STEM Academy offers open house

Published 12:00 am Friday, September 23, 2011

By Sarah Campbell
KANNAPOLIS ó When Sai Lao attended A.L. Brown High School, he spent more of his time reading about science than actually conducting experiments.
But his sister, Dee, and brother, Toubee, will have the opportunity to engage in more hands-on learning thanks to the addition of the STEM Academy. STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and math.
The 50,000-square-foot facility with seven classrooms, 12 science labs, six science prep rooms and two computer labs opened to students this fall. A grand opening will be held on Sunday, giving the public a look at the facility.
Lao, a 2005 graduate of the school, took a tour of the building nearly two months ago and was surprised to see equipment like thermal cyclers and scientific refrigeration units.
ěI never thought we would have anything like that at A.L. Brown so itís phenomenal,î he said.
Lao began working as a research technician at the North Carolina Research Campus about a year after graduating from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
He uses equipment similar to that now available at A.L. Brown for his research.
ěItís just mind boggling that they were able to acquire that equipment,î he said. ěThey have better equipment than we have in some of our undergraduate classroom labs.î
The Cannon Foundation and the Kannapolis Education Foundation provided much of the equipment for the new building.
Superintendent Dr. Pam Cain said itís a great example of a public and private partnership.
ěOur students now have the best resources available and they will have a big advantage when they graduate,î she said. ěWe are so pleased to have such wonderful community partners.î
Lao said heís excited that students at A.L. Brown will be able to make real life connections with science through lab work.
ěScience can get kind of boring fast because you donít see atoms or particles floating around,î he said. ěIf they can apply it theyíll have instant learning and they can actually see how cool it is.
ěAnd if they are engaged in learning they are more likely to do well.î
Lao, who is currently pursuing a graduate degree from UNC-Chapel Hill, will serve as a speaker during the STEM Academyís grand opening celebration Sunday.
ěI want to point out that we have talented students in Kannapolis and now they have plentiful resources and opportunities,î he said.
Lao said heíll be encouraging students to take advantage of those opportunities by linking up with world-class researchers from the Research Campus.
ěThey are really open to mentoring students,î he said.
When Lao was looking for internship opportunities he started emailing researchers until he heard back from Dr. Steven Zeisel of the UNC Nutrition Research Institute.
ěReally all it took was one email,î he said. ěThe opportunities are there and now the ball is in their court.î
David Murdock, founder of the Research Campus, and Dr. David Ross, head of North Carolinaís University System, will also be speaking during the event, which starts at 2 p.m. Those in attendance will be able to tour the facility and get a peek at students doing science demonstrations and working on engineering projects.
ěThis is a wonderful facility, but, ultimately, it is about the students and the work they will do because of our new STEM Academy,î Cain said. ěWhen people come (Sunday) we want them to see more than just the building.
ěWe want them to see our students and the amazing ways that Kannapolis City Schools is taking STEM education to a new level.î
Disciplines taught at the STEM Academy include 3-D engineering, microbiology, robotics, biologics, computer engineering, forensics, genetics, physics and project-based science.
Contact reporter Sarah Campbell at 704-797-7683.