Partnering with Industry: One School’s Success Story

Cecil Murphy teaches PLTW for grades 6-8 at St. Martin Middle School in Ocean Springs, Mississippi. He has 30 years of teaching experience and was St. Martin Middle School’s Teacher of the Year in 2019 and Mississippi Teacher of the Year for both VEX IQ and VEX VRC in 2021.

St. Martin Middle School offers the PLTW Gateway Design and Modeling, Automation and Robotics, and Science of Technology units to sixth, seventh, and eighth grade students. Our school offers students PLTW as an elective for a full year. This allows students to get more in-depth knowledge from the projects they build. PLTW has become our gateway for students to get involved in competitions that lead to STEAM careers.

Our students use Autodesk Inventor in Design and Modeling to learn the basics, then they take it to another level to design their ship in the shipbuilding competition at Ingalls Shipbuilding during E-week. Students get to work directly with engineers from Ingalls, the largest manufacturing employer in Mississippi.

They also learn to use Inventor to 3D print. Sixth graders designed and 3D printed furniture for a model house that eighth graders designed and are building using a CNC machine and old flooring. We also used Inventor to design and cut CO2 dragsters and raced them with an electronic race system that the Leo Seal grant bought us. Students that win receive a miniature 3D printed dragster to take home, and all students get to take their dragster home. They are proud of what they have created.

Chevron has been our biggest supporter. Not only in donations, but they host a time at their facility for our seventh graders to talk to employees at Chevron about their jobs, and Chevron sets up fun activities that our students learn from. They then take a tour of the plant to learn how different oil products are made. The students really enjoy this event.

Our seventh and eighth graders participate in the Mississippi Department of Transportation (MDOT) bridge construction competition. Students use the design process to develop a proposal to build the strongest truss bridge with the least amount of materials. The students with the proposals that are accepted by MDOT get to travel to Jackson, Mississippi, and give their slide presentations and test their bridges for a chance to win gift cards.

In Automation and Robotics, students learn to build and code the basics, then they learn to work together to build and design a robot to compete in robotics competitions. As much as 85 percent of my students participate in some type of competition outside the classroom. It was very common to have 25 to 30 kids coming after school to work on projects. In addition to the Ingalls ship build and the MDOT bridge build, students have participated in Seaperch (underwater robotics), Technology Student Association (TSA), Vex IQ, and Vex VRC.

Our partnership is not only with industry and community leaders such as Chevron, Ingalls, Keesler Federal Credit Union, and Mississippi Professional Educators, but also elementary and high school students. We have grown a program that has students in STEAM projects from fourth to twelfth grade. It is truly fun to watch students work and watch the confidence grow with each project.

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