AT A GLANCE:
- PCEF’s Real World Learning Initiative uses STEAM to power CTE and capstone programs.
- The PCCAPS capstone program celebrates its 10th anniversary this year!
- 999 Park City students have participated in PCCAPS over the past decade.
THE MORE THINGS CHANGE…
“When I saw the email about interviewing for this article,” Kristina Schiffman (PCCAPS/PCHS Class of 2020) began, “I went back and read the the one I took part in as a senior (“Your Gifts Offer Students Real Experience with Real Companies Doing Real Projects,” December 2019) and it made me feel so happy - so lucky I got to leave high school with the mindset and the idea that ‘I’m going to be everything.’
As the Park City Center for Advanced Professional Learning (PCCAPS), marks its 10th anniversary - Kristina, who is pursuing majors in mechanical engineering and business administration, along with a Russian minor (and potentially a computer science minor, too!), at the University of Utah, said the sentiment holds true - and it’s due to PCCAPS.
“I would say the exact same thing today. It hit my heart, that first line, ‘I’m going to be all of them,’ and I really do still have that mindset: it has been so crucial to my academic success.”
A DECADE OF IMPACT
PCCAPS began in 2012/13; the result of research from the PCSD school board and a partnership with PCEF to create an initiative to better prepare Park City High School graduates for success. Since then, with hundreds of thousands of dollars in PCEF support, 999 students have participated in PCCAPS. The program is a critical component of PCEF’s Real World Learning Signature Initiative.
Kristina feels the real world learning - and working - in PCCAPS gave her a huge head start in college.
"I felt I was really lucky because I came into these situations where it was the first time engineering classmates built a paper airplane to look at drag and lift,” she said. “I heard, 'Wow, this is the first time I've ever done anything like this!'
She continued, “And then I would think… Really?! I got to make a whole medical device in high school!”
UV SENSE AND SENSIBILITY
In fact, Kristina is still hard at work (in her free time) on that medical device - called UV Sense - in partnership with a number of dermatologists at the U.
“UV Sense is an ultraviolet-detecting wearable sensor for skin cancer prevention,” Kristina explained. “To me this whole thing is about reaching and helping as many people as possible. There are more cases of skin cancer than all other cancers - combined.”
Her PCCAPS efforts on UV Sense, a band which will be worn like a watch, changed her life. She hopes this single project leads to changes for millions of other lives, too.
“I’m really passionate about healthcare access and equity - and the biotech industry can play a really large role in how people gain access to lifesaving healthcare. I didn’t realize how important that is until this PCCAPS project… I never stopped to think, ‘wow, we can make medicine so much easier with these tiny technologies.’”
Kristina said this sensibility, the ability to apply big picture vision in creative, innovative ways, was due to PCCAPS.
“It’s often difficult to find the practical application of what you are learning,” she expounded. “Professors are trying to teach you the equations and the math. When you are in jr. high algebra, you have no idea what you are going to do with it…
“But for me, because of PCCAPS, I already had the understanding of how to apply what I know - it has helped me tremendously! It’s hard when you are working with theory – just knowing how it will apply in real life is really important.”
As Kristina’s classes progressed, she saw the big picture career implication of this theoretical application - which is what prompted her to switch majors.
“I’m passionate about medical device development, and it’s why I switched from biomedical engineering to mechanical. With biomedical, it was more industry, more theoretical. I saw a better fit with mechanical engineering, which gives me the chance at practical application and development.”
Now, she said, when she says she’s majoring in mechanical engineering and business administration, people don’t often see the connection.
“PCCAPS allowed me to look at these two different things and see where they overlap, and I can see why they are so important together.”
That overlap was crystal clear as Kristina discussed the timeline for UV Sense (testing in May 2023). From details of circuit boards to margins to coding to supply chain and production challenges - her knowledge of every single aspect of the project was unmistakable. Also unmistakable: her love of the work.
“I have this mentality that PCCAPS really gave to me. It’s that life is too short to only explore one passion. I firmly believe that. I think it’s really sad when people limit themselves to just one thing. So really, it’s still so true, and it’s because of PCCAPS: I’m going to do all of them. I still want to be all of them!”
REAL WORLD LEARNING
PCEF fully or partially funds many programs through our Real World Learning Initiative - and students in every single grade benefit!
Park City students from preschool to Senior year learn hands-on with STEAM disciplines (science, technology, engineering, arts, & math). They learn to think analytically and creatively through collaborative trial and error.
Real World Learning is made up of a few components that are critical to prepare Park City students to become tomorrow’s creative innovators, problem solvers and leaders. All of this - an effort to ensure they can successfully navigate a dynamic world filled with changes and challenges we can’t even imagine.
- STEAM disciplines (Science Technology Engineering Arts Math)
- Career & Technical Education (CTE)
- Capstones: PCHS’ PCCAPS & Transition Programs
In other words, STEAM is the axle to the wheels of CTE and the capstone programs - all of them working together to fast-forward Park City students into the future. So, how does Real World Learning come to life in Park City schools?
A few examples:
- Project-based Learning in Preschool → introduces iterative thinking and innovation.
- Elementary Coding Program → CS techniques - which deepen all learning.
- Coffee Cart Program → real-world application of social, communication, and academic skills.
- Computational Thinking Pilot → Computer Science methodology in non-CS courses.
- Career & Technical Education (CTE):
→ Increases STEM accessibility + makes content more relevant.
→ Teaches durable professional skills applicable to trades with millions of job openings.
→ Students can earn, in many cases, valuable credentials or college credit.
→ Students build on traditional education with actual professional experience.
→ Students work on projects requested by local, regional, and international organizations.
- PCHS Transition Program:
→ Neuro-divergent students are supported with individualized curriculum.
→ Among the skills they learn: to research, apply for, and earn jobs that they will enjoy.
→ PCHS Transition students have a 100% graduation rate and a 100% employment rate!