World class engineer and animation pioneer Garner Holt and his colleagues visited the Animaker Space Lab at the former Citrus South Tule School on Tuesday.
Due to his generosity and innovation Garner Holt and the Garner Holt Production (GHP) team had the Animaker Space Lab built at the Qualcomm Thinkabit Lab/Citrus South Tule two years ago in 2021. And it's leading the way in STEAM education.
Robert Gonzalez's 4th grade class from Vandalia School learned about the original Citrus South Tule School that was founded in 1897 and moved to the present location when Success Lake was built.
They visited the space lab and learned some of the skills needed to program robots, while others learned to make small face models for animatronics. The 4th graders who worked on robotics would switch with the other students and learn how to make the face models for animatronics.
During the morning Pathways Instructor Gordy Plaisted showed the students the various machines they use at the lab, a laser cutter, a 3-D printer, and more. He also showed the students some of the ways to move the three SPARKY robots at the lab using sliders that control their arms, mouth, eyes, and move their bodies from side-to-side or swivel.
All of the students were fascinated.
Plaisted told all the students there would be a visit by a special guest during the morning, and he would be there shortly, and he showed them an introductory video about Garner Holt Productions and a special welcome video by Garner Holt himself.
After the video, some of the 4th grade students asked if he was still alive, and Plaisted said, "You'll have to ask him when he gets here."
When Holt arrived with his team, he greeted everyone and said he was glad to be there, and asked the students if they were having fun.
Porterville Unified School District superintendent Nate Nelson, Pathways Director Cynthia Brown and Pathways Learning Director Eric Santos were also there, and they looked at a clay model of a face students were working on helped by Porterville College Education intern Mia Flagg who was assisting Pathways STEAM Instructor Plaisted who runs classes at the Animaker Space Lab.
Clearly enjoying interacting with the 4th graders who were working on the clay face models Holt spoke with them about what they were doing and if they enjoyed crafting and using their imaginations. The kids certainly enjoyed talking with him, and were having a great time modeling the clay. Many of the students had never worked with clay before.
Holt and his team then went into the Garner Holt Animaker Space Lab that was constructed by them for PUSD, and Holt spoke to everyone, but especially the kids about what he has done with animatronics and the many creative and innovative careers they can have, if they learn and get and education and learn about STEAM: science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics.
One of the students said, "Careers are something you want to do for the rest of your life."
Holt himself started working on animatronics at 10 or 11 in his parents' garage. Forty-five years later his company is one of the largest animatronics companies in the world, and are all over the world. His motto is education through imagination. In the video he said, "Porterville is the first school district anywhere committed to giving students a wide range of careers."
"I'm really excited to be here today," said Holt with a smile.
"I'm really impressed that you are learning about new technology and programming robotics. This is very important that you think about your future.
“In 6th and 7th grade I was thinking about this. And when I got to high school I was building animatronics and robots. If I can do it, you can do it.
“Focus on your school work and learn about technology. It's a lot of fun. It is solid work. Using design, art, technology, and engineering.”
"Don't ever give up on your dreams," he said, and "If you put your mind to it, you can do anything."
"I'm glad to be here," said Holt. "The whole point of this lab is to change lives, and show these kids different technologies they didn't even know existed, so they can think about careers.”
The Garner Holt Foundation is supporting schools and school districts with STEAM all over the country, and are helping disadvantaged children and children in hospitals, said Leanne Chavez, who helps Holt with the GH Foundation. "This is allowing the students to get behind the scenes experience, which most people never get," she said. The GH Foundation helps foster and homeless children, bringing them STEAM kits, bringing kids opportunities they wouldn't have normally.
GHP animatronics are in theme parks all over the United States, and the world and are highly sophisticated machines. There are 500 GHP animatronics at Disney parks.
Germaine Kaufman, GHP Education through Imagination, Development Director, said PUSD rivals some of the largest school districts across the country in what they're doing for their students with the 14 Pathway Programs and the opportunities available to them.
"We have big plans for Porterville because this is the first Animaker Space Lab in the Central Valley, and they are leading the way in STEAM education," said Kaufman.
Colton Burrell, 9, held a Cars movie "unpainted plastic model," when he asked questions of Holt in the lab as he sat with his classmates. Colton said the Cars model would be really cool if it was painted, and that got him thinking about if that would be something he'd like to do in the future, first he'd need to learn how to design, and maybe go to a special kind of school.