With this grant, the school has hired several new staff to support the program, including Elaine Wood, serving as STEM coordinator, and a family engagement specialist who broadens the scope to offer computer skills and programs such as GED classes for parents.
The school improvement grant also has seen support from businesses and individuals in the community, said Wood.
Some of these have become members of the high school’s STEM advisory board, chaired by Julian Carter, CEO of the Douglas County College and Career Institute.
According to Wood, individuals such as Terry Miller, a local architect, has worked with the architecture class and engineers from the Southern Co. have come in to work with students.
“We saw the kids really light up,” Wood said.
In addition to outside support in STEM-related classrooms, the addition of science and robotics competition has enhanced the program at the high school.
Move over poster boards and markers — today’s science projects have become high tech.
The once-popular science fair has been re-established at the high school, said Wood — and with it competition to rival a Friday night home football game.
What makes the one at Lithia Springs High School unique is that every student in the school completes a science project.
“The kids have been so responsive,” Wood said.
Using new school technology, students design a tri-fold board online which they present to the class and to their teachers. From there, top projects are completed online through Google.
The high school had 34 top projects on display in the competition, five of which advanced to county competition.
According to Wood, three students from Lithia Springs have moved on to regional competition.
Lithia Springs High School started a FIRST robotics team in November, according to Wood.
FIRST stands for For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology, which is a nonprofit organization that sponsors and promotes robotic competition for students in kindergarten through high school.
The high school received a grant from Google and NASA to begin the robotics program, which is a direct result of the engineering pathway of the STEM program.
According to Wood, there are 16 students on the robotics team who meet with three teacher-coaches, Katherine Gerbis, Tarsha Wynn and Chris Kahley, as often as three times a week after school and on Saturdays.
In addition, anywhere from two to eight volunteers from Google are always present to help.
“These guys are tireless and patient,” added Wood.
The robotics competition will be held in March.
This year’s robotic project, announced in January, is the “Ultimate Essence” in which students must build a robot that will shoot Frisbees into a goal.
Google has played a significant role in stepping up the STEM and robotics program, said the STEM coordinator.
Google not only provided the competitive registration fee for the team, but also supplied mentors who work with students a couple of days each week.
The Lithia Springs High School STEM advisory board also includes four Google employees, she added.
With the goal of taking the high school’s STEM theme program into magnet school status by 2015, school officials and advisory board members are already gearing up to begin the state certification process.
“More technology competition needs to be implemented for students,” Wood told the advisory board, “especially to be certified.”