Walk into the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (S.T.E.M.) academy at Bangor High, and you know instantly it is not a typical science class.
"Nobody's telling us what to do," student Tyler Delargy said. "So it can be whatever you want it to be, which is really cool."
Not only are students not lectured, these teen geniuses are encouraged to find problems they care about, and then use their creativity to solve them.
Projects range from collecting spreadsheets worth of data to try to determine if a polling location (ie. a church, business, etc.) subconsciously swayed voters to cast ballots a certain way, to a vest filled with infrared camera and recycled cell phone vibrators to help guide visually impaired wearers without the use of a cane.
"Kids get to kind of identify the things they're interested in, and then we find ways to make it happen," science department head Cary James smiled. "So, they're the brain power and then we just provide the resources for them to do it."
Those resources come from the top down. Since 2012, when the program started, it has received over one million dollars in federal grant money; The school's superintendent, Dr. Betsy Webb, was a driving force behind starting the program; Teachers like James embrace creativity and empower students to work outside normal classroom boundaries and find unique problems to solve; And the students themselves have taken the reigns, armed with the freedom and ability to create tools they're passionate about using.
And S.T.E.M. Is only one of a handful of academies at Bangor, including business, humanities, and fine arts, all of which are educating teens at an advanced level, preparing them for the future, no matter where their path leads.
"Use the approach of, you want to overshoot your goal," guidance director Adam Leach said. "You don't want to create a mentality where students are going to do just enough or just meet the requirements of this step in their life. You want them to overshoot and be over-prepared."