Robots don't Vex students: TVA-funded robot help Colonial Heights STEM class

Rick Wagner • Oct 12, 2015 at 11:49 AM

KINGSPORT — Thanks to a $5,000 donation from TVA employees, students in a local STEM class are getting to build and use robots.

Bo Shadden, supervisor of career technical education for Sullivan County schools, said the $5,000 Tennessee Valley Authority employee donation funded the Vex Robots for Colonial Heights Middle School STEM class.

The class also has assembled three of the 10 robots, and it has had them about a month.

Students in Michael McMeans class built the Vex Robots and learned how to program and drive them. The students had to assemble more than 300 parts to assemble each robot, which take about two weeks to build.

McMeans Friday said his plan is to have each nine-week rotation of eighth grade students in STEM classes build robots this school year and use them. Next year, he said students in grades 6-8 would use the robots.

“The students built the robots from ground up and had to wire the motors in order for them to drive and the claw to pick up materials,” McMeans said. “They worked hard and are now enjoying driving the robots around the room.”

Charley Spencer, an economist and senior adviser for TVA, spoke at the Oct. 5 Sullivan County Board of Education meeting, explaining that the grant was for CTE, or career technical education, and STEM or science, technology, engineering and math. The money came through TVA’s Partners in Education Program, which he said takes money donated from TVA employees and gets it to worthwhile school technology programs in TVA’s service area.

“Kids love to put these robots together,” Spencer told the school board.

Spencer said TVA works through local power distributors, including the Johnson City Power Board and Bristol Tennessee Essential Services, to get the grants to schools.

“He (Spencer) kind of made it happen for us,” McMeans said, adding that he met with Spencer shortly before school started in early August and learned shortly after school started that the robot grant was approved.

Colonial Heights Middle, in an area served by the Johnson City Power Board, is the first school to benefit from the program in Sullivan County but won’t be the last, Spencer said.

“This is just our first step,” Spencer said. He said the grants are tailored to the STEM-related needs and programs of recipient schools.






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