VWSD and STEM on the cutting edge

Published 7:49 pm Thursday, May 10, 2018

The world of education is full of acronyms.

In recent years one of the most important and the one charting the course of where education is headed is STEM. It stands for science, technology, engineering and math and is fundamentally about preparing students to succeed in a world where technology is driving the economy.

Warren County knows very well the impact STEM fields can have with the large presence of the Army Corps of Engineers in town and the truly impressive research being done at the Army Engineer Research and Development Center.

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As times have changed, education has been forced to change with it. Where once everything was done with paper, pens and on whiteboards or chalkboards, now every student has a laptop they use and the old boards have been replaced with smart TVs.

Warren County and particularly the Vicksburg Warren School District have proven time and again they get that STEM is the future.

As a former band nerd who writes for a living, I appreciate the arts, but jobs in medicine, computers, engineering and other STEM fields provide good salaries in a world where cost of living is skyrocketing and include a diverse set of career fields.

VWSD has recognized this and taken advantage of the presence of ERDC to capitalize on it. The Academy of Innovation, a STEM based junior high, has become a popular choice for students and provides hands-on learning opportunities in the STEM fields.

The ACME academies at the high schools are providing chances for students to build rockets, participate in the redesigns of their schools and more as they prepare students for a rapidly changing world.

To me, the area of STEM in Warren County that is the most impressive is the work students are doing with robotics. Team 456-Siege Robotics, a community team that is based at ERDC, recently qualified for FIRST World Championships where they gave the undefeated world champions with sponsors including NASA, Google and Dropbox a run for their money.

The underwater robotics team at River City Early College (which you can read more about in this Sunday’s paper) recently placed third in a competition even though their team includes only freshmen and sophomores.

These students are designing the robots using professional computer programs, writing code and more. The experience they are gaining before ever graduating high school is priceless.

Students from these teams and some of their peers have parlayed that experience into student jobs at ERDC where they are working hand-in-hand with doctorate level scientist on cutting edge projects.

Warren County is also working to develop a technology transfer/innovation center in the old Mississippi Hardware building to build an economy around STEM.

For being in a state that is annually near the bottom of the metrics, Vicksburg and Warren County have shown they are ready, able and willing to capitalize on the growing STEM field and be a major player.

  Brandon O’Connor is a staff writer for The Vicksburg Post. You may reach him at brandon.oconnor@vicksburgpost.com.