Davenport West unveils Innovation Zone for learning

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As the push continues to make Iowa schools tops in the country, Davenport West High School is getting a jump start.

This is the classroom of the future.

"I walked in, and wow, it changed," said sophomore Carina Grady, part of a design team headed to Washington, D.C., for a national competition.

Inside Davenport West these days, the Innovation Zone is in action.

"I was real impressed it could change like that and could happen so quickly," she continued.

That's where prize-winning robots are roaming around. These are student-inspired projects that feature science, technology, engineering and math -- the so-called STEM curriculum.

"Seeing everybody in this room, we know that we can continue to do what we're doing because of their help," said sophomore Tuyen Nguyen.

Two years on the drawing board, school and city leaders came to celebrate on Wednesday.

Funded by the local option sales tax, this is a model room for Project Lead the Way. And students got a chance to visit with the leader in STEM education across the country.

"What makes it even more unique is that it was designed by students," said Dr. Vince Bertram, PLTW president. "Students were able to use skills they learned in class and apply in a real-world situation."

This program is all about sparking interest in technology. That can literally engineer careers while boosting academics in Iowa.

Student pods and smart boards energize the environment. It helps to capture creativity and encourage teamwork.

Teens tackle projects with real-life applications. They're also building skills for college and careers.

"It puts you in a position where you kind of have to learn these things to do well," said senior Justin Wheeler, who plans on attending Iowa State. "And you want to do well so you can learn  these things."

As youngsters return to their computers, it's innovation and education to strengthen the Quad Cities.