Students build model cars from household items

Published 8:22 am Tuesday, December 11, 2012

While many young people spend their Saturday mornings watching cartoons or playing outside, dozens of Decatur County children spent last Saturday learning about science, technology, engineering and math by building “cars” out of everyday household items.

The students were participants in the Decatur County 21st Century Community Learning Center (CCLC) program, which is the afterschool program for Decatur County Schools. Although they typically meet during after-school hours, there are also several activities scheduled for Saturday mornings throughout the year.

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Estella Bryant, the Decatur County Schools’ 21st CCLC program director, explained that Saturday’s activity is a part of the school system’s STEM initiative. STEM is an anagram that stands for “science, technology, engineering and math.”

“We want to increase our students’ knowledge in these important fields,” Bryant said. “We hope that getting kids excited about STEM will help them consider pursuing these jobs for their careers. These are jobs that will be in high demand, and are usually high-paying.”

Bryant said there are two Saturday STEM activities scheduled each semester. Parents can take advantage of free transportation from their student’s school site to the STEM site, which this past Saturday was at Jones-Wheat Elementary School.

Students in the JWES cafeteria used everyday household items — such as boxes, toothpicks, rubber bands and even Life Savers candy — to build small model cars. After completing their “Junk Drawer Robotics” activity, the students then were able to test out their cars by letting them glide down ramps.

One plane was wood surface, another was sandpaper, and a third was a sleek plastic. Students were asked to record which surfaces had faster-moving cars, and then were asked to adjust their designs to help them go faster.

Bryant said the ramps were constructed and donated by Bainbridge High School teachers Gregg Harrell and Hugh Lanier.

“STEM is truly a system-wide initiative, and we appreciate all the volunteers who helped make this activity a success,” she said.

Jay Jones, a 2012 graduate of BHS, was a guest speaker at Saturday’s activity. Jones is studying automobile design at Savannah College of Art and Design. He presented a slide show of some of his automobile concept drawings.

“It’s exciting to have a graduate come back to talk to the kids about these kinds of jobs,” Bryant said.

At the end of the activity, the students’ groups competed to see whose cars would travel the farthest on the different ramp surfaces.

“We hope the kids have fun and learn a lot,” Bryant said.