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Cabarrus, Kannapolis teachers learn about STEM

SALISBURY — This week, 20 teachers from Cabarrus County Schools and Kannapolis City Schools spent five days in some of the area’s companies and education centers learning more about how science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) are used in the workplace so they can better prepare students for jobs of the 21st century.
Some of these “STEMersion” adventures involved hands-on learning at Rowan-Cabarrus Community College. Teachers participated in projects with numerous college programs including accounting, motorsports management technology, industrial engineering technology, mechanical drafting technology, mechanical engineering technology, construction management technology and welding.
For example, teachers had the opportunity to build a model solar car and see if it really worked. After breaking up into small groups, participants assembled a solar car that instructor Robin Turner uses with her own managerial accounting class.
“Believe it or not, STEM is a part of accounting,” said Turner, who also chairs the college’s associate in applied science degree in accounting program. “The parts, materials and labor to make the solar car all factor into the accounting costs of a scaled-down car. Activities like this allow students — and in this case, teachers — to experience costs of materials, labor and overhead in the manufacturing process. They also learned about reworked costs when cars failed to run. It is an active learning project in which students leave having learned the materials through experience.”
Additionally, the teachers were able to learn how the college has integrated its 3D printer into numerous classrooms and programs at the college.
“3D computer-aided design (CAD) is the tool that allows students to turn an idea into reality. From the CAD generated model, they can bring it to life — whether it’s printed on the 3D printer as a plastic model, cut out on the plasma cutter or water jet, or machined on the CNC mill or lathe,” said George Barringer, chair of the college’s associate in applied science degree in mechanical drafting technology and mechanical engineering technology.
After gaining first-hand STEM experiences, the teachers will create instructional units for use throughout the school year to aid in preparing students to exit high school, either college or career-ready. The partnership with local companies will help teachers create lesson plans and projects that spark student interest and curiosity.
“One of my goals since coming to Rowan-Cabarrus has been to increase the breadth and depth of our STEM education,” said Dr. Carol S. Spalding, president of Rowan-Cabarrus. “I fully believe that everyone should be interested in STEM — and that it’s critical that we embrace these subjects. America used to be the leader in technology and innovation. It’s time for us to reclaim that role.”
Recent research from the Brookings Institute shows that there are far more U.S. workers in STEM jobs than previously thought — specifically, workers with less than bachelor’s degree.
“It is our goal to increase the awareness about STEM careers and include exposure to STEM in every part of the college curriculum,” said Dr. Hasan Naima, dean of the college’s engineering and business technology department.
Following hands-on training at Rowan-Cabarrus Community College, the teachers spent a few hours each day at top STEM businesses and industries, including Hendrick Motorsports, Brown and Miller Racing Solutions, CMC-NorthEast Medical Center, Lomax Incubator Farm, Porter and Pless dairy farms and the N.C. Research Campus. The course is an extension of the first STEMersion program originally launched by Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools in 2012.

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