Skip to content

Learning in the 21st Century

Local manufacturers work with school administrators to prepare students for future employment

In 2012, community leaders broke ground for the new Alexandria Area High School (AAHS). Because school administrators made community commitment a priority, the leaders’ involvement did not stop there.

Local manufacturers partnered with school administrators and teachers to optimize the space allocated for the industrial technology labs and classrooms, as well as develop the curriculum that would help prepare our next generation workforce. Knowing that Alexandria is a large regional hub for manufacturing, we believe that the best way to keep up with future employment needs is to get the younger generation exposed to manufacturing.

Alexandria Industries had the great opportunity to donate an automated machining work cell, which included a Haas VF-2 CNC machining center and RoboFlex pick-and-place robotic system.


The CNC machining center uses next-generation digital servomotors and high-resolution encoders on the 4-axis, high-speed machining center. The system offers common control multi-step functions to setup tooling and home the machine. Its intuitive programming guides the students through the steps for basic job setup, setting tool and work offsets, selecting the tool types and specifying part material.

The work cell also includes a Fanuc 200iB pick-and-place robot with an integrated vision system and a conveyor for part presentation and removal to and from the machining center. The pick-and-place robot presents parts to an area where the vision system identifies the part’s exact location, so the robot can pick it up and load it into the CNC. As the robot presents the part, the CNC machines it, and then the robot will pick up the completed part and place it on an out-feed conveyor, and repeat the process.

The work center isn't just about manufacturing, it has the ability to reach many different areas of knowledge, such as statistics, geometry, math and physics, while allowing a hands-on approach to learning.

donation_wallAlexandria Industries has been working closely with Instructor Tom Ellison to help implement the work cell training and support to understand the machines and optimize the learning experience for students. Our company involvement doesn't stop there. We have several individuals serving on different committees to help build the curriculum, and develop projects that will enable students to succeed.
When it came to building the industrial technology lab, its location in the new high school was incredibly important. Usually high schools have industrial labs tucked away in the back corner of the school, but at AAHS the lab is front and center, just off of the general commons area. A glass wall allows everyone to see how these machines function.

The school was built around learning for today and preparing students for careers well into the 21st Century. School administrators and community leaders looked at schools across the country to find an education solution that best fit a new style of community learning. They came across “Learning Academies” at a high school in Nashville, Tenn., that were designed for students to have personalized classes oriented around their interests and using the latest technology and hands-on learning.

The Nashville school prompted the development of the AAHS Learning Academies – the heart of our next-generation educational format. This includes the Freshman Academy, where ninth-graders have the opportunity to learn about different careers that fit their interests. From there, students choose between three academies:

  • Engineering, Manufacturing Technologies & Natural Resources
  • Business, Communication & Entrepreneurship
  • Health Sciences & Human Service

The academies are designed to help students get a better feel of what they want to do after high school and to help them prepare for their future. Students are excited to experience learning in a whole new way.

We are ecstatic about the new high school’s opening and are honored to be involved with guiding the future of these students and making their high school experience like no other. We are so proud to be part of something that meets the needs of the 21st century.