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STEAM Academy is a school
within a school


By Monroe Roark
Times Correspondent 

  A group of students at Stockbridge High School got a lesson on technology mixed with real-world advice on success in life from a special guest speaker.

  Dr. Dave Chatterjee, an associate professor at the University of Georgia and chairman of the Atlanta chapter of the Society for Information Management (SIM), challenged some of the school’s STEAM Academy students for an hour last week in a session that saw a healthy amount of student participation as well.

Dr. Dave Chatterjee, an associate professor at the University of Georgia and chairman of the Atlanta Chapter of SIM was a recent speaker at Stockbridge High School.

 Photo by Monroe Roark

  The inaugural STEAM Academy program was unveiled this fall at Stockbridge and described by principal Eric Watson as a “school within a school.” Its aim is to provide a student-centered interdisciplinary education focused on science, technology, engineering, arts (visual and performing), and mathematics, while engaging students to think critically and compete globally. About 40 freshmen and sophomores were selected for the first year, and the program will grow in the next few years to include grades 9-12.

  This group was a natural audience for Chatterjee, and it became obvious in only a few minutes that the goals of STEAM Academy reflect the types of things the professor is most passionate about.

  He described part of his role with SIM as involving research “that helps companies find value.” As the hour progressed, he encouraged the students continually to find ways to make themselves valuable in the workplace.

  “Learn for the sake of learning. Take ownership of what you are doing,” he said. “You want to be the brains behind the operation. If you just want instructions you can follow, your job will go away.”

  While espousing the importance and value of ever-evolving technology, he urged the students not to let technology usurp their own capabilities.

  “If technology replaces you and you become unemployed, what do you do about it?” he asked. “Don’t compete against machines. Use them to your advantage. You want to be the creative one.”

  Chatterjee recalled his youth in Kolkata, India, when he studied five hours a day away from school under the watchful eye of his grandmother. It was the kind of discipline formed then that still gets him up every day at 4 a.m. to dive into his work.

  He urged the STEAM students to start a disciplined routine of their own and focus at least three hours a day to their studies.

  “I ask my two children every day after school, ‘What did you learn today?’ You need to ask yourself that same question constantly,” he said.

  When asking the students why technology is important, he gave this answer: “It’s what the world is about.”

  Chatterjee covered some of the most recent technological advances impacting society today, such as 3-D printing and self-assembly systems. The former can produce a replica of something as vital as a human organ, while the latter allows materials such as bricks to fix themselves as they begin to wear out over time. He called this an example of “enhanced intelligence.”

  Another term he referred to was the “glassy future,” illustrated by a photo of a glass desktop used as a television screen with interactive capabilities. He noted the presence of such technology in mirrors and other similar surfaces, making information even more accessible.

  “We are entering an age of ubiquitous computing,” he said.

  With remote presence robots and virtual offices, technology is allowing people to connect with each other in ways never before imagined, he added, and is making people more self-sufficient.

  When Chatterjee asked the students their ideas of technology’s benefits, they gave practical answers:

  “It solves problems.”

  “It saves time.”

  “It makes you smarter.”

  But the professor reminded them that if they do not take an active role in what is going on around them, they will be left behind. With that in mind, he encouraged them to use their opportunities to the fullest extent possible.

  “Strive to be the best you can be. Make a commitment to excellence,” he said.  

  “Be proud of what you do. Don’t turn in shoddy work.”

  “Don’t study just to get a job. You are enhancing your intellectual abilities.”

  The central theme of these comments was to motivate the students to be creative and think outside the box. He gave them an assignment at the conclusion of his presentation: “E-mail me your vision of the future and how you will be a part of it.”

  Based on some of the students’ comments, Chatterjee’s remarks hit home.

  “He was very interactive with everyone,” said Alexis Poole. “He shared the importance of being creative and being the creators of the future. He was very motivational.  He helped us believe that we can do anything.”

  “I like how he was motivating us to strive for our future goals,” noted Jarae Jackson. “He encouraged us to manage our time wisely.  To focus on making our goals come true.”

  Pamela Brown, a teacher at Stockbridge and one of the facilitators of the STEAM Academy, is excited by the potential of the program.

  “Mr. Watson saw the need to prepare our students for the 21st century and the need to address the changes in the workplace and in technology. The STEAM Academy is preparing students for the ever-changing future plus providing opportunities to experience hands-on and real life situations at work,” she said.

  “The traditional classroom is no longer the only way to provide an education for our students. Through the STEAM academy, students can meet with real people, get on the job training, learn the latest in technology trends as they continue on to higher education and their chosen profession.”



©Henry County Times, Inc.