20 Jun STEM Program Growing
A growing number of participants enjoyed hands-on learning last week during the Second Annual Advanced Manufacturing STEM Academy.
Cleveland State Community College’s Athens Campus hosted 32 students – 26 from McMinn County and six from Meigs County, ranging from incoming sixth graders to high school seniors – during the Academy, which held a special graduation ceremony on Friday afternoon. The number of participants has increased more than threefold since the inaugural event.
STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.
“I’m really excited to see the program grow this much in just its second year,” said Krissi Smith, Education Liaison and Career Coach for McMinn County Schools. “I think it shows the growing level of interest among young people in this community.”
“I’m really encouraged by the growth of the program,” said Allan Gentry, mechatronics instructor at McMinn County and McMinn Central high schools and lead instructor for the Academy. “If this continues, we may need a bigger building next year.”
Cleveland State and Tennessee College of Applied Technology at Athens were joined by corporate sponsors DENSO Manufacturing Athens Tennessee, E&E Manufacturing, Johns Manville, Thomas & Betts and Resolute Forest Products to facilitate the event, which culminated with parents and industry representatives attending Friday’s graduation.
“I really appreciate all the parents and our industry representatives,” said Heather Brown, TCAT’s College Access and Success Coordinator. “Today’s graduation gives them the opportunity to see what these students are capable of and that a future in manufacturing is an option for them to consider.”
During the week, students were paired up to construct and program Lego robots to perform tasks similar to what is currently taking place on a much larger scale at manufacturing plants across the country.
“We took a bunch of fundamentals and put them together to accomplish the same outcome,” said Gentry, “but these campers were free to use their own creativity and imagination.”
Students were also treated to daily guest speakers to provide insight into their respective companies and organizations. John Seavey, Don Kahler and Steven Hayes represented DENSO for a presentation on robotics. Chris Sharp, with Johns Manville, spoke about industrial safety. Mike Jackson, with Thomas & Betts, taught the group about efficiency in manufacturing.
Frank Clark, representing Tennessee Career Center, spoke to the students about job seeking skills, including resume writing, interviewing and using discretion when posting to social media outlets like Facebook.
McMinn County Career & Technical Education (CTE) Director Jonathan Pierce and new CTE Principal Kevin Edwards made a presentation about the importance of industrial education.
“They had fun and actually learned something; I hope they take what they learned to the next level,” said Brown. “Local industries use these skills every day. With what these students have already learned, imagine what they could do for their future employers.”
Joining Gentry, Brown and Smith as Academy instructors were Kaylee Okenye from Polk County High School and Ray Ledford from Ocoee Middle School. On-hand early in the week to observe and learn were teachers Karen Baker, from Englewood Elementary School, and Jed McNelley, from Niota Elementary School. Baker and McNelley also helped promote the Academy in hopes similar programs will expand to elementary schools in the near future. Local school guidance counselors also helped market and recruit for the Academy.
The state Pathways to Prosperity program provides funding for several youth workforce development programs, including Smith’s position as Career Coach.
“Thanks to this grant funding, we’ve been able to open new avenues to promote manufacturing and information technology for the next generation of skilled workers,” said Smith.
Article by Andy Brusseau, Monday, June 20, 2016, The Daily Post Athenian