Wiregrass held its first STEM & Manufacturing event for high school and middle school students on October 25, 2018 at the Valdosta campus. Similar to Wiregrass’s Get Wired career event of previous years, the focus was on industrial careers related to science, technology, engineering and mathematics as well as manufacturing.
“The purpose of the event is just to showcase our programs, of course,” Brooke Jaramillo, Wiregrass’s Executive Director of high school services, said. “We want students and the community to know what we have to offer … and about our majors. But also we want to partner with the industries so that students could see if they come to Wiregrass and graduate from a certain program where jobs are available within our community.”
The event kicked off at 8:30 a.m. and welcomed 467 students from 15 high schools until 11:30. Then, at 12:30 p.m., 541 students from five middle schools arrived and explored simulations until 3. Since Wiregrass covers an area of 11 counties, students came from schools all over South Georgia.
Upon arrival, students were given bingo cards to use throughout the day. For each booth and classroom visited and each activity participated in, such as team building, they received a sign-off. Once the card was completed, they became eligible to enter a contest to win a prize.
Each industry in attendance had a designated area or booth that informed students of the industry by providing hands-on activities that were designed to be fun, interesting, and educational. There were nine industry partners in total: ADM, Chaparral Boats, CJB Industries, EnviroLight, Goodwill Career Center, Georgia Power, O’Steen Motors, Packaging Corporation of America and Society of American Military Engineers.
CJB Industries, who has three chemical plants in Valdosta, used exploding elephant toothpaste and a “bloody handprint” to demonstrate chemical reactions. Concentrated hydrogen peroxide, dish soap and a sodium iodide catalyst were used to make the explosive foam. Ammonia and goldenrod paper were used to make the bloody handprint. Students were fascinated by the change in color and how the glove remained clean and unchanged.
In addition to the industry partners, industrial and technological classrooms were set up for students to visit.
Mechatronics, an associates program that will be available at Wiregrass beginning in January, had many simulations and machines for students to examine. They were able to push buttons, flip switches, ask questions, and hear explanations of how the machines work and what the science is behind them.
In electrical engineering, high school and middle school students sat down with Wiregrass students for a one-on-one demonstration. The Wiregrass students used batteries to explain series and parallels.
They also used explanations that students could understand, such as how one blown Christmas light can cause the whole strand to go out, and analogies. For example, one middle school student chose soccer as a common subject to relate to electrical engineering. The Wiregrass student was able to accommodate by using the team as a representation of a parallel.
The air conditioning class featured several demonstrations. The first focused on gravity. Instructor Scott Watson provided three balls—a basketball, a baseball, and a rubber ball—then asked students which one they thought would hit the ground first. Each ball would hit the ground at the same time, despite the difference in mass and volume, due to gravity and air resistance.
The next model demonstrated pressure by using an air pump and a gallon of water with a ball floating on the water’s surface. The air would pump the ball up through a narrow tube, but the water would not enter the tube and remain underneath instead.
The third display featured a tube connecting a beaker of boiling water set on an eye to an empty beaker on the table. The steam from the boiling water traveled through the tube into the empty beaker where it turned into water. This demonstrated evaporation and condensation, which can also be applied to air conditioning.
The welding class featured a simulator where students could pretend to weld, and the auto collision repair course provided hands-on experience that allowed students to use electrical sanders to sand fenders from vehicles.
The machine tools program showcased the four- and five-axis machines within the classroom. To demonstrate, the four-axis machine smoothed and etched coins out of metal. Students in this program are often sought after by industrial businesses in Valdosta, such as Steeda Manufacturing, who produces parts for Ford.
In addition to classroom demonstrations and industry booths, there were a few activities as well. One of the major activities that took place on campus was the T&I Escape Room, which took a group of 10 students in at a time. The students were brought into a dark room while blindfolded and were told to sit in a row of chairs at the front of the room where they were then given a scenario.
They pretended as if they had been walking down the Las Vegas strip and, as individuals, had become lost from their group. The power went out, and they were kidnapped. When they removed the blindfolds, they were “chained” to their chairs.
Students had to use their imaginations with this activity. They started by finding the first clue within reach on the floor in front of them. Once “unchained,” they were able to move around and search for clues. Each clue related to STEM in some way and would lead to another clue until they eventually escaped. The purpose was to not only to challenge knowledge of STEM-related programs but to also show how Wiregrass impacts futures.
Overall, the event was arranged to get students thinking about their futures. They explored career options by speaking to representatives whom could answer any questions. They visited real Wiregrass classrooms to meet instructors and students as well as to learn more about the programs they are most interested in. And they were shown how their studies in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics can relate to their lives and future careers.
Wiregrass has more upcoming events throughout their various campus locations. The STEM & Medical event, which is like STEM & Manufacturing but with a focus on the medical field, will be held on Nov. 13, 2018 at the Coffee campus and again on Feb. 12, 2019 at the Valdosta campus. Additionally, Geekfest, which is similar to these STEM events but focuses instead on computer science and business, is scheduled to take place at the Valdosta campus in March.
Click here for more information on the programs offered at Wiregrass Technical College.