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Wiley Middle School Students to Learn, Interact and Create as Innovation Quarter’s First Future Innovators

Ten seventh-graders from Wiley Magnet Middle School in Winston-Salem will be getting an up-close look at the process of innovation this school year.

They’ll get to try their hand at it, too.

The 10 Wiley students are the first participants in the Future Innovators mentoring program hosted by Wake Forest Innovation Quarter. From September through May, the students will spend one morning each month at the Innovation Quarter, visiting different labs, centers and departments to learn about fields such as robotics, microbiology, computer science, regenerative medicine, digital design and biomedical engineering.

Along the way, the students will be challenged to come up with their own innovations, which they will present during their final session to a panel of experts in a contest modeled after the television program “Shark Tank.”

“We believe it is incredibly important to offer these young people the opportunity to gain first-hand knowledge of the exciting developments in science and technology that are happening here and the chance to demonstrate their intelligence, imagination and ingenuity,” said Eric Tomlinson, president of Wake Forest Innovation Quarter. “The Future Innovators program at Wiley isn’t the only opportunity for students. We also encourage middle school students to participate in our SciTech program, which is a collaboration between Winston-Salem State University, Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center and the Innovation Quarter in which students learn about these exciting careers through hands-on learning experiences.”

Wiley, one of the 17 magnet schools in the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools system, employs the STEAM approach to learning, which uses science, technology, engineering, the arts and mathematics as access points for guiding student inquiry, dialogue and critical thinking. The 10 students in the Future Innovators program, who were selected by Wiley teachers, will have to complete assignments before and after the sessions at the Innovation Quarter, which will be related to their classroom studies.

“We are grateful for the partnership of Wake Forest Innovation Quarter in supporting our students at Wiley,” said Sean Gaillard, the school’s principal. “The school vision is ‘Inspiring Innovative Minds’ through STEAM, and the Future Innovators project is an amazing result for our kids. I believe the students involved will be inspired and motivated by this partnership.”

Steve Susalka, associate director of commercialization at Wake Forest Innovations, developed the curriculum for the Future Innovators mentoring program.

“We wanted to connect further with students in the community in a way that would be more engaging than a one-time tour and I’m glad that, thanks to the people here and at Wiley, we were able to come up with an extended, interactive program,” said Susalka, who is one of the program’s 10 volunteer mentors, all of whom work in the Innovation Quarter. “I’m confident this will be both fun and rewarding for everybody involved, and I hope it’s something we can all build on.”