Students (L to R) Jacob Carson, Kobe Flack, Michael Owens and Alan Harrison build a catapult while Program Coordinator Valerie Walker (back) looks on.
Three groups of kids at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Cleveland County (BGCCC) Mable Hamrick Whisnant Teen Center are spending this summer learning how to be innovative, creative and think logically. The 30 intermediate and middle school school students are participating in an eight-week STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) Summer Immersion Program made possible through a grant from NC A&T University's Innovation Trust via the local Cooperative Extension program.
Two groups of kids are made up of intermediate school students (grades five and six), while the third group is made up of middle school students (grades seven and eight). Before the eight-week session began, each groups participated in a week-long teamwork training program similar to workshops used in business and industry settings to teach groups how to work together more effectively.
For two days each week throughout the eight-week program, each group works through a structured curriculum that teaches them to be more innovative and creative.
Charlie Godfrey, N.C. Cooperative Extension 4-H Agent, was instrumental in securing the grant that is funding the summer program.
"With the funds we were able to purchase the curriculum, robotic equipment, iPads and other supplies," says Godfrey. "We were also able to hire a summer intern to implement the program."
Valerie Walker, an education student at Gardner-Webb University, serves as the program coordinator and instructor.
"We have classes in the morning and allow the kids to work on different projects," says Walker. "It is exciting to see the students work through a problem and create something out of everyday items."
The intermediate school students use everyday objects like tongue depressors, binder clips, scotch tape, paper clips and other items to create various machines. One of the first projects the students completed involved making marshmallows catapults.
The middle school students use a Lego robotics program to build, program and operate a machine to perform specific tasks. Using an iPad, the students program the robot to perform jobs like lifting, moving in a specific direction or identifying a particular color.
"One of our goals with our summer day camp programs is to help students learn to be more creative and to think about this in terms of a future career," says Joshua Propst, BGCCC executive director. "This grant has allowed children at the Teen Center to experience some of the same things that intermediate and middle school students learn as part of a robotics team. The partnership with NC A&T University, the Cooperative Extension Center and 4-H has made resources available to us that allow the students to grow in their knowledge of problem solving."
For more information about the summer program or about the BGCCC, visit the club's website at www.bgcclevelandcounty.org or call 704-471-2582.
By April Hoyle Shauf
Special to Community First Media