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STEM academy reaching out to businesses

program provides advanced science instruction for students

POSTED: June 13, 2013 8:00 p.m.
 

It appears David Johnson got exactly what he was looking for Tuesday morning.

 

The head engineering teacher for Forsyth Central High School’s STEM Academy collected business cards and spoke with business leaders willing to offer a helping hand to the school’s program during the Lanier-Forsyth Rotary Club meeting.

 

“We need individual support, and more importantly, the students need to connect to industries ... so they can get real-world experience,” Johnson said after the meeting.

 

Johnson and a group of about seven students in the school’s robotics club spoke to the Rotarians about the various competitions in which they participate and why the program is such an important foundation to those planning a career in technology.

 

Their message resonated with the audience, including Rotary member Marc Morris, president of the Talmadge Group, who offered his assistance to Johnson after the presentation.

 

“If we can be able to perhaps help them to teach some of the soft skills some engineers need ... and help them with some fundraising -- we are a tech company, so it just makes sense to make an investment in these sorts of things.”

 

Rotarian Wes Woolard said helping the program is a “great way to contribute to the education system.”

 

“I just really love science and technology and I think it’s a great way to encourage kids to go into that field,” he said.

 

During his presentation, Johnson said STEM, short for science, technology, engineering and math, is a project-based learning environment in which the more than 150 students enrolled work to solve problems and produce results.

 

Each student took turns talking about the various robotics competitions, how they fared and some of the real-world skills they learned. Johnson said such a project-heavy curriculum engages students far more than learning from a text book.

 

“They zone out pretty quick,” he said of student who simply read the information. “But if they’re building a machine ... they pay a lot more attention. They also go back to their math class and pay more attention there too.”

 

Johnson said the students are also using actual industry tools, which makes the program more expensive. The extra tools, he said, are worth it, “to teach these students the skills they need to get a job.”

 

“While we call it robotics, it’s really not. It’s workforce development.”

 

While robotics, science and technology are not unique to Forsyth Central, the school is home to the county’s only STEM Academy.

 

Valery Hall, governance and career development coordinator for the school system, said the program is unique because it “allows for combining rigorous core academics with career and technical education course offerings to give students a blended, interdisciplinary perspective of how concepts relate.”

 

“From students who will be interning in engineering firms to biotechnology students working on research with the University of North Georgia, this academic setting is vital for those students who are fully committed to a STEM field,” she said.

 

 

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