COVINGTON — The STEM Extension Project, also known as the STEM Bus, is a project conducted within the STEM Institute at the Newton College and Career Academy.
The mission of the STEM Extension Project is to provide STEM-based activities and curriculum for students in Newton County Schools via the STEM Bus to create a mobile career lab, which focuses on the STEM based jobs available in Newton County.
The idea for the STEM Extension Project started in 2017 with a group of seniors who decided they wanted to share STEM education with the community for their Year Long Project.
The original team included Alex Lowe, Brooks Benton, Seth Besaw, Laurel Freeman, Danette Thomas and Ivy McKenzie.
Since its establishment, students at NCCA have kept the project going.
“The STEM Extension Project envisions serving as a catalyst for positive socio-economic change in our community by developing a pipeline of STEM-ready students for the ever-changing work environment,” said STEM Institute senior Corinne Hanson. “Our main goal is to encourage and inspire the love of education and learning through introducing science, technology, engineering and math-based activities and projects to students of all ages while teaching them the importance of STEM-based careers at a young age.”
“The STEM Institute constantly encourages students to actually create solutions to real problems with things they imagine and to get out there and really do work in their community,” continued Hanson. “Our trainers’ (which is what we call our teachers) role in projects like ours is to help keep the project on track and to assist with community contacts. The original trainer liaison who approved the project and helped get it on its feet was Mr. Scott Rains, who has since moved on from The STEM Institute to another job within the school system. The current trainer liaison is the new STEM Project leader, Dr. Mark Crenshaw.”
The organization runs entirely on grants and donations. To date, the STEM Institute has been awarded $10,000 in grants from the Ford Next Generation Learning Challenge, which is currently being used to prepare the bus by purchasing project supplies for events and necessities for the bus.
“We have also partnered with several local businesses including SteelCo Buildings Inc. and Southern Machine Specialist, who helped construct the bus,” said Hanson.
“The school system graciously donated our bus for the project because they saw the potential in the program,” continued Hanson. “The bus is teal and very hard to miss! It has been gutted and completely transformed into a mobile STEM lab including two long-running laptop working counters, a collaboration table, bookshelves/storage, and much more. We even have the capability to perform some activities outdoors.”
The STEM Extension Project is an entirely student-run organization, which is currently a team of seven students representing three different grade levels.
The team consists of three seniors, Corinne Hanson, Meghan Byrne and Christopher Gomes; two juniors, Abigail Caceres and Trey Kimble; and two sophomores, Bailey Smith and Gonzalo Barreto.
Additionally, STEM is hoping to add freshmen students to the team in the coming months.
The STEM team meets once a week for about an hour and a half in The STEM Extension project room to discuss and prepare for rollouts, continual improvement to the project and other community events.
When the team has a rollout, the bus is taken to a public location fully stocked with a variety of projects and members engage children and adults from a variety of ages and grade levels.
“We work with kids more on STEM learning through projects and fun activities and, with adults, we focus more on job-seeking skills, resume building, and professional skills such as interviewing techniques, proper handshakes and things along those lines,” said Hanson.
You can find the bus by following their social media and keeping an eye out for the flyers posted in the weeks before events.
Upcoming events include Change The World Day on Oct. 26, from 11 a.m.- 2 pm. at the Covington First United Methodist Church and possibly a few holiday events such as Halloween on the Square and the Christmas Parade among others.
“I expect that in this coming year, the bus will have its first successful rollout, with plenty of projects featuring science, technology, and the arts,” said Gomes. “I believe that we can and will be able to make a difference in Newton County for the better, increasing interest in STEM education and careers.”
Follow the Bus on Instagram (@stem.ext), Twitter (@stem.ext) and Facebook (Stem Ext).