Florence One Schools unveils mobile classroom to expand STEM education

Pee Dee

FLORENCE, SC (WBTW) — Florence One Schools unveiled Thursday its new mobile classroom designed to bring STEM lessons to students across the district.

“This bus really represents eliminating some obstacles for students,” Superintendent Dr. Richard O’Malley said during the unveiling at John W. Moore Middle School.

It’s a school bus outfitted with all sorts of gadgets and learning centers- including computers, simulators, virtual reality, drones and more. It’s goal is to bolster education in science, technology engineering and math.

“This would be millions and millions of dollars to do this across the district,” O’Malley said. “On top of trying to hire those teachers. So to think of new ways of how we can do this, how we can spend our money wisely and just try to make it equitable across the district, this was the best way to do it.”

The STEM bus will rotate to every school within the district for a few days at a time.

“We designed it so it can be a K-12 to go to every one of our schools in our district,” Director of STEM education at F1S Chris Rogers said. “We present our students with a problem. And they have to solve that problem. And depending on their age we’ll ratchet that problem up give them some more they need to do.”

It will focus on lessons in engineering, biomedical science and computer science. Around 30 students can be accommodated, but that’s limited for now because of COVID precautions. The project has been over a year in the making.

MUSC Health Florence and The School Foundation are partners in the project.

Joe McCall, with MUSC Health Florence, said there’s a shortage of healthcare professionals. He added the best time to spark interest is at a young age.

“The need for health care professionals  has increased,” he said. “With the growth of healthcare in different communities, the need for nurses, physicians in all avenues of healthcare. In virtual care, the physical hands on care.”

STEM jobs are expected to grow eight percent by 2029, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That outpaces the rate among other jobs.

“It’s not about establishing the next innovator,” CEO and Founder of STEM U Chris Williams said. STEM U is the consultant that converted the bus. “It’s about establishing the next problem solver no matter what they want to do as a life choice.”

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