This month Georgia Children’s Cabinet celebrates Governor Deal’s state goal of improving and expanding science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education with January STEM Education Month. Governor and First Lady Deal believe Georgia should focus on STEM education to not only advance our Georgia students to achieving more, but also to ensure that Georgia has future innovators for continued growth. STEM occupations are essential to Georgia remaining economically and scientifically competitive with the rest of the nation, because of their direct connections to innovation, productivity, and economic growth. STEM fields are one of the fastest growing in the nation, and the challenge is increasing opportunities for more students to study STEM subjects in school programs and eventually enter STEM fields in the Georgia workforce. STEM Education month brings to focus the numerous beneficial programs throughout Georgia from elementary school age, to college students, up to adults all within our state and workforce.
Cabinet co-chairs, First Lady Sandra Deal and GOCF Executive Director Katie Jo Ballard, visited key sites throughout the state to highlight numerous STEM education opportunities. Lilburn Middle School holds Georgia Tech’s Integrative STEM 8th grade curriculum of Robotics and Engineering Design. They were able to observe the class construct the tallest “building” with everyday materials while working on teams and with different challenges such as only non-verbal communication for a period of time. The class eventually progresses to using 3-D design software, 3-D printing, and LEGO® MINDSTORM NXT robotics to generate solutions to problem based engineering challenges in the areas of Bio Mechanics, Electromagnetic Radiation, Renewable Energy and Analog to Digital Conversion. Previous students came in to show the robot they created and how they made it move and measure its distance, all for a fun morning of robotics!
The Governor’s Office of Student Achievement’s STEM Targeted Educational Program (STEP) Academy is a partnership between Gwinnett County Public Schools, Gwinnett Technical College, and the Gwinnet Chamber of Commerce to serve at-risk, overage eighth grade students as they transition to high school, proceed through high school, and are equipped to transition to a post-secondary institution. First Lady Deal and Katie Jo Ballard visited this program at Moore Middle School and were able to see the STEP Academy students use STEM focused lessons to learn their entire curriculum from science, math, to their literature classes. The goal of the program is for all students to catch up with age peers, and then continue through the Biotechnology Research and Development career pathway as well as have the opportunity to earn dual enrollment credit at Gwinnett Tech during their senior year. Students who began their eighth grade year as highly at-risk for dropping out of school and not completing a high school diploma will complete their high school diploma in only three years on high school campus, earning not only a diploma but also industry certification and college credit in a critical-need field.
To show the continuity of STEM Education in Georgia’s schools as well as future opportunities for STEM focused students, four STEP Academy students of Moore Middle School joined First Lady Deal and Director Ballard on a visit of Gwinnett Technical College. The excited students toured the college’s beautiful Life Sciences Center classrooms and labs and were able to talk about their future career dreams of being a nurse or a surgeon and how they’d be able to make those dreams a reality at Georgia’s own Gwinnett Tech. The Technical College System of Georgia is statewide and offers all Georgians an opportunity to expand their education and career prospects in numerous in demand STEM focused fields.
First Lady Deal and Director Ballard rounded out their STEM visits at Gwinnett County’s manufacturing plant, Suniva, Inc., the leading American manufacturer of high-efficiency, cost-competitive PV solar cells and modules. They toured the plant and observed the lauded and very high-tech manufacturing process the company uses to make their cells. It was exciting to go from students designing and building their own robot at Lilburn Middle School to seeing the highly advanced robots used in the manufacturing process of Suniva’s plant. All within one county are STEM opportunities for all ages. Georgia’s STEM education opportunities are wide-spread and allow our students to go from elementary, middle and high school to a technical school with workforce readiness for the many STEM focused vocations across the state.