed to graduate high school without having built a web site. Of course, in ten years it will probably be a completely outmoded skill only used by weirdoes and dinosaurs, but right now it is an integral part of society. Free software: CoffeeCup, PageBreeze, Bluefish.
  • Play a wide variety of games. Most of the students I met had a favorite game that served as the catalyst for them wanting to make their own. However, far too often that game, and ones quite like it, were the only ones they really knew. This really handicaps developers later, as they miss valuable lessons other types teach. Free game sources: Kongregate and ArmorGames.
  • Learn teamwork. The lone coder working in the basement is much less common now than in the 1980s, and even most of those have someone else supplying art, testing and so on. Learning how to work with other people is one of the key skills good game developers have, and no time is too early to start. By the way, having tried both team sports and roleplaying games, I prefer D&D and Fading Suns (blatant plug) for developing my teamwork skills.
  • Put together a computer. Well, at least swap out a video card or something. I am still amazed at the number of students I saw who had never opened their computer and really had no idea how it functioned. Yes, I once set fire to a modem card this way, but it was a learning experience.

Students can save big on game design software like Unity and GameSalad at

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Lumion 4.5 Unleashed with Massive Improvements

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Act-3D, a company dedicated to the development of easy to use realtime 3D software, has announced a massive update is coming. They have given us a preview of what Lumion 4.5 will look like and announced a special promotion. Purchase Lumion 4 now and you will get the free upgrade to Lumion 4.5 when it becomes available.

About Lumion 4.5

lumion 4 5 links4.5 will be a massive update for Lumion. There will be over 100 improvements included plus more character models. The idea here is to make the strengths of Lumion even stronger and create new features that users can enjoy. There will be many new animations and models. A few topics that have been highlighted are improved shadow functions to create more detailed shadows are included. The workflow function is also being updated in several ways including the ability import content from one project to the other.

Lumion 4.5 Features

There are 24 new character models coming that increase diversity and show several new poses animations ranging from people swimming to folks heading into the office. This will help you bring a more realistic visualization to life. The new Lumion will offer Improved reflections and shadows improve many new areas such as the quality of sun studies and aerial shots. There are also improved glossy surfaces. Lights can now be set to automatically come on during night scenes. You can also enlarge the moon and sun to create more realistic images. There are also many workflow improvements to make the program easier and more intuitive to use. You can purchase Lumion at Studica.

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fischertechnik 2014 Arrivals: See What’s New

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Spring is here, and besides being what we hope is the tail end of all of these ‘polar vortex’ events so many of us have had to endure this past winter, it’s also the time when we get to announce the new product releases for fischertechnik 2014.

New fischertechnik 2014

The first two releases expected in the next month are:
Tractor SET IR Control

Tractor SET IR Control (#524325): Consisting of 540 components, this set will allow you to build a tractor with 7 working attachments. What makes it really special though is that this set also comes with a proportional 4-channel infrared remote control, servo-steering, and a powerful gear motor, The rotary mower, double rotary windrower and hay turner attachments are driven by a rotating power take-off. A harrow, two-way plow, cable winch and pusher plate offer further features for more fun. You also have the ability to add two additional motors (not included) for even more options. Required 9 V battery (not included) AVAILABLE NOW!

Robotics LT Beginner SetRobotics LT Beginner Set (#524370): This is an improved and revised version  of the previous ROBO LT Beginner Lab set. This new version contains 200 components for building 12 different models.. Besides adding 4 new models to the mix, this set also improves on the previous version by now being USB powered! This means you can now control and power the models with a simple USB connection to your PC, and no additional power source is required. This great new set will be available later this spring.

Profi ElectronicsProfi Electronics  (#524326): An updated and revised version of the current E-Tech set. The new Electronics set is designed to provide a step-by-step primer on the basic principles of electronics. By using this set, students can learn about simple circuits, series and parallel connections, electronic, circuits with transistors, capacitors, resistors and LED‘s. The set includes a pre-programmed  electronic-control module, outfitted with 8 fixed programs. This module also has 2 motor outputs, 3 analog inputs for sensors,  and potentiometers for controlling the speed of the motor. Many fascinating and functional models can be built with this construction set, from a simple flash light to ship see-saw, alternating flasher and controllable ventilating fan.  Contains 260 parts in all for constructing 12 models. ( V battery required (not included). AVAILABLE THIS SUMMER.

fischertechnik Dynamic XL

Dynamic XL (#524327): This set is a larger scale companion to the existing Dynamic-Fun with Physics set that has proven to be so popular with students, teachers and general fischertechnik fans alike. Boasting 1000 parts for building 8 different coaster style models, this set promises more action, faster speeds and even larger models than can be built with the Dynamic. Featuring all new special parts such as 90° curves, cross-overs and jumps with catch funnel, the balls race through tight curves and chutes and shoot through different tracks. With the new mega model, the balls are transported back up to the top by a motor-driven conveying wheel. Then they are taken even higher by the innovative stage conveyor, which transports the balls one by one all the way to the top in a zig-zag pattern. Once there, the balls shoot along their own path downward through the loop, quarter-pipe and jumping loop. Other ingenious models such as a launching pad, stair step conveyor and chain lift help to spark interest in exploring the subject of conveying technology. An ideal addition to either the Rolling Action or Dynamic construction sets. AVAILABLE THIS SUMMER.

In our next fischertechnik blog, we’ll take a look at the big new developments in the Robotics and Programming line. So until then, happy building!

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Bringing Stinger CNC Routers into the Classroom

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Studica Ltd., our Canadian office, completed another CAMaster Stinger I install recently for a school in Ontario. The flexibility and functionality of the Stinger line of CNC Routers combined with their excellent price has made CAMaster very popular with Canadian Schools. Studica currently offers CNC Routers in Canada only.

Robust CNC Router

CNC RouterThe Stinger I is an exceptionally robust CNC Router with a 25”x36” cutting size. The bench top design of the Stinger I makes it an easy fit for the High School shop while still allowing for a very high quality end product. The Stinger I makes CNC wood manufacturing an easy subject to teach and to learn while offering the students an unparalleled end product. The Stinger I is an affordable bench top Router with the capabilities of its larger Stinger brothers, even capable of matching any production grade CNC Router.

Stinger CNC Routers

The Stinger II and Stinger III offer larger cutting areas and the same rock solid features of the Stinger I. With a durable and sturdy welded steel frame and precision bearings on hardened steel rails each Stinger can offer an excellent cutting speed with smooth travel and a Repeatability of 0.002”.

CNC Router StingerMultiple upgrades are available for the Stinger line. These Routers come standard with everything required as well as quite a few added features.  On top of this, multiple Spindle Upgrades are available, several work surface options and work holding methods exist, and the Recoil Indexing Lathe offers a unique feature and many exciting possibilities.

The Recoil Indexing Lathe is a side mounted Lathe Spindle which does not interfere with the table top routing.  The Router Head moves bi-directionally along the length of the material in the Lathe to do the carving.  The work material can be rotated 360 degrees and the length of material is only limited to the size of the router table. The Stinger III for example will care lengths up to 96” with a 12” diameter. Making difficult 3D carvings on cylindrical parts is quite an easy task now and this offers the students an abundance of new possibilities when choosing or designing their projects.

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For Teachers: SumDog Special Offer & Contest

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Over 5,295,000 students currently use SumDog to take educational games that help them learn about math, reading and writing. Teachers have full control over the content and lessons they learn. SumDog has a powerful learning engine that can tailor questions to meet individual student needs. It is also intuitive and easy to set up and monitor your students work.

SumDog Special Offer

This is something to get excited about, SumDog has extended a special offer until April 21st, 2014. When your school purchases a subscription for SumDog Reading or SumDog Math between March 14 and April 21, they will give you an equal number of Sumdog Writing seats for free. This will save your school up to 50% on the standard prices. This is big news because SumDog has never done an offer like this before. Act Now. Visit

Contest for Teachers from SumDog

Get ready, Get set! SumDog's National Math Contest will begin on Friday, April 11th, 2014 and will end on Thursday, the 17th of April. This give you seven days to achieve greatness. You have to decide when your students will participate. The whole contest should take about one hour per student to get a good score. To enter the contest, you must have a free SumDog teacher account on the SumDog site and visit Good luck and let the math games begin!

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Using Interactive 3d Technology & Leonar3Do to Help Classroom Learning

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How does interactive 3d technology and Leonar3Do help in education?  interactive 3d enhances engagementThe one word answer is the “WOW-effect”.  3D visualized curriculum piques students’ interest. Full engagement from students makes them thinkbetter. The engagement can be further increased with the possibility of interaction with the digital curriculum. “Digital” is an important keyword. Why? Because digitization allows us to visualize anything in the virtual space. This means that impossible becomes possible. Imagine how easy it would be to understand the science behind chemistry and molecules, geometric shapes, astronomy and our galaxy, anatomy etc. by visualizing these objects and concepts in a virtual reality environment that you can interact with. Leonar3Do's interactive 3d technology enables you all of these resulting in a “never-experienced” quick and effective knowledge-transfer.

The Challenge in Education

The so called “Y-Z generation”, today’s students use modern devices to communicate, entertain, study and so on. More and more content and solutions are becoming digital and immersive.  This creates a highly increased stimulus threshold which can clearly lead to attention deficit. The traditional education tools (like blackboard and books) do not grab students’ interest permanently. It is common for children to start using devices before they learn how to read and write. Educational solutions must follow the tech trends, and become digital and more immersive. Interactive 3d technology is a perfect fit.

Digital and Immersive Education

interactive 3d classroomThere are several ways to keep students attention. You can make the whole learning process more interactive by involving students into class and faculty research. Teachers should provide not only the mandatory curriculum, but up-to-date news, interesting articles and discoveries. Utilizing the expansion of the social media in order to create an effective student-teacher communication would also help to keep them in touch. Finally, the most important task would be the implementation of new technologies in the classrooms to achieve a higher level of student engagement, and a more effective knowledge transfer.

According to a case study by International Research Agency by BBC news, “On average, 86% of pupils in 3D classrooms improved in test results, compared to 52% of children using traditional teaching methods. It also found that attention levels soared – with 92% of the class paying attention during 3D lessons compared to 46% in the traditional learning environment.

But how about the young children? The user-friendly Leonar3Do software and hardware platform enables them to sculpt and paint easiy and intuitively. All you have to do is grab the BIRD (the 3D mouse), and start drawing in the air, just like with a magic pen. It is a true plug-and-play, out of the box experience, which lets even children to improve their skills and creativity quickly. So let’s grab the BIRD and unlock their inner artists in a fun way with Leonar3Do!

Affordable interactive 3d education with Leonar3Do

Leonar3Do provides the easiest and cheapest way to create, demonstrate and visualize virtual 3D objects in real space, by transforming the 2D flat dimension of your computer into a real 3D work environment.

leonar3do-birdLeonar3Do 3D’s passive 3D visualization technologies enables intuitive, real-time interactions that are responsive to user’s actions and displays the most realistic 3D objects and full virtual environments. Rather than simply looking at a flat computer screen, in just minutes you can be immersed in the digital environment where objects float in front of the screen and you are the controller of the application.

Visit for more information!

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How to Export from Revit into Lumion

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Lumion is a powerful rendering program for Architectural Visualization. We have written several articles about Lumion here on our blog. This article is going to detail what I think is the best workflow of bringing your Revit model into Lumion. As with any program, there are many ways you can accomplish something. However, I had to recently do a demonstration of Lumion 4.0 and I was running into some oddities when I tried exporting my Revit model as an FBX and bringing it into Lumion.

Tricks for Importing Revit items into Lumion 

The materials of your Revit model don't seem to transfer over seamlessly into Lumion if you do a normal FBX export. I am not sure why this is, but I think it has to do with the Autodesk Material libraries and their compatibility with other software. This is a known issue with software such as Unity 3D. For whatever reason, Autodesk's material libraries contain some information that other software has difficulty interpreting. So, one possibility is to bring your exported FBX file into 3DS Max and make sure all the material assignments are proper. But the best workflow that I found was to use Lumion's "Revit to Lumion Bridge" plugin.

This plugin becomes a tool within your Revit program. When you use it, you are able to export whatever 3D View you want as a Collada file, which can be imported into Lumion. The best part about this is that it keeps your materials intact, which saves you the headache of assigning all the materials in 3DS Max or redoing everything in Lumion once it's been imported.

Instructions for Lumion Bridge and Revit

First of all, you need to download the plugin here. Once the executable is downloaded, run it and proceed through the installer. Once you have the plugin installed, open up your Revit software and open up a 3D View of a model that you want to bring into Lumion. Once your 3D view is opened, click on the "Add-ins" tab on the ribbon. Click the "External Tools" drop-down and you should see "Revit to Lumion Bridge" listed. Click on this item.

Revit Lumion 1


Revit Lumion 2The Revit to Lumion Bridge exporter window will pop up. Here, there are a handful of options. Just for clarification, the "Geometry Accuracy" slider is associated with the graphical detail of your model. Sliding this all the way to the right should result in a finer detailed model, but a larger file size. Once you have all the options you want selected, click on "Export". A window will pop up, asking you where to save the file. Choose the location you prefer and save the file. The export time Depends on the settings you've chosen and the hardware of your computer. Typically, it won't take too long unless you have an enormous model.


Once you have the file exported to the location you want, open up Lumion. Create a new scene in Lumion from the opening menu. Once the scene is loaded, click on the "Import" block on the left side of the screen and choose "Add a New Model".

Revit Lumion 3B

Browse to wherever you saved your exported file and double-click on it. A Window will pop up, asking you to name the model and whether or not you want to import animations. Choose the options you want and then click the Check Mark icon at the bottom right of this window.

Revit Lumion 4

Once you've done that, you will then be able to place your model in your scene by moving your mouse around. Once you've settled on a spot, left click and the model will be placed. Now that the model is in the scene, you can utilize all of Lumion's features to bring your model to life.

Revit Lumion 5B

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Unity 5 Announced: What does this mean for Game Design?

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Unity announced the impending release of Unity 5 at the Game Developer’s Conference in San Francisco. This news comes 16 months a after the release of Unity 4. In typical Unity fashion, Unity 5 will improve upon its predecessor in many ways. It comes as no surprise that Unity 5 improves upon the easy-to-use, affordable game engine that has taken the industry by storm.

We have talked about Unity quite extensively in the past. Likewise, we have talked a lot about why educators and schools should seriously consider Game Design for STEM. If you are looking to get your hands on it, you can pre-order Unity 5 now and get Unity 4 while you wait. Another big change for the education market is that the student/faculty Unity 5 commercial suite has dropped significantly in price and will now include the new WebGL Pro. Let's take a look at these new features.

What's New with Unity 5

There are many new features in Unity 5 but we will outline the big ones that Unity keeps talking about. Unity 5.0 is introducing real-time Global Illumination. This is the same lighting that is used in some current big-name titles including Battlefield 4. This addition allows you to ensure a higher level of detail in your game. On top of the global illumination, they have also added a physically-based unified shading system. This should ensure that the shaders in Unity look more realistic than ever.

Unity 5 is also incorporating real-time lightmap previews. So instead of baking lightmaps every time you want to change something, you can make the changes and preview them in real-time while the lightmap bakes in the background. This should make the workflow much more fluid.

New 64-bit Editor – An Awesome Addition to Unity 5

For me, one of the most welcome additions to Unity 5 is the new 64-bit editor. That’s right, Unity is now 64-bit, which means those 32 GB of RAM that you convinced yourself were necessary can now be put to use.

Unity 5 is also going to use the latest NVidia PhysX 3.3. Supposedly this is a drastically faster release of the physics engine. This should ensure smoother gameplay and an easier environment to develop in.

New Features of Unity 5

Unity completely reworked the audio design workflow in Unity 5. As somebody who works with audio a lot, this is probably the most exciting change to me. Unity 5 will have its own mixer built into the editor. You can even create group channels, sends, and returns. There are also a handful of built-in effects. This new feature brings a whole new level of functionality to Unity.

Unity 5 is introducing Unity Cloud integration. This is something that has been in the works for a while. Unity says that they hope to use this to help developers succeed at cross-promoting their games via advertisements, etc. You can read more details about Unity Cloud here.

Pre-Order Unity 5 Now

The last major feature that everyone has been talking about is Unity 5’s ability to build games for WebGL. WebGL allows games to be played straight from a browser instead of having to download a plugin. Before WebGL, a user would have to download the Unity Web Player plugin for their browser in order to play a game that was made in Unity for the web. Unity is looking to do away with this since plugins are often a hindrance. According to Unity’s blog, they are working with Mozilla right now to get this up and running. I’m assuming that means Firefox will be one of the first browsers to support Unity WebGL games.

If you want to see some of Unity 5’s new features in action, check out the demonstration video that Unity put out.
You can also read Unity’s Blog and find out more.

Unity Education Offerings

Studica offers educational discounts on Unity software for students, teachers and schools. Right now, they have a promotion going where if you pre-order Unity 5 now, you will get Unity 4 Pro while you wait. The student/faculty Unity 5 commercial suite has dropped significantly in price – in the US it is now $1999* and includes Unity Pro 4.x with the free upgrade to Unity 5 when it becomes available, iOS Pro, Android Pro, WebGL Pro and Team license.

Studica also offers volume discounts on Unity licenses for schools and academic institutions. Studica also provides information for teachers an schools to help them improve STEM education with Unity, building upon the passion students have for game and interactive design. Learn more.

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How 3D Printing in Education Improves Learning

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With the advent of affordable 3d printers like the DaVinci 1.0 (costs less than $500 in the USA), Studica wanted to see how this technology can best benefit education. We are always looking for ways to help our education customers marry new technologies with their teaching goals to help create a stronger learning experience for students. We knew that with this new level of pricing bringing 3D printers into the classroom is now within the reach of almost any school or teacher, but how can 3d printing in education make teaching and learning better?

3d printing in educationWe know that new technologies offer a "wow" factor for students because they build engagement and create excitement. 3d printers naturally fit into curricula in areas where students are required to do some hard thinking, to problem solve and to design. 3d printing in education is a powerful tool in aiding your students to conceptualize and visualize designs through the stages of development, from sketch to final product.  In 2011, Forbes predicted "teachers and students want or have a 3D printer on the desk to help them learn core Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) principles.source The NMC Horizon Project identified 3D printing as a technology that would have a major impact on STEMsource That time is now at hand.

3d Printing in Education Benefits

Here are 5 major ways 3D printers benefit education:

  1. Create Excitement
  2. Compliment STEM Curriculum
  3. Give Access to Materials not available before
  4. Open New Possibilities for Learning
  5. Promote Problem Solving Skills

3d printers also give your students the ability to take their designs to the next level by allowing them to experience the model stage of the design process. It also allows students to better understand the new "Additive Manufacturing" process where items are built layer by layer, similar to how 3d printers work. We did our research and came across some great pearls of knowledge on the subject. To paraphrase Technology Outlook: STEM+ Education 2013-2018, using 3D printing for teaching and learning is relevant because it allows for "authentic exploration of objects that might not be readily available" for teachers and students. Think of items like artifacts and fossils, these are items that can easily be replicated on 3d printers and allow students to explore these items in a more real, concrete way. 3D printing brings these items from the world of theory to something students can touch and see, thus opening "new possibilities for learning activities."

The benefits however, go much further. It appears 3D printers open up students to a variety of learning experiences. The machine itself creates the need to learn how different 3D printers work, how to operate them, how to troubleshoot and how to resolve problems. The biggest point seems to be 3D printers are excellent for problem solving and developing the skills of persistence and endurance to overcome them. Students are passionate and determined to solve their problems, check out this great blog article that talks about one student's journey to design and print the perfect iPad stand. It's inspiring.

"Until now the cost of 3D printing has been prohibitive for schools but it is vital that students are able to learn about the processes used in modern industry. We have always tried to ensure students are kept up-to-date with modern production techniques but in the past this was entirely theoretical. At last it is possible for schools to use the latest CAM machines as well as CAD." Dave White, Clevedon School

Much thanks to the many sources of inspiration we gained knowledge from, including but not limited to, a 3d printing inspiration page on pinterest, a great article "3D printing in the Classroom", case studies from 3D Systems.

Affordable 3D Printing Solutions for Education

Overall, the prices of entry level 3d printers dropping to these affordable levels is wonderful news for academia. The fact that many of these printers are plug-n-play, preassembled and also offer intuitive software makes this an ideal technology to use to enhance student retention and bring concepts to life. Studica offers many solutions for classroom 3D printing needs. The most popular is the new and extremely affordable DaVinci 1.0. Studica offers 3D printers from MakerBot3D Systems XYZ Printing and more*. Bundles and volume discounts are available for some 3d printers. Contact us for more information.

*Please note brand offerings and pricing may vary by country store and items may not be available for all countries.

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8 Upcoming Education Webinars free | Advanced Career

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Explore Advanced Career (AC) pathway programs – new types of career-technical curricula that better prepare high school students for more options. AC pathway programs provide a rigorous and relevant blend of technical and academic skills in authentic projects that engage students in preparing for postsecondary options and careers. High Schools That Work, a part of the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB), is developing a large number of intensely challenging and highly relevant AC programs in partnership with states and industry.

We invite you to join us in a series of education webinars free to learn more about the eight AC pathway programs that are ready for schools to adopt in Fall 2014. Each webinar will take about an hour, including time for questions.

Which of the following AC programs might strengthen your portfolio of career-tech programs? Which ones best fit the needs of your students and community? We invite you to register for one or all!

Upcoming Education Webinars Free

Health Informatics

March 24 | 3 – 4 p.m. (EDT)
This curriculum merges information science, computer science and health care. Students use information technology, data analysis software and statistics to address a range of health related topics.
Register Here

Energy and Power

March 26 | 3 – 4 p.m. (EDT)
Students will research, design and build a series of authentic, hands-on projects that will enable them to understand the interplay of the generation, distribution and use of energy.
Register Here

Integrated Production Technologies (Advanced Manufacturing)

March 31 | 3 – 4 p.m. (EDT) This curriculum engages students in using innovative industry-driven technologies to imagine and design new and improved products using automated computer-aided design and manufacturing programs.
Register Here

Global Logistics

April 2 | 3 – 4 p.m. (EDT)

Global logistics and supply chain management connect internal functions of an organization with other organizations around the globe. This curriculum will help students understand the roles of logistics and supply chain management in a global economy where individuals and organizations have access to markets across the world.
Register Here

Clean Energy Technology

April 8 | 3 – 4 p.m. (EDT)
This curriculum enables students to apply fundamental science and operating principles of clean energy systems to authentic problems that involve motors and generators, photovoltaic systems, water and energy conservation, wind turbines, biofuel generation, bioreactors, water power, energy harvesting, fuel cells, and nuclear power.
Register Here

Innovations in Science and Technology

April 10 | 3 – 4 p.m. (EDT)
This STEM program will provide students the knowledge and hands-on experiences they need to be successful in the new global workforce. The authentic projects will challenge students to design, build and evaluate solutions to problems and projects and will develop students' technological literacy and stimulate their interest in pursuing a career in STEM.
Register Here

Aerospace Engineering

April 15 | 3 – 4 p.m. (EDT)
Students in this curriculum will explore how to design, build, test and analyze the forces and physical properties of planes, rockets and unmanned vehicles. Through project-based learning, students will explore the future of aerospace and learn to apply those habits of behavior and mind unique to the field.
Register Here


April 17 | 3 – 4 p.m. (EDT)
Informatics is the process of taking raw data and converting it into new knowledge that can be applied to any field while considering its impact on individuals, organizations and society. Students will apply software systems to acquire, collect, store and communicate data in a meaningful way to clients.
Register Here

For more information about SREB Advanced Career pathway programs, visit

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