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Posted: Wednesday, May 8, 2013 12:00 am

Students at Fort Campbell High School are now in the second year of the STEM initiative — Science Technology, Engineering and Math — and are seeing that program grow by leaps and bounds.

Last week, students demonstrated their knowledge of technology and engineering through the use of robots that they designed and built. These robots performed a wide variety of tasks, from moving objects to different locations in a constructed city to solving Rubik’s Cube and even racing cars.

Lillian Butler is the faculty adviser for the STEM initiative at FCHS.

“Racing is our theme this year,” she said. “We bought this curriculum with little scale-model NASCAR, and we bought some little racing cars to run some races.”

Students created tracks with colored tape to race the remotely controlled cars around the track.

The anatomy class took part in the STEM celebration last week by taking students’ blood pressure and checking their heart rates. The robotics classes built dragster cars, some that were operated by Bluetooth, others were able to stand on end through a gyro sensor to keep it balanced.

Some cars were hydrogen-powered through a process that separates hydrogen from water to power the cars.

“Even after we unplug them (from the chargers), they still run for hours on the fuel cell,” Butler said.

One group of students built a mock-up of a stadium with working electrical lights, learning about circuitry. Other built ecology-friendly projects, like a waterwheel that generated energy, a solar oven, greenhouses that grew peas, a solar-powered wind fan and windmills to generate power.

“We’ve created two activities for them,” Butler said. “One is a scavenger hunt. We had four classes combine and do research and create the posters. We got the special-ed department involved with that. They met with our robotics kids and did research on NASCAR and racecar drivers on tracks and how tracks are built. Then, they created the posters.

“On the scavenger hunt, the students have to go around and read the posters or ask somebody who is working — sometimes the answers aren’t on the posters — and that gets them to interact as well.”

The other activity for the students is to time the racecars and compare those times. On Friday, the students came out to watch the cars race. The top drivers for the week took part in a big event later in the day.

Students building a Rubiks’ Cube-solving robot had to use problem-solving skills because the turntable called for parts that the school did not have. The builders, sophomores Thomas Sutton and James Cusic, were able to use other parts to make it work.

“I saw it online one time, and I never knew how to solve a Rubik’s Cube, and I wanted to figure it out,” Sutton said. “So, before I even learned, I made this using instructions and a program online. Even though I didn’t design it, I think it’s pretty cool.

“James was a big contributor, helping me think of pieces, because one of the pieces that we need for the turntable — we don’t have it. It doesn’t come with the kits that we were provided.”

“We had to improvise,” Cusic said. “We had a few pieces that were similar to it. It needed a larger ring that we needed, so we took a smaller ring and put bearings on it.”

The machine is able to solve randomly scrambled Rubik’s Cubes in as little as two minutes using color sensor and a motion sensor. It scans the cube and figures a way to move the cube to solve it.

The STEMposium — a special event for the science and math students to show their work — invited several guests throughout the week last week, including the IED Academy on post; Matt Butts, who graduated from the NASCAR Technical Institute of Mooresville, N.C., who is the fleet vehicle manager for Detroit Speed and Engineering; and cadets from Austin Peay State University.

“We’ve tried to incorporate the community with (the STEMposium) as well,” Butler said.

The applications for building these “toys” goes beyond fun in the classroom. Many of the students said they wanted to pursue scientific studies in college and find a career in science or math.

“I want to work in aircraft mechanics, so this is something I really want to dive into,” said Sutton.

Freshman Kyle Kendrick, who has become an old hand at driving remote-controlled cars, is a member of the FCHS robotics engineering class.

“I plan on going into aviation engineering,” he said. “This is, like, my favorite class!”

Another freshman, Jewel Henson, said she also enjoyed working with robotics.

“I made the robot so it can perform all these little tasks,” said Henson, who worked with the Green City set-up. Robots carry items from one point on the city plot to another, and once all the tasks are completed, the city is able to thrive on ecology-friendly energy and the centrally-located house spins.

While United States students seem to lag behind much of the world in math and science, programs like STEM help not only to maintain students’ interest in those subjects but also to succeed at a level that will continue far into the future.

David Snow is the editor of The Eagle Post. Reach David at 270-887-3295 or

Copyright 2015 The Eagle Post . All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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