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Jemison schools to implement robotics in K-12

By STEVEN CALHOUN/Staff Writer

Jemison Intermediate and Elementary schools are raising money to implement robotics and automation into the students’ science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) curriculum.

“Science isn’t stopping to wait on us. As educators it’s our responsibility to challenge our students – our future,” science teacher Brittany Thomas wrote on a fundraiser page for the project.

The idea for the lab came when Thomas visited a school in Alabaster and saw their STEM lab. She liked the program and proposed the idea of starting a similar one at JES to Principal Scott Ingram.

The lab was approved for kindergarten through sixth grade. Beverly Wyatt will teach a STEM lab at JES and Thomas will transfer to Jemison Intermediate School when the classes shift over the summer.

The activities in the lab align with the state-mandated science and math curriculum and will give students a chance to learn hands-on.

“It won’t just be a select group of students. Everyone will be exposed to it,” Thomas said.

The schools chose a robotics and automation curriculum because the high school’s STEM lab already focuses on that subject.

“We’re trying to align K-12 for the Jemison schools so that the kids get introduced to the robotics and computer science in kindergarten and it will follow them through … they will be a lot more prepared,” Thomas said.

The students will build robots of gradually increasing complexity as they enter higher grade-levels.

Thomas’ fifth- and sixth-grade students will make robots that are “a little more in-depth” and can be programmed to follow a pathway and retrieve an item. She hopes the students will be able to participate in competitions against other schools as soon as 2018.

The new lab was designed by Project Lead the Way, a nonprofit focused on enhancing STEM studies for K-12 students. The group provides professional training and materials to teachers. According to Thomas, there will be training over the summer at Auburn University that PLTW teachers must attend.

Thomas is raising money on Donorschoose.org to buy tool kits and safety goggles so the students can work safely in the new lab. She said the schools have also sent out “50 or 60” applications for grants and donation requests.

“We’re looking at five years before we really have all of the things we need. To set up one of these labs, you’re looking at between $50,000-75,000,” Thomas said.

JES is accepting donations for the STEM lab. The school is located at 1495 County Road 44. Call 205-280-4820 for more information.