For most high schoolers, summer’s the time to relax. However, that’s not the case for Richmond County’s Nicholas Reynolds and Dylan Richardson.
As part of the AGORA Summer Bridge Program, the duo traded in trips to the pool for computer programming classes at Fayetteville State University.
Joining high schoolers from Cumberland County, they spent July learning about coding as well as 3D models and designs before competing for college scholarships in the 2nd Annual AGORA Hack-A-Thon.
“It’s basically just a mix of everything,” said Nicholas Reynolds, a rising 10th-grader at Richmond Early College. “Mr. Epps will have something pop into his head. He’ll make it into a challenge, and we’re scored off how well we complete it.”
As opposed to each high schooler individually competing, students were divided into teams.
“Each person on the team has different strengths and weaknesses,” added Richmond Senior High School 11th-grader Dylan Richardson. “So, from task to task, it’s cool to see how our results will turn out based on the team.”
Throughout the Hack-A-Thon, tasks ranged from designing their own caliper to using a programming language called Python to calculate the lift of various aircraft.
Richardson says he eventually wants to become a Computer or Mechanical Engineer and believes “AGORA will deﬁnitely help [him] in the long run when [he] goes off to college.”
Reynolds agrees, adding he wouldn’t have had this opportunity if he attended school in a different part of the state.
“I’m glad we’ve stayed in Richmond County just because of this program,” he said. “If on a resume they see all these things I’ve done, I’m hoping it will be enough to set me apart.”
After all the points were calculated, Richardson’s team ﬁnished ﬁrst. So, the ﬁve students divided a $10,000 scholarship.
Reynolds took home a potion of the $2,500 prize for ﬁnishing third.
A part of the Navy’s Next Generation Outreach and Recruitment Initiative, AGORA is aimed at strengthening our future workforce by exposing students to hands-on, research-based experiences. Its goal is to increase the number of college-ready students.
But STEM Master Jeff Epps says “it goes way beyond the technology.”
“It’s about changing lives,” he said. “if we can get a pipeline of workers and draw industry to this area, these kids are going to graduate from here. They’re going to get jobs here; they’re going to live here, pay taxes here, raise a family here, and I’d say that’s win-win for the region.”
In addition to the summer courses at FSU, students attend one Saturday a month session for three years.
And, once the AGORA collaboration is complete the region will have 150 students who have been exposed to this high level of technology.
“When you convert that time to college credits, it’s practically a four year degree,” said Epps.
Ashley-Michelle Thublin is public information officer for Richmond County Schools.