EAST began with one classroom in Greenbrier, Arkansas in 1996. Former law-enforcement officer Tim Stephenson was in his first year of teaching, and having had experience with “disconnected” youth, had been assigned a classroom of “at risk” students. In seeking a point of interest for them, Stephenson proposed an outing to a spot near the school where students often went to skip classes. The wooded area included a creek and a pond. It was pointed out that it would be muddy crossing the creek. The first EAST project turned out to be a bridge across that creek.
The students became enthusiastic with the success of their bridge and proposed additional structures. One student offered his father’s CAD expertise and Stephenson suggested the students get appropriate software and learn to use it themselves. Thus, the technology component was born.
Realizing that the K-12 education system lacked the needed technology as well instruction in using it, Stephenson sought help from an Arkansas technology firm that introduced him to national and international resources. The academic-business partnerships that were formed became the foundation for a new and relevant model of learning, and the results have been astounding.