In support of education and the local community, Phillips 66 gifted $18,000 to Sonora ISD to help fund additional STEM learning opportunities for high school students.

STEM is a curriculum based on the thought of educating students in the four specific disciplines of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, through an interdisciplinary and applied approach.

Sonora ISD received the generous donation from Phillips 66 Thursday, October 3, during a special check presentation at the high school.

High School Principal Sean Leamon said the funds will be earmarked to provide virtual learning in welding.

Welding is one of the many job opportunities offered by Phillips 66.

The major American multinational energy company headquartered in Westchase, Houston, has been constructing pipeline in and around Sutton County for the past year.

Phillips 66 Area Supervisor Ronald Grandstaff said their donation was a way to show their commitment to investing in the local community and future education of Sonora students.

Additionally, Grandstaff said he believes investing in helping students acquire skills in occupational trades is important to building a better foundation for their success in the future.

“At Phillips 66, it’s important to us to support the communities where our employees live and work,” said Grandstaff. “We hope our grant to Sonora ISD to purchase 3-D software will help provide students with training and skills they will need as they enter the workforce in the next few years.”
Leamon said realistically he knows not all SHS graduates attend college. In fact, a significant percentage of SHS graduates join the work force after receiving their diploma.

Therefore, providing and expanding STEM learning opportunities for students gives them an advantage.

This applied learning takes place in the zSpace lab at Sonora High School.

The zSpace lab is a bonus to hands on learning in the classroom by enriching student’s education, motivating them to learn about science, and preparing them for careers as well as college majors in science.

This is the third year Sonora High School has offered the virtual zSpace lab which combines virtual and augmented reality in a computer to teach students skills in the areas of science, engineering, technology and math.

Currently, students interact with three dimensional images while learning the science of human anatomy. Now, they are able to further their skills in other areas.

Wearing 3D glasses, members of Phillips 66, Superintendent Ross Aschenbeck and County Judge Steve Smith watched as Leamon demonstrated the virtual technology.

With the click of a button on a stylus while pointing it at a three dimensional image, Leamon showed how students are able to dissect and view internal structures within the human body.

In the same way, an instructor can demonstrate dissecting, welding or any other skill to students collectively using a projection screen. Teachers can also create specific assignments for students to complete on their own.

The zSpace lab is equipped with about a dozen computers, virtual glasses and software licenses. With the purchase of software for interactive learning in welding, students will be able to use a stylus to weld objects as if they are actually doing it in real life. The plus is that it is safer in the event of an error.

By investing in STEM education, Phillips 66 helps Sonora ISD provide students and teachers with tools and access to resources they need to be the go-getters of the future.

Phillips 66 recently opened a small office with two employees in Sonora to oversee new pipeline operations in the region.