Students at Bennettsville Intermediate School will soon learn skills that some college students haven’t been exposed to yet.
It will be in the school’s new STEM U iNoVaTe lab, which was unveiled Tuesday during a ribbon-cutting.
Various district, Board of Education and community members had a chance to see students demonstrate how the lab will connect the dots with science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).
Christopher Williams, director of partnership development at STEM U, said STEM is all of those elements merged.
“We are problem-solving,” he said. “We are teaching our scholars (students) how to problem solve, how to think critically, how to go into the real world, into different challenges and to be innovative.”
The lab will be used by students with robotics, drones, and programming.
Williams noted very few schools in the state have a non-traditional learning environment like the one at BIS.
Crystal Halma, principal at BIS, said teachers and staff there want their students to have what other districts have.
“We want to be able to provide them with opportunities to work with science, technology, engineering, and math, which is our STEM program,” she said.
Marlboro County School District Superintendent Dr. Gregory McCord said learning how to think critically early helps people grow as individuals, community members and people of the world.
He wanted those present to think about how in 15-20 years, the young people at the event may be leading this country.
“It all starts right here,” he said. “This is a wonderful moment for me because I get to see firsthand what 20 years later looks like.”
Board of Education Chairman Larry McNeil thanked Williams and STEM U for coming to help prepare students globally.
He noted opportunities like this didn’t exist for him.
“And now I have the opportunity to see my grandkids do something that none of us had an opportunity to do,” McNeil said.
Dr. Carolyn Prince, chairman of the Marlboro County Council and a member of the BIS School Improvement Board and retired educator, said a lab like this is vitally needed in a rural area like the county.
“It is very important that we give our kids every possible opportunity to be able to compete because they are competing with the world,” she said.
Helping to demonstrate various programs and equipment in the lab were students Christopher Jones, Alaynah Page, Lakia Brewington, and Madison Ellium.
Funding for the lab came from a $70,000 Title I mini-grant.
Halma said every student at BIS will be able to use the lab weekly.
Betty Rogers, STEM instructor, and computer lab teacher, will prepare lessons each week so they will interact with the various technologies.