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Faith and science converge at new U of D Jesuit $16 million Science and Engineering Center

SEC- Ground View

Who says faith and science can’t co-exist?

The two have worked together quite well at the University of Detroit Jesuit High School and Academy for some time now.

Like faith, science is never finished. Both seek truth and understanding and both prepare us for life. So it seems fitting that Detroit’s largest catholic high school would invest in a new $16 million state-of-the-art Science and Engineering Center on its campus on West Seven Mile Road.

SEC- AerialWhen it’s completed in August 2016, the center will be the first and only high school facility of its kind in Detroit and the largest dollar investment in science and technology at any Michigan high school in recent years.

“Equipping our young men to be tomorrow’s leaders and innovators begins right here, right now in Detroit, where we continue the 450-year-old Jesuit tradition of academic rigor and critical thinking,” said school President Karl J. Kiser, S.J. “Every day, faith and science converge as we challenge our students to reach for excellence while reaching out to serve others.”

That’s what U of D Jesuit has been teaching since it was founded 138 years ago. … academic excellence, faith formation and community service. The mission melds well with the career path and belief of the current pope, Pope Francis, a Jesuit. He has a graduate degree in chemistry, has taught in two Jesuit high schools and is working to create a positive relationship with the scientific community.

The new science center will be quite a facility. The 40,000-square-foot STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) center will have four levels and will double the space for biology, chemistry and physics programs at the school. There will be labs for engineering and research and a dedicated classroom and laboratory for seventh- and eighth-grade students. U of D Jesuit enrolls 900 diverse young men in seventh through twelfth grades, with 20 percent of the student body residing in Detroit.

“It is extremely likely that many future cancer breakthroughs will be developed by students entering high school today,” said Dr. Otis W. Brawley, a 1977 U of D Jesuit graduate, chief medical officer for the American Cancer Society and professor, Emory University School of Medicine, who attended the groundbreaking. “When we invest in science education, we give young people the opportunity to change the world by healing others.”

The center will give the students even more tools to help them make a difference.

“This is a very exciting time for us,” says Thomas Totte, vice president of institutional management at the school. “We are one of a kind. The center is privately funded and will bring more STEM education to the community.”

Faith formation is a mission

Faith formation is a mission

All the funding came from alumni, parents of current students and parents of graduates as well as widows of alumni. As was mentioned earlier, the students are instilled with a commitment to give back to the community … a mission U of D Jesuit hopes will continue throughout their lives.

For example, as a way to give back to the community, the student-led FIRST Robotics program works with three Detroit elementary schools … Christ the King School Detroit, Gesu Catholic School Detroit and Most Holy Trinity School Detroit.

The robotics program received a $7,500 grant from the DTE Energy Foundation to partially fund a robotics camp program for boys and girls this summer.  It will involve three different camps for boys and girls entering grades 7-10 and monies from the grant will allow each student to receive a partial scholarship to attend the camps.

The new science center will  have space for the school’s nationally recognized robotics and eco-car programs. The robotics summer camps will eventually move to the new science center, Totte said.

The school’s robotics team does quite well and competed in the FIRST Robotics World Championship in St. Louis in April.

Leadership sponsors for the FIRST Robotics program include DeRoy Testamentary Foundation, DTE Energy Foundation, Ford Motor Company, W.K. Kellogg Foundation, SlipNOT® Metal Safety Flooring and U of D Mercy College of Engineering.

Eco-Marathon team

Eco-Marathon team

The school’s Ignatian Ignition® Eco-Marathon Team designed and built two prototype ultra-high efficiency vehicles … one gasoline and one battery-electric … that competed at Shell Eco-Marathon Americas in Detroit this year. The prototype gasoline-powered vehicle achieved 222 MPG, placing it 21st among about 40 teams. The prototype battery-electric vehicle hit more than 3,000 MPG (EPA electric to gasoline conversion) and placed 7th among about 30 teams.

Leadership sponsors for this program include Lear Corporation, Link Engineering, Metro Bolt & Fastener, Saturn Electronics Corporation, Shinola, Trijicon and U of D Mercy College of Engineering.

STEM education and community service are important but U of D Jesuit is well aware the arts also need to be encouraged and nurtured to build well-rounded individuals. Music, art, literature and strong writing skills are also a big part of the curriculum. “Our students need to learn to write well to be successful,” Totte says.

Creating well-rounded, knowledgeable, caring and responsible future leaders is U of D Jesuit’s goal. The new science center will help the 900 young men who attend the school better understand the whole universe, one that includes both faith and science.

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