HAMLET — Local students joined Richmond County Schools’ Jeff Epps and Chad Osborne on a journey to STEMerald City this week as part of a summer science, technology, engineering and math camp in conjunction with Richmond Community College.
“What they’re doing right now, they’ve been doing drones and smart toys like the Sphero robots,” said Epps. “And they’ve been writing code. Yesterday they did some coding and used that to control the robots. Then they used iPads to control the drones, and today they had to actually program the drones to fly intead of just free-flying. Then they had to create a simulation to control the flight pattern and they are demoing what they’ve made.”
Epps said the STEMerald City theme was an extension on his belief that “if you can dream it, you can build it.”
“It’s a place to define your yellow brick road,” he said. “(Students) might not realize what they really want to do with this technology, but hopefully by bringing them here, immersing them in it, they will discover what they want to do.”
Dr. Cynthia Reeves, RCC’s associate dean of institutional effectiveness, said that the tech camps are open to students from anywhere. There were at least two home-schoolers in the group Tuesday.
“We want any young person who’s interested in this, or just wants to find out if they’re interested, to be able to come here and do this,” she said.
Students sat at long tables side by side, each with a laptop, and for every two a drone and an iPad. Anticipating a chance to launch the drones, they scrutinized their demos.
“Part of this, too, is them learning some basic air traffic control type things,” Epps said.
Richmond Senior High School student Omar Melo said he didn’t know he would be doing so much at STEMerald City.
“I really didn’t know we were going to start creating these,” he said. “I want to do something like this. I would look into design, because I am more an artist.”
Austin Hadinger, 13, said he enjoyed being part of the STEM camp.
“I think it’s very cool being able to learn about drones and how to program them, and to learn more about visual programming” he said.
Epps described the goal of the 2016 STEM camp as seeing “technology as a soft skill.” He explained that technology is no longer a singular career, but a skill that can be used by those who are already in the workforce or those who will soon enter it — a skill necessary for success.
“They are learning logical thinking, problem solving, controlling the sequence of events, and analysis,” he said. “Currently they can take these into the classroom, but eventually they will take them into the world. This is where the pipeline begins.”
Reach reporter Melonie McLaurin at 910-817-2673 and follow her on Twitter @meloniemclaurin. To see a video clip of students flying drones, visit the Richmond County Daily Journal’s Facebook Page.