Thompson receives $2,500 NASA grant

awoolen@macon.comSeptember 11, 2013 

Terra McMillan, Thompson Middle School’s science department chairwoman, left, and school Principal Walter Stephens are both working to advance STEM education at their school.

ANGELA WOOLEN/THE SUN NEWS — awoolen@macon.com

CENTERVILLE -- Thompson Middle School has received a 2013 Summer of Innovation Mini-Award worth $2,500 from NASA.

The school plans to use the funds to create a new club called the Tigerneers, which will focus on science, technology, engineering and math. The money will also be used to train other teachers in an all-day seminar this fall and promote STEM in the classroom.

“I hope it brings awareness to STEM,” said Terra McMillan, Thompson’s science department chairwoman.

She has already ordered rocket launchers for students and mouse-trap cars, which are propelled using a mouse trap mechanism.

McMillan applied for the award early in the summer and found out the school received the grant in late July right before school started.

With the club starting as well as the school’s participation in the Museum of Aviation’s Starbase 2.0 program, McMillan hopes students will learn the importance of careers in STEM fields.

“It’s very important in our global society. It is the basis of pretty much every career,” she said.

Careers in the engineering field start at an average salary of $60,000 per year with a bachelor’s degree, McMillan said.

McMillan wants her students to realize the impact the STEM program can offer.

“It’s never too early to get them exposed to careers,” she said.

Principal Walter Stephens hopes this is the start for the school to get a STEM certification, a process, he said, which takes three years to complete.

“It would mean a lot for the staff and the community to have a certified school, he said.

According to the Georgia Department of Education’s website, there is no school in Houston County with the certification. Only six schools in Georgia have the designation.

McMillan called the grant a “tremendous opportunity” to increase students’ knowledge of the STEM path.

The program could open doors for students to receive scholarships to college as well, Stephens said.

“These are the next generation of scientists and mathematicians,” he said.

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