Eighteen students from Covington and Simpson counties are now considering careers in engineering thanks to the Rural Robotics Program (RRP) taught through Mount Olive Ministries.

There are approximately nine school -affiliated robotics clubs in Mississippi. The RRP is the only non-school affiliated program that provides year-long training classes taught every Saturday for ten months.

Robotics is the study of programmable machines, such as a medical, manufacturing, submarine machine or airplane, and includes researching, building, programming and testing of machines.  Robotics differs slightly from engineering because it includes the study of all engineering fields.

Also as a result of their enrollment in the RRP, collectively, students increased their math scores 4.07 percent and science scores by 2.2 percent.  The top nine participants increased their overall grades by 5.9 percent and their math scores by 2.8 percent. RRP’s high school students increased their math scores 5.57 percent and their science scores by 8.6 percent.

“As a parent, I am really pleased and excited about the program,” says Jackie Love, of Mt. Olive. “The program emphasizes a subject matter students aren’t exposed to otherwise.”

Love’s daughter, Hannah, built a robot programmed to swing disabled children. Love’s husband, Edward, is equally proud of their daughter’s achievement and participation.

“I do not think that this was a career choice for Hannah before, now it is a potential career option and we know now what steps she should take toward that direction should she decide on this field,” says Edward.

Hannah Love, 13, is a seventh grader at Mt. Olive Attendance Center.

The first year students in grades seven through 12 of the pilot program showcased their projects on May 7, 2011 during an awards banquet at Mt. Olive Attendance Center.  Their presentations included robots that comb hair, sweep, and store items.

“The program is a great building block and intervention tool,” says Ellen Giles of Mendenhall, MS. Ellen and her husband, Michael, home-school their son, Creston, who participated in the program.

“The lessons were very practical and students learned as they had fun.  This is the perfect extra-curricular activity,” says Ellen.

Parents Tony and Tasha Leggett enrolled their son and daughter because they believed the program would be beneficial.

“The program is excellent. We want to engage them in programs that will help them in the future,” says Tasha, “and this is an avenue to that end. Whatever endeavor one chooses, robotics will be needed.”

During the summer of August 2010, engineer Ray M. Holt, approached Mount Olive Ministries (MOM) about developing the program.  Holt had previously volunteered in teaching a web design class for MOM.

“When Ray began telling me about robotics, I first had to ask him what robotics is,” says Tony C. Duckworth, president of MOM.  “When I understood the level of math and science skills required to engage in robotics and saw the opportunity for growth and awareness, immediately I was interested in developing and offering the program to students.”

Holt, formerly of Santa Clara, California, relocated to Mississippi in 2010. Holt claims in 1969 that he and a team of 25 engineers working for Garrett AiResearch Corp., a division of AlliedSignal Corp., developed the first microprocessor, which places the basic elements of a computer onto a single silicon chip.  The invention launched the digital revolution. The chip sells billions of units a year.

An article in The Wall Street Journal written September 22, 1998, credits the sixty-five year old for his pioneering work of a parallel multi-microprocessor chip set for the U.S. Navy’s F-14A “Tomcat” fighter jet which simultaneously calculated air speed, wing position and altitude.

John O’Haver, Professor of Chemical Engineering and the Associate Dean for Academic and Student Affairs for The University of Mississippi say participation in the RRP is an investment for the future.

“Mississippi ranks 50th in math,” says O’Haver.  “That indicates how under-prepared our students are for continuing education and the workforce.  They are not bad students, but there are differences in the approaches of teaching and learning math.”

According to O’Haver, also the Director for the Center for Math and Science Education for The University of Mississippi, two years ago, Mississippi universities graduated 21 math teachers for the state’s demand for 150 to 200 positions.

The University of Mississippi is sponsoring a Math Camp July 6 – 9 at MOM.

“Universities can do some things but not everything,” continues O’Haver.  “Getting into the lives of these students day-in-and-day-out, year after year is difficult for us to do but we can partner with people like Tony and Ray and bring resources and help build rural education consortium.”

Along with The University of Mississippi, The University of Southern Mississippi, Jackson State University, and Jones County Junior College have partnered with MOM, in addition to Ergon, Inc., Green Tree Medical Clinic, Sempra Energy, The REAL Christian Foundation and W. E. Blain & Sons, Inc.

“I hope that this program will continue to grow and that more students become involved,” says Walter Blain, of the Blain Companies. “Our state is in need of more educated employees with a working knowledge of math, science, and computer technology. Certainly we have skilled individuals, however, the days of needing someone to use a shovel or a pick are over and gone. Computerized machinery has improved as well as complicated things and our students have to keep up.”

Blain is a volunteer tutor in RRP and recruits other professionals and individuals to assist.

Shannon Duckworth, Program Administrator adds that the program provides students with a positive learning and social environment.

“In addition to helping increase test scores, math and science skills, the RRP is a safe place for students to gather and encourages their endeavors. This program puts MOM on the map in Mt. Olive.”

The next RRP semester begins August 20 – December 3, 2011. The summer RRP begins June 14-24, 2011. Cost is $150 per semester.  To register or receive more information regarding the RRP or MOM call 601-797-4377 or 601-466-0600 or visit the website at http://www.mtoliveministries.com.

[album: http://mtoliveministries.com/wp-content/uploads/dm-albums/Robotics Awards 5-2011/]

Category: Robotics