The Middlesboro Independent Education Foundation (MIEF) has established a new and innovative math and science curriculum for eighth-graders at Middlesboro Middle School (MMS), says Baylor Fulton, regional president.
Project Lead The Way (PLTW) is a hands-on project based program divided into six independent nine-week study units. Students envision, design and test their ideas with the same advanced modeling software used by companies like Sprint and Intel, according to Larry Grandey, Middlesboro Schools’ Chief Information Officer.
According to the PLTW pamphlet, in this type of science class students study subjects such as mechanical and computer control systems, automation and robotics, energy and the environment and design and modeling.
Grandey says a partner company for IBM was able to build a very specific laptop for PLTW that is valued at around $1,300. This specific type of laptop server was necessary for the program so that students could be more mobile with the ability to move around freely and connect with their groups.
“It is basically a server that is in a lap top environment because the software that has to run is very mathematical in nature,” said Grandey.
“The amount of processing power that we are putting in these kids hands can relate — or is better than — major businesses in the area,” added Grandey.
According to Superintendent Rita Cook, MMS is one of the few middle schools in the state using this program.
“Most of the PLTW is at the high school level and putting it in the middle school level is getting the students more interested and involved in math and science before they get to high school,” said Cook.
PLTW instructor and MMS science teacher Georgina Anderson said that students in the automation and robotics class are currently working on their first project.
“They are divided into groups of two and three and are researching and building robots of their choice,” said Anderson. “They are going to be studying gear systems and then programming to get their robots to do a variety of things.”
Students say they like the courses for a variety of reasons. One student said she loves the class because they each have their own laptop to use instead of books. Another said that he loves all the hands on activities because it never gets boring.
A show of hands in the class revealed that a majority of the students didn’t like science and math before they started working with PLTW. One student said, “this science class is just awesome!”
The program uses creative ways to make math and science interesting and exciting for the students said Anderson.
“The class is going to have a robot drag race. The students will be building their robots, programming and troubleshooting them and also adding some measurement into it,” she said.
Anderson said this will have the students doing the same work as current engineers.
She said at the end the groups will turn all of their learning and research about automation and robotics into a presentation for the class.
Funding for Project Lead the Way comes from the Middlesboro Independent Education Foundation, which is still seeking donations.
Bob Vaughn, chair of the MIEF Board said, “The goal of the project (the foundation) is to raise a total of $50,000. The foundation has raised 40 percent of this so far. Any contributions are appreciated and will be well used for the kids.”
Chase Smith is a staff writer for the Middlesboro Daily News. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.