By Leah Allen
BC Staff Writer
Instead of sleeping in or playing with friends, a group of students from Sunflower County Consolidated School District gathered in the Ruleville Middle School library Saturday.
The students were part of a free, one-day science, technology, engineering, and math camp sponsored by Dorothy’s Legacy, a local nonprofit.
Dorothy’s Legacy brought in NASA systems engineer Angelo Coleman to present information on engineering and technology to the students.
Coleman works for the Huntsville Support Center where he communicates with the astronauts on the international space station as they work on various science experiments.
“I have been working with NASA since 1997 but I actually have my own business called STEM for Kids as well,” said Coleman.
“I did a program in Huntsville, AL, and Ms. (Shayla) Tate (with Dorothy’s Legacy) saw me and said that she would love to have me come to Ruleville to work with the students here.
“She wanted them to be able to spend time with someone who works as an engineer, because a lot of kids don’t know anyone who does that,” he added.
Coleman said he actually started the STEM for Kids because he “wanted to make young people aware of what engineering is.”
The program is geared toward fifth and sixth grade students because Coleman said those students are “very eager and observant. When they get to high school there are so many things they don’t like, but in middle and elementary school they are more open to things and they tend to be more interested in science.”
During the camp students worked in pairs to build and program small robots, which were purchased by Dorothy’s Legacy.
“Building a robot encompasses all of the different types of engineering,” said Coleman. “You have mechanical discipline in the actual building. They are connecting wires, so that’s electrical. They have the programing part because they are connecting to the computers to operate the robots.”
“My goal is to make kids aware of the opportunities that are out there and show them that engineering is fun. The things you learn are beneficial to you and to society. They could be the next great astronaut or physicist. If they don’t know what an engineer is though, they will never consider that as a career choice,” said Coleman
He also pointed out that engineering relates other education disciplines outside of science and math.
Shannon Thompson, academic coach at RMS, agreed.
“Listening to some of the students today, I heard them talking about citing sources when they spoke to another engineer via Skype,” Thomson said.
“A student pulled up a website and referenced the text in their conversation. It was really exciting to see them using those resources in order to support their ideas, which is exactly what we want them to do in their writing,” she continued.
Thompson said that the work students were doing at the STEM camp would be applicable to their education “across the curriculum. They are doing critical thinking which they can use in all of their classes.”
“They may have read about these things, but this is different. They are actually applying these skills and using those problem solving and critical thinking strategies. That is going to extend far beyond building a robot today, “she said.
“That was one of the things I kept telling students too,” Coleman said.
“You have all of the different areas of education in this project. You have to work with others, you have to read the instructions, you have to calculate and do some math. You have to ask questions and find answers,” he added.
Coleman said that when kids learn about engineering, they also learn life skills.
“Things aren’t always going to work out the first time,” he explained. “There are always times in life where things aren’t going to go as planned. What we are teaching them is that even though things don’t happen the way you planned, it’s not the end of the world.
“You don’t give up. There are other ways to address the situation. They have to find creative ways to solve those problems and programs like this can help them build those skills,” he added.
By Leah Allen