“Gates on the Go!” partnership encourages K-12 STEM readiness

Published 5:56 pm Friday, February 25, 2022

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For the RC News-Herald

In an effort to promote STEM education and quality learning in Gates County, “Gates on the Go!”, a comprehensive science and technology program intended for K-12 students, has continued its impact on the area through professional development and the upcoming “Sea to Air” drone expo to be showcased April 28 at Gates County High School.

A partnership between East Carolina University (ECU), Gates County Public Schools, and the Ray and Judy Felton Family Foundation, “Gates on the Go!” has supported Gates County teachers throughout the COVID-19 pandemic through professional development opportunities catered toward social and emotional teaching, the utilization of technology and support in STEM education.

As students return to the classroom, “Gates on the Go!” has shifted its focus to student learning development and interaction with STEM technology.

K-12 students were provided manuals, drones, iPads and accessories as practice resources for the ‘Gates on the Go!’ training day held for participating Gates County Schools. Photo by Amanda Hobbs

Dr. Shawn Moore, director of ECU’s Center for Stem Education, said the program began as an effort to increase STEM hands-on learning activities and career readiness opportunities for students in Gates County K-12 schools through engaging with new technologies and research best practices. To jumpstart the program, a drone expo was chosen as a way to excite and engage students about the ways drones are used in everyday life and the possibilities they can be utilized in the future.

Students will be presenting individual showcases to the public on how drones operate and relate to STEM careers at the drone expo on April 28 from 5 to 7 p.m. at Gates County High School.

“I want the kids in the region to see the many career possibilities that a STEM education can offer other than what’s traditionally been available, or what they think is available to them. There’s extensive research that, you know, the more involved a student is with hands-on STEM activities, the more they can see themselves as a STEM professional,” Moore said. “So, if we’re talking about science identity, they need to be involved in it.”

As the program continues to evolve, Moore said students in the region of Gate County will not only grow confidence and self-efficiency in their learning, but in their individual capabilities as well.

The mission of “Gates on the Go!” is to spark momentum in the community and create accessible opportunities for quality learning that lead to a sustainable future for students in Gates County, Moore said. He hopes that students and teachers will take “Gates on the Go!” as an opportunity to expand their knowledge in STEM and create growth in the region of Gates County.

Ann McClung, science coordinator for ECU’s Center for Stem Education and one of the coordinators for “Gates on the Go!” planning, said the drone expo is the program’s latest STEM project for Gates County students and teachers, with each school in the county participating with three or more teams each.

Currently, McClung said the drone expo is phase one of the project in order to introduce students to the technology through research and basic operations. The drone expo uses cutting-edge Tello Drones through Pitsco Education, a future-reading STEM learning company that creates technology for K-12 students.

“In phase one, it’s more of an introduction, having the kids learn how to maneuver and use the drones,” McClung said. “But also, they are doing research to have a better understanding of the curriculum, or a better understanding of the drones, what they’re used for, and what careers out there in the STEM field use drones.”

McClung said she hopes the program will engage students and teachers in STEM experiences and activities to better build the needed confidence to explore the field. Research has shown that the earlier STEM education is introduced to K-12 students, the more prone they are to excel in academics in testing, McClung said.

Gates County K-12 teachers have shown similar excitement to students, McClung said, and many have reported increased confidence and engagement in the program and drones expo itself.

McClung hopes to see an increase in program participation following the drone expo, as well as improved academic performance in not only STEM, but reading and comprehension skills. As “Gates on the Go!” continues to grow, McClung said the program will implement additional hands-on programs such as Science Olympiad, robotics and more.

“The earlier that you can get the kids hooked and engaged in STEM education at an earlier age, they’re going to see it as a normal, like this is the norm,” McClung said. “And so therefore, progressing and moving forward, they’re going to have that confidence to want to excel in the sciences and math.”