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Grant to help RHMS students excel in STEM program
Check for RHMMS STEM class
From left to right, Kenneth Deal, RHMS assistant principal, Dr. William McGrath, RHMS principal, Ryan Latham from Arconic, Erik Hahn from Arconic, John Melcher, RHMS teacher, and Meredith Clark from Arconic. Photo by Mark Swendra.

Students in John Melcher's STEM program at Richmond Hill Middle School will benefit from a $20,000 grant to help stock a digital fabrication lab with 3D printers and a laser cutter.

Approximately 300 students are enrolled in Melcher's STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) classes and according to the teacher, they are some of the best and brightest. "Kids who are considered gifted or high achievers are brought into this program," he said.

The students routinely participate in STEM-related competitions and Melcher believes the 3D printers will go a long way in helping them create award-winning projects.

"We're always top five, but looking to reach the top," Melcher said. The 3D printers will enable the students to take their work to "the next level."

Making this all possible is Arconic, a worldwide company that, according to its website, "focusesĀ on turning aluminum and other lightweight metals into engineered products such as turbine blades for sectors including aerospace and automotive."

Melcher submitted a grant proposal last year and on Monday, representatives from the company's Savannah operations (based in Midway) arrived on campus to present a check.

Ryan Latham, Arconic's plant manager in Midway, said as more young students become interested in the STEM fields, "We have a self-interest to cultivate our industry." He said the company reaches out to local communities "who could use our resources."

Latham said the Savannah division gives out $40,000 annually, split between two benefactors. The Richmond Hill Middle School grant was one of the two the company presented within the last week (the other in Liberty County).

Melcher is no stranger to applying for grants to enrich the STEM program. He said Georgia Southern University and Rayonier are just two that provided money for his students to create everything from solar-powered greenhouses to beehives.

3D printers
Two 3D printers, previously purchased, that will allow John Melcher's STEM class students to take advantage of the latest technology. Photo by Mark Swendra.
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