By: Alicia Sands Lurry
Dozens of career- and college-minded students at Brown Middle School recently spent the day building and programming robots, all while exploring careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).
Thanks to a partnership between Brown Middle School, College For Every Student (CFES), and the United States Military Academy at West Point, 80 students participated in the West Point Robotics Workshop – a two-day, in-school activity focused on helping students become college and career ready by exposing them to STEM professions and college readiness.
Funded by Scott Pioli, Atlanta Falcons assistant general manager and CFES board member, the STEM program serves as a passion project to help provide opportunities for students – especially those who will become the first in their families to attend college.
“This workshop helps create a strong culture around college and career readiness, which fits really well with Atlanta Public Schools’ mission and Mr. Pioli’s desire for students to have opportunities that he didn’t have,” said Andrea McDonald, director for Special Programs with CFES. “We want to help excite kids about STEM, because that is where the future is.”
During the workshop, which was held inside the school’s new STEM lab, students learned the basics of robotics and the various facets of STEM. They also asked questions about the cadets’ experiences at the esteemed military academy, which is the largest engineering school in the country.
Students like seventh grader Kyla Bunch couldn’t have been more excited about the opportunity. She and her partner spent part of their day building robots to solve a real-life problem involving an isolated village devastated after a hurricane. In turn, Kyla and her classmates were responsible for programming their robots to help bring food and supplies to the village.
“It’s fun,” Kyla said, as she and her partner worked diligently to assemble and program their robot. “You get to use your brain and pay more more attention to the little things and take precaution to what you’re doing.”
STEM lead teacher James McDaniel said the workshop exposed students to college readiness and the opportunities available to them.
“When they try robotics, students realize computer science isn’t as hard as they think it is,” he said. “This helps them realize that they can become computer scientists.”
Principal Tiauna Crooms said the CFES partnership has allowed teachers to focus on a college and career path that is directly aligned with Georgia standards.
“This partnership event has provided our students with essential skills, but more importantly the relationship has allowed Brown’s students to explore the possibilities for their future,” Crooms said. “By participating in this workshop, students have experienced how they can apply what they learn every day in school to a career in STEM. I am confident that my students will take this invaluable opportunity and use the tools they have acquired and apply to school and beyond.”