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Robotics, 3D printing, alternative energy: Two new makerspaces open in Halifax County middle schools

Two makerspaces officially opened their doors in Halifax County Schools on Monday — one at Enfield Middle STEAM Academy and one at William R. Davie Middle STEM Academy.

Financial support for both makerspaces — which are designated spaces for hands-on learning — comes from the Golden Leaf Foundation. Enfield also received an Innovative Partnership Grant from the state in 2020.

Enfield’s ribbon-cutting ceremony featured speeches from Principal Linda Cooper, Halifax Superintendent Eric Cunningham, and Michael Elam, president of Halifax Community College, among others.

At Davie, Principal Brian Biles greeted the crowd as well as a Halifax Chamber of Commerce member and Joyce Lashley of the Halifax school board.

Students at Enfield Middle STEAM Academy before the makerspace ribbon-cutting. Caroline Parker/EducationNC

Cooper said this newly renovated space at Enfield is designed for making, learning, exploring, sharing, and offers individualized learning opportunities for students. Assistant Superintendent Tyrana Battle believes the makerspaces emphasize the importance of project-based learning and can show students how their written curriculum can be applied in the real world and where their education meets industry demand.

After the ribbon-cutting students headed into the makerspaces and guided the public in demonstrations.

Kaycee Smith of Enflield Middle STEAM Academy at the Makey Makey station. Caroline Parker

Kaycee Smith is a seventh grader at Enfield interested in renewable energy. She worked the Makey Makey station in the makerspace, teaching attendees about conductive objects and energy.

Other stations included robotic demonstrations, 3D printing and vinyl cutting, ‘think and doodle’ 3D drawing, alternative energy solar panels and battery experiments, and climate change virtual reality headsets. Students traveled between schools to participate and lead the demonstrations.

These makerspaces may be the first Halifax County students work in, but Elam hopes they won’t be the last. Halifax Community College also has a makerspace in their new advanced manufacturing facility that he hopes will be a pathway for students.

“We will work at every level from elementary up to the high schools in order to help connect those programs from the beginning to the end … and then develop our programs at the college level, to be able to receive them when they graduate.”

Michael Elam, president of Halifax Community College

This summer, Halifax launched another district-wide STEM initiative, the Lighthouse Solar Energy Camp. Twenty rising juniors and seniors received 96 hours of classroom instruction, and 80 hours of on-the-job training focusing on renewable energy. During the camp, students earned three stackable credentials and were paid $15 per hour for their 80 hours of on-the-job training.

Partnering with Halifax School District to make the camp happen were the Center for Energy Education, North Carolina A&T State University, North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality, Halifax Community College, and the Office of the Governor.

Caroline Parker

Caroline Parker is the director of rural storytelling and strategy for EducationNC. She covers the stories of rural North Carolina, the arts, STEM education and nutrition.