Troy University hosts Wiregrass JROTC STEM Leadership Academy

Published 12:57 pm Friday, June 9, 2023

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A total of 101 students from across the state made the trip to Troy University this week to take part in the Wiregrass JROTC STEM Leadership Academy.

While a vast majority of the students were from schools across the Wiregrass, there were also students from as far as Baldwin County and Huntsville. Students that took part in the camp worked together to complete missions using VEX robotic kits. They also got a chance to tour local industry like KW Container, Rex Lumber and Lockheed Martin in the area.

Charles Henderson student Rebecca Shipman helps give her team’s presentation during STEM Academy.

“They got to see how what they’re learning in the classroom applies to every day jobs and jobs that they could possibly get in the community upon graduation,” Troy-Pike Center of Technology Principal and Director Jeremy Knox said.

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The students also got to tour and learn about two-year and four-year colleges in the area and took part in JCLC leadership activities required for ROTC and participated in adventure activities at Camp Butter and Egg and even participated in drown proofing exercises, which teaches cadets how to use Army supplied fatigues to float.

This was the first year that Troy has been the host of the STEM camp, which is made possible through a grant received through the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD). Last year, the Wiregrass staff traveled down to Mobile County and helped put on a camp there before launching the program in Troy this year.

“I think it’s gone great,” Knox said. “For a first year, we’ve heard a lot of positive comments, from instructors that have been to as many as 30 camps, that it’s run smooth. Troy University has been great to provide us with transportation to and from events, as well as student helpers to make things run smooth. Without that help, the busses don’t get here on time, the materials don’t get to where they’re going on time and we don’t have the success we’ve experienced so far.”

Students got a chance to design and build a VEX robot.

The students closed out the camp experience by working together to design and create a prototype robot that could be submitted along with a proposal for a DOD contract in a mock scenario. Though the 2023 camp saw more than 100 students take part in it, Knox said that they will be aiming for even more next year.

“Moving forward, we would like to see it grow, as far as the number of students,” he said. “Right now we’re at a cap of 144, so we’re off that mark a little bit. Next year, we’d like to see more students but be able to keep the same great experiences we’ve had this week.”

Knox stressed the importance of both JROTC and STEM programs in area high schools.

“JROTC is important because of the leadership aspect it instills in the students,” said Knox. “Everyone thinks it’s all, ‘Hooah, hooah, join the military’ and all of that but it’s not. It’s about citizenship and leadership. Those are the great things that it instills in everybody and everybody needs to know those soft intangible skills.

Students from all over the state, like Bob Jones’ Ava Zimmermann, took part in the summer camp.

“Everything relates back to STEM. If you look at some of the business and industry we went to, they used to have 18 employees at one particular place running one part of it and due to the integration of STEM and robotics, they’re down to one person per shift running it. It’s the way of the future and if we don’t get ahead of it and meet it we’ll get left behind.”