UNION — When you were a kid how much of your summer would you have been willing to spend in school?
For many children, both now and in the past, the answer would have been an emphatic no, because children tend to view summer as a time to forget about school completely and just have fun.
What if, however, spending a few weeks of your summer in school meant learning how to build robots and programming them to do what you wanted them to? Would that have made spending part of your summer at school more appealing?
For the past two years that’s the STEM Club held at Sims Middle School has offered students the opportunity to learn about, build and program robots and then put them through their paces during the club’s graduation ceremony. This year’s STEM graduation was held Thursday, June 21 and the following students were presented their certificates by Sims Principal Eric Childers and Union County School District Personnel Director Jeff Stribble:
• Jamel Burnett
• Dillon Smith
• Michael Gallman
• Luke Paris
• Bryson Dameron
• Ty Jeter
• Trey Prince
• Neleh Lott
• Shonta Wicks
• Alex Kaufman
• Keshawn Worthy
• Jayquan Harris
• Devin Cook
• Ellis Luman
• Jaedyn Moravan-Exford
In addition to the certificates they received for successfully completing the club, the participating students also gained a leg up on their fellow students in terms of being prepared for the start of school in the fall.
“The whole reason this program was started was to prevent the summer slide,” Upstate Workforce Board Executive Director Ann Angermeier said.
The “summer slide” is the problem of students falling back from the level of learning they achieved by the end of the previous school year and having to regain that level at the beginning of the new school year before they can advance to the next level. Angermeier, who spoke at the STEM Club graduation, said that Union County Superintendent Dr. William Roach has been a strong supporter of the club as part of the effort to prevent the summer slide.
“We want to keep them on grade level as much as possible,” Angermeier said. “We don’t want them to start the school year behind. We want to keep them on grade level and advance them too if possible.”
The STEM Club was established to help do that, and Angermeier said the robotics portion of the program was included to make the club more attractive to students. Beyond this, however, Angermeier said that the robotics portion of the club was designed to help give the students a greater understanding of the elements of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math), particularly as they relate to the workplace of today and tomorrow. That involved not only working with the robots in the classroom, but also touring local industries where they learned first hand about real world impact of STEM.
“They were able to learn about science and math in a classroom setting by building and programming the Lego Mindstorm Robots provided by the Union County Carnegie Library,” Angermeier said. “It is also important that they see how the STEM subjects relate to a career. A lot of times they have to see it to get it, hence the plant tours and programming those robots to get them to do what you want them to.
“The other aspect was the tours of the local plants and facilities,”she said. “For example, when they toured Timken the company had some of its engineers lead the tours so the students could see how STEM related to each of the jobs they saw being performed.”
Angermeier said the students also toured USC Union where they learned about the ESports Program that is currently under development. She said they also visited the Union County Airport where Union County Supervisor Frank Hart gave a presentation on airport mechanical jobs and also gave a flight demonstration. They also traveled to the Town of Carlisle where they visited the Carlisle Fire Department and learned about being a volunteer firefighter and also met with Mayor Mary Ferguson-Glenn who spoke about the town. Angermeier said the tour of Carlisle was part of teaching the students about “community service and the importance of giving back to the community.”
The students also took a “hard hat tour” of the Union County Carnegie Library which is currently undergoing renovations. Angermeier said the students got to see the new youth area of the library which will feature “a teen room and study area with lots of video games” which she said the students were quite enthusiastic about.
The following organizations, businesses, and government agencies sponsored this year’s STEM Club and Angermeier thanked them for their generosity:
• Santuc Precision
• Union County Carnegie Library
• Union County
• Union County Foundation
• City of Union
• Upstate Workforce Board
• USC Union
• Carlisle Finishing
• SC Department of Commerce
Angermeier said that thanks to the generosity of the sponsors $12,000-13,000 was raised to pay for this year’s club. Even with that support, however, Angermeier said this year’s club was only for three weeks instead of four like last year’s. She said additional funding is needed so that next year’s club can be for four weeks and she hopes that will be the case so that the students participating will have even more opportunity to learn about STEM and the other subjects covered by the club.
Charles Warner can be reached at 864-762-4090.