Exciting Students About Technology Jobs of the Future

Students in Douglas-Coffee County and Swainsboro-Emanuel County not only do the math, but are learning its real-life applications in science, technology, and engineering, too, thanks to a pilot program launched in 2007 by Georgia Tech’s Center for Education Integrating Science, Mathematics, and Computing (CEISMC) and Enterprise Innovation Institute (EI2).

Called STEM (for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics), the program was sponsored by the Georgia Rural Economic Development Center (GREDC) at East Georgia College and entailed a collaboration of educators, employers, and economic developers. It includes activities to pique the interest and imaginations of young people who will become tomorrow’s workforce, serving a diversified group of students regardless of whether they plan to pursue post-secondary education at a technical college or a four-year institution. In one school system, the efforts specifically targeted students at risk of dropping out of high school.

The activities were shaped according to local economic development goals and were centered on outreach and foundation building, teacher internships, and introductory robotics training. Specific activities included the following:

  • Field trips to Atlanta involving research and robotics labs at Georgia Tech, as well as visits to the Georgia Aquarium and Fernbank Museum of Natural History and Science.
  • Visits to a Griffin manufacturing firm where engineers demonstrated robotic operations.
  • Training of four teachers in robotics technology.
  • Three teachers participated in CEISMC’s GIFT (Georgia Intern- Fellowships for Teachers) program that gives them firsthand exposure to today’s technological workplace.
  • Facilitation of a one-day technology road show by NASA’s Aerospace Education Services Program to enhance public understanding of scientific advances springing from the space agency’s missions.
  • 20 students and four teachers participated in FIRST Robotics Championships, a competition challenging teams of students to solve a common problem via robotics.
  • A total of 144 students participated in the pilot, which local educators and economic developers feel ignited interest in STEM-related endeavors. The students designed, built, and programmed robots; applied real-world math and science concepts; and learned teamwork by laboring toward common goals. Further, student participants in both communities experienced some notable improvements from 2007 to 2008. Although several factors may affect such improvements, there is reason to believe that the students’ involvement in the pilot program played a helpful role.

    Regarding those participating in the pilot program:

    • Average GPAs increased.
    • School attendance significantly improved as denoted by the drop in average absentee days.
    • Disciplinary actions dropped as indicated by the reduction in action plans generated.

    Beyond these desirable improvements which may have been aided by the pilot program efforts, a number of students provided their direct feedback to the Georgia Tech team, regarding their field trip experiences, in particular.

    “I enjoyed learning about all the different career opportunities available in my future. This [trip] has really motivated me to keep working hard in school.”

    “[The trip] has helped broaden my mind on new ideas and has helped me better understand science and technology.”

    “After today, I realized how important college really is in our lives. It opened my eyes and mind. This trip has inspired me to try my best and to do things that I would have never thought I could do.”

    Given the success of the pilot, the program has been extended through 2009 with additional sponsorship provided by GREDC and will include further activities to enrich student interest in science, technology, engineering, and the math that fuels all three.

    For more information, contact EI2’s Hortense Jackson (229.430.4327, ude.hcetag.etavonninull@noskcaj.esnetroh) or CEISMC’s Jeff Rosen (404.385.2431, ude.hcetag.cmsiecnull@nesor.ffej).

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