This year has been full of grants for HRMS math teacher, Marsha Neal! Because of several of these grants, enough First and VEX IQ robotic kits were ordered to start an after-school robotics program at the middle school.
Ms. Neal first became aware of the VEX IQ robots last year when she took her afterschool STEM group to Calhoun Tech in Orangeburg, SC for a 4-H competition. There was a display of the robots there and the STEM students loved them. She signed up and was accepted to a week-long summer program at the college to learn all about the VEX IQ robots.
This is the first year the school has ever had a robotic program and both the students and teachers are thrilled about the program and the possibilities it can have for the future of the students involved. Ms. Neal, coordinator of the program says, “This is a learning year for us and we are all figuring things out together. Hopefully, by next year, we will be ready to travel and compete against other schools across the state.” This year the program has approximately 25 6th and 7th grade students and 3 teachers: Ms. Shiny George, Mrs. Teri Metelak and Ms. Jeena Manoj. Mrs. George tells, “As a teacher, I feel that the robotics program creates a competitiveness for a range of age groups in a positive way. It also helps address the growing demand for teaching STEM in schools.” Ms. Manoj expresses, “As a teacher it provides skills in future employment. The robotics program is suitable for children with a range of abilities.” Mrs. Metelak says, “I love learning 21st century skills alongside of my students! We have embraced the robotics program as a team effort and we are learning from each other.”
According to 6th grader, Gabby Chaney, “This robotics program is helping me grow as a person and is teaching me how to deal with difficult tasks.” Another 6th grader, NaQuan Gordan reveals, “The program is teaching me to never give up.” Lynnay Rogers (6th grade) expresses, “This program is teaching me about friendship, teamwork and sharing” while Nicolas Martinez (6th grader) declares, “I have gotten so many new experiences just in the few weeks we have had the program!”
The after-school robotics program involves 4 VEX IQ robotic kits, as well as 2 First robotic kits. We have enough girls involved that we will be able to have an all-girls team, which was an original goal of both Ms. Neal and Tracye Stormer, Director of Technology for JCSD. Hopefully, by the students competing next year across the state, it will open up numerous scholarship opportunities for them in the future.