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Bright Ideas grants honor teachers
Richmond Hill Middle School
Richmond Hill Middle School, above, racked up the most Bright Idea grants from Coastal Electric Cooperative this year, with eight. Photos provided.

Local teachers last week received quite a surprise as they were greeted with cheers, balloons and money to fund some very special classroom projects.

By next week, over $40,000 in Bright Ideas grants will empower teachers in Bryan, McIntosh and Liberty counties to bring their Bright Ideas to reality.

Funding for Bright Ideas grants comes from Coastal Electric Cooperative members who allow their electric bills to be rounded up to the next dollar through Operation Round Up. Those nickels and dimes are pooled together and invested back into the community through the Coastal Electric Cooperative Foundation.

Since the Bright Ideas program’s inception in 2002, close to $450,000 has been awarded to give local teachers the power to put their creative teaching ideas into action.

“These children are our future and most valuable resource,” said Coastal Electric Cooperative CEO Chris Fettes, who presented donations on behalf of the Foundation. “We are here to support the dedicated people who work hard every day to provide a quality education and enhance our students’ quality of life.”

Summaries of grants awarded in Bryan County: With eight winners, Richmond Hill Middle School received the most Bright Ideas grants of any one school this year. Below is a summary of each of their projects:

• Andrew Robertson’s $1,007.86 grant project, “The Effect of Color,” will allow students to research the effect different color lighting has on mood, attention and creativity. Students will use LED lighting and nature-inspired light covers to make spaces more inviting and conducive to learning– also learning how to wire and install lighting.

• Lisa Tuttle’s $1,940.50 grant project, “Exploring Energy Alternatives,” will allow students to investigate using alternative power sources to power neighborhoods and then build a model of their community. They’ll learn about renewable energy, sustainability and their benefits to the planet.

• As part of Mary Bowden’s $1,999.16 grant project, “Live to Give through Math,” students will work in groups to determine how a problem our community faces could be solved through 3D printing. Students will use math skills surrounding fractions, unit conversions, scale factors, ratios, measurements, and more to create, design, and 3D print their solutions.

• Robert Hodgdon’s $1,340.00 grant project, “Precision Horticulture Technology and Applications,” will provide necessary equipment to allow students to gather data related to soil and crop health – resulting in greater crop yields, more efficient water usage and a decrease in fertilizer run-off, which is a leading source of environmental degradation in many waterways.

• As part of Tammy Luke’s $1,934.03 grant project, “Designed to Sew, Print and Learn,” students will research scientific topics such as biology, oceanic research, Mesozoic creatures and chemistry, and then express their findings through artistic expression – namely fabric embroidery, painting and animation.

• For Tracy Thompson’s $1,974.66 grant project, “Teacher,” students will build and program a hexapod robotic spider so they can learn fundamental engineering, design and programming skills. They will interpret code results in real time as they have the robots mimic real organisms while making connections to their use in the real world to help humans.

• Dennis Moore’s $1,690.00 grant project, “Sustainable Energy Sources,” focuses on the use of renewable energies and will give students hands-on, real-world opportunities to see how it works and how it can be used. Students will use a mobile solar electric generator for a variety of functions, such as energizing pumps that circulate the water/fertilizer mixture on the school’s hydroponic systems and power electric vehicles the students will build.

• Dustin Barnwell’s $1,645 grant project, “Etching the Earth,” will provide students with small, app-controlled laser cutters to create and design logos, art, etc., for an entrepreneur project in their social studies class.

* McAllister Elementary’s Sarah Chancey won a $763.32 grant to fund her project, “3D Solutions,” which will allow students to 3D print designs they make in a science unit that focuses on erosion.

As a culminating activity, students design solutions to ease coastal erosion. By designing these prototypes, students become real-world problem solvers and can become part of something that can actually make a difference in the life around them.

* Carver Elementary’s Ashlyn Borden won a $1,707.99 grant for “Horticulture Therapy Through Hydroponic Gardening,” in which students will assemble and maintain mobile hydroponic garden that travels to all classrooms in the school. By addressing various sensory elements, the garden will improve students’ gross and fine motor skills, health, and mood. The garden will also challenge students’ science skills as they observe and record data, and determine maintenance needs. The gardens will provide opportunities for students who may be academically challenged to experience success.

* Carver Elementary’s Windi Holmes and Dr. Sheri Hundley won a $1,884.61 grant to start a school robotics club to stimulate learners to deepen their engineering skills to be successful in today’s world of science and technology. In this club, students will design and build robots with real-world applications. It will encourage and facilitate hands-on interactive learning.

* Richmond Hill High School’s Erin Turner won a $1,987 grant for her “Outdoor Classroom Project,” which will bring together teachers, students and the community to create an outdoor classroom at the school.

* Richmond Hill High School’s Stephen Peterson won a $1,960 grant for “Project Robot.” Grant funding will provide three brains, 11 smart motors, two vision sensors, and three controllers with all required chargers, cables, and radios to allow student teams to compete with obstacle courses, color recognition, coding and advanced functions.

These new components will allow all engineering students and robotics club members to not just see a sensor, but to also design, install, and operate a sensor that they programmed.

* Richmond Hill High School’s Stefanie Whiten won a $1,993 grant for her project, “Livestream Multi-Camera Production,” which will allow more students to be involved in livestream productions, further preparing them for careers in film and TV. The school’s Audio, Video, Tech & Film program offers the community opportunities to watch everything from football games to theater performances through livestreams.

Richmond Hill High School teacher Erin Turner
Richmond Hill High School teacher Erin Turner with Coastal Electric Cooperative CEO Chris Fettes. Photos provided.
Carver Elementary teachers
Carver Elementary teachers Ashlyn Bordon, Windi Holmes and Dr. Sheri Hundley won grants for projects involving hydroponic gardening and a school robotics club. Photo provided.
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