Meet Brandon Jones.
Brandon likes robots, and he leads his high school robotics team. While this may seem like an average tale about a team of high school smarties, it is not.
Brandon attends Bridgeport High School in Bridgeport, Michigan. The Bridgeport-Spaulding Community School District has nearly 85% of students classified as economically disadvantaged. Funding for engineering robots generally does not happen in districts that struggle to supply the basics, like paper and pencils.
How Engineering Robots Came to Be at Bridgeport High School
Bridgeport High School has awe-inspiring leadership. Carol Selby, Superintendent; John LaGalo, Principal; Chance Kemp, teacher and robotics club coach; Theresa Bannister, teacher and robotics club coach; and many other staff members championed a program that would prepare high school graduates for STEM careers.
Not every school district is this forward-thinking and dedicated to advancing options for their students – but, finding the resources needed to start an engineering program was not going to be easy.
Teacher Chance Kemp stepped in to help. Kemp started Project Lead the Way, an engineering and machinery program. This program follows the PLTW Engineering curriculum, where students dive into the engineering design process, applying math, science and engineering standards to hands-on projects.
A major goal of Project Lead the Way was to complete production runs for local manufacturers. However, new equipment and a new space were needed.
Brandon and several students and faculty members at Bridgeport High School worked to convert an unused “shop” facility in a rear wing of the school. They cleaned old equipment, like clamps, vice grips and other tools, to sell so they could use those funds towards the purchase of new machinery and equipment.
In less than one month, with assistance from several Great Lakes Bay Manufacturers Association members—including Amigo Mobility International, over $40,000 was raised. Secured with these funds, the school was able to set up a modern engineering classroom and purchase a CNC machine to use as part of the new curriculum for a Computer Integrated Manufacturing course. A CNC (Computer Numerical Control) machine is used for prototyping and full production cutting, carving, machining and milling.
Bridgeport High School now had the tools required to design manufacturing solutions and robots, empowering students by teaching them STEM skills to prepare them for future careers. Students who enter the three-year engineering program learn skilled trades and gain hands-on experience. The program goes as follows:
- 1st year – Students are introduced to engineering and create computer-aided drafting (CAD) drawings
- 2nd year – Students learn more about different engineering fields, such as chemical, electrical, mechanical, robotics and more
- 3rd year – The “capstone of the program”—as Brandon calls it—focuses on computer-integrated manufacturing and creating code for, and using, the CNC machine
This year nearly 20 students will be graduating from this program, ready for hire.
Brandon, his teachers, classmates and community leaders rallied to support STEM education. Donations and discounts from local manufacturing businesses helped to provide the necessary tools and supplies needed to make this dream a reality.