Featherbed Lane’s partnership with Lockheed Martin piques student interest in STEM-related learning


When you walk into the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) classroom at Featherbed Lane on Wednesdays after school, you’ll notice that it’s jam-packed with students on the floor, at desks and in nooks with computers and Lego robots. You hear the sounds of problem solving and critical thinking; exclamations like “Aha” and “I got it!” and kids furiously pecking away at their keyboards. Students cram into corners in this “standing room only” space because of their love and interest in robotics. In fact, the school’s robotics club got so large that this year they had to form two teams instead of the typical one.

The person at the center of this organized chaos, encouraging students to try this or that is Emillio Stokes, a STEM ambassador from neighboring business partner Lockheed Martin. Stokes is at Featherbed Lane so much, students know him by name…or they call him Mr. Martin after his employer.

“My role is to interact on a weekly basis to plan STEM-related activities,” Stokes said. “We want to engage, educate and excite students… We need to start early and get kids exposed to STEM early. I think it’s a win-win all the way around, but I do it because I really enjoy it.”

Stokes, along with STEM teacher Wanda Meekins, Parent Service Coordinator Charles Downs, and Principal Renee Johnson, have created quite the STEM culture at Featherbed Lane, and it’s not just limited to robotics. Throughout the year, students participate in a STEM fair, I Love STEM Day, a Grade 5 rocket launch, quarterly STEM Awards, the Hour of Code competition, and more.

“Our partnership with Lockheed Martin has had a definite impact on the improvement of the student’s STEM projects because of the activities they have worked on during the year with Ms. Meekins and Mr. Stokes,” Johnson said. “All those pieces together are working to provide more exposure for our children, more knowledge for them, and have helped develop a level of comfort for students when it comes to describing what they are doing and what they are creating. All the pieces together are working in a positive way for our kids.”

Exposure to STEM-related learning and building relationships with STEM professionals has led some students to aspire to have careers in science and technology fields.

“My experience in Robotics Club has been fun for these two years because I like going to the tournaments and programming in general,” said Dexter Fraley, a Grade 4 student at Featherbed Lane. “I have learned how to program, I have learned about trial and error, and I have learned how to cooperate with people. I either want to be a computer engineer or a construction worker.”

According to Downs, it’s great to have Lockheed Martin as a partner and as part of the school community.

“The way we look at it, them being here causes the kids to aspire to be engineers,” Downs said. “When Lockheed Martin comes into our school and participates in I Love STEM Day or gives out student awards, all the students are motivated to participate and get one of those awards…and everyone wants to be on the Robotics Team.”

Lockheed Martin does parent workshops as well, and the company’s help with STEM initiatives has helped to increase parent participation in the school overall.

“[Parents] all want their students in Robotics Club,” Downs said. “And they come out to events all the time.”

Principal Johnson credits Lockheed Martin and Stokes with revitalizing student interest in science and math.

“We are very fortunate and delighted to have Lockheed Martin as one of our partners here at Featherbed. They are an integral part of our Robotics Club and sponsor our Lego League competitions,” Johnson said.  “The partnership is especially beneficial to our school on a greater scale because not only do they work with our robotics teams, but they have also donated fiscal resources and time to working with our entire student body. They are a strong presence at our school.”

According to Meekins, having Lockheed Martin as a part of Featherbed Lane’s school community gives the students and the school a sense of pride.

“It makes the kids work harder in STEM classes. It gives them incentive,” she said.

Mame Thiam is a prime example of a student who has embraced STEM and has discovered her passion for robotics.

“The Robotics Club is a place where kids can come and try something new, and it’s a place where you can learn about technology before you go to high school or middle school,” she said.

When asked what she liked most about Robotics club, Mame answered enthusiastically with a triumphant shout, “Everything!”

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