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STEM article by The Franklin Press – Sept. 30

Any child who remembers watching Sesame Street on PBS will inevitably remember the “word of the day” segment. Throughout the program, characters would work the word of the day into casual conversation always taking an extra pause for emphasis to show how the word was being used.

If Sesame Street were located in Macon County, the word of the day would definitely be STEM.

No, not the green stalk that holds a plant upright.

No, not the center timber of a ship’s bow.

The STEM that has been on the minds of so many in Macon County is actually an acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. During the past week, both the Macon County Board of Education and the Economic Development Commission have discussed the four principals of STEM education.

The impetus for the STEM talk is a potential Golden Leaf Foundation grant that would get a STEM program started in earnest inside Macon County Schools. On Thursday, the EDC voted unanimously to support the grant application as well as a partnership between Macon County, Jackson County and Southwestern Community College.

Grant funds would cover a new STEM coordinator position within the school system as well as the necessary equipment needed to get students interested in the course work. STEM programs often center on robotics, industrial arts and computer technology. STEM students often go on to careers in engineering, computer programing, manufacturing and design.

On Monday night, the Macon County Board of Education discussed the potential Golden Leaf grants and it was superintendent Chris Baldwin that stressed the importance of getting a full-scale STEM program off the ground.

Baldwin highlighted the importance of getting parents on board with STEM education and how administrators could reach out to the community by showing all of the positive attributes of STEM classes. He noted that STEM students not only traditionally improve drastically in math and science, but also learn life skills such as teamwork and public speaking.

Perhaps most importantly, Baldwin emphasized the local economy and the jobs that a STEM education opens up to students. A point that belied words spoken four days earlier by John Edgemon of Franklin Tubular, who informed EDC members that his company along with several other manufacturing and technology companies like Drake Enterprises, TechTone and DuoTech are going to need an influx of qualified employees over the next five years.

Edgemon intimated that Macon County’s major employers would love to hire locally and keep our best and brightest minds in-house if a qualified workforce is available in the near future.

That statement should be the final retort in any argument over whether or not Macon County needs a STEM program. It is obvious that we do.

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