New STEM opportunities are being created for Elmore County students, according to the district’s STEM director Tracy Wright.
A week ago, Wetumpka High School ninth grader Allen Wright had an opportunity to build a computer with First Airman Chance Crawford with Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery. Allen Wright and Crawford spent five hours on Nov. 15 building a computer, making it fast and powerful.
Tracy Wright said the district is constantly trying to build its relationship with Maxwell AFB and he’s hopeful that more military personnel will agree to help students build computers.
Kenneth Smith, the owner of Wetumpka’s Kmarks Web and Computer Solutions, has also signed on to help teach students to build and learn more about computers.
“With having a business so close, we can hopefully start sending students to work with him to get some hands-on training,” Wright said.
The high school’s CyberPatriot and esports teams will use the computers. CyberPatriot, created by the Air Force Association, focuses on cyber security. During CyberPatriot competitions, malware is sent to the teams’ computer and the team is challenged with figuring out what needs to be done to block the malware before time runs out.
“The CyberPatriot teams need to have more powerful computers in order to be competitive in competitions,” Wright said. “We want to give our students what they need to be successful.”
He said WHS is in the process of building its esports team, which will be beneficial because it allows students with an interest in gaming to be a part of a team.
“There are students who are not interested in traditional sports and extracurricular activiites,” Wright said. “Esports allows them to learn how to the collaboration and cooperation skills that’s developed through sports and team activities.”
Esports competitions typically consist of teams of four to six people on different computers competing against other teams. Team members communicate and strategize through headphones.
“Eventually, there are regional, state and national competitions,” Wright said. “It gives the students a sense of belonging to their school.”
Wright said its also more beneficial for students to build their own computers because computer maintenance and repair will be a easier and affordable.
“We can maintain our computers a whole lot easier when the students understand and can diagnose issues with the computer,” he said. “That means that we’re not having to spend money to pay someone to fix the computer. We can purchase the parts and do it ourselves.”
With 1.4 million computer science related jobs expected to be available in 2020, Wright said there are only about 400,000 expected colleges graduates with the skills to apply for those jobs.
“When you have the military setting up programs to recruit and teach kids certain skills, then obviously there’s a void and a need in that area,” he said. “If we invest in our students and start equipping them with valuable skills in the seventh or eighth grade, we can help set them up for success.”