Students at Cullman Middle School have been learning to code and program, by building out their own robots in recent weeks. The program is part of Cullman City Schools’ Career Technical Education (CTE) and Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) standards.
At Cullman Middle School, CTE STEM is now being offered as an elective course for every seventh and eighth grade student, to ensure equitable access across the board. The STEM program was made possible thanks to a $200,000 CTE Middle School Expansion Grant the system received from ALSDE.
“Students are learning how to build and code robots for hands-on learning. They are learning one of the world’s premier programming languages using a hardware microcomputer,” Cullman City Schools’ Secondary Curriculum and CTE Coordinator Lindsay Brannon explained. “CodeSpace features intuitive error messaging and a professional debugger, so students are empowered to diagnose and correct their own errors, while step-by-step coding lessons and open-ended projects allow students to work at their own pace. Students apply new coding skills and concepts to engaging projects with Vex Robots. By exposing students to STEM through interactive, hands-on learning, we are reaching every learner no matter their academic or socioeconomic level.”
Brannon said the STEM program has quickly proven to be a unique way to get students engaged in science and math lessons, while exposing them to how those skills could translate into the job market as adults.
“The students are developing soft skills that future employers deem critical. They are problem-solving, creating, collaborating, practicing conflict resolution, and engaged in higher-order thinking,” she said. “We have a Robotics Team that further develops students’ coding skills. In Mr. Haynes’s first year, he already has 20 students signed up to be on the CMS Robotics Team.”
In today’s technology-driven world, more than half of all students will be expected to use STEM as part of their future careers. Providing students with early exploration exposure and training is vital. The earlier the training begins, the more likely students will understand and consider STEM career options.
Cullman City Schools is committed to expanding STEM learning opportunities for every student in every grade. The CTE STEM Exploration course is integrated into a broader program that spans from middle school through post-secondary opportunities. Students will be offered STEM Technology I and II in middle school. In high school, students will be able to take the Computer Science program pathway. In addition, Cullman City Schools partners with Wallace State Community College (WSCC) to provide dual enrollment opportunities in Engineering Technology.