MOBILE, AL -- The Mobile County Public School System was pleased to report on their highly successful JCLC / JROTC STEM Leadership Academy, which took place on the campus of Spring Hill College, June 2-7, 2019. This is the fifth year for them to execute this event and this year they once again included a number of events typically executed at a traditional JROTC Cadet Leadership Challenge (JCLC). The purpose of the six-day residential JROTC STEM Academy was to increase awareness and interest in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) career opportunities for Mobile high school students and to increase their understanding of the STEM knowledge and workplace skills, e.g., teamwork, communication, and general leadership skills, needed to obtain these high-demand and well-paying STEM jobs. The focus of this year’s academy was on career opportunities in the advanced manufacturing related career fields. Cadets resided on the beautiful campus of Spring Hill College. Established in 1830, Spring Hill is the third oldest Catholic Jesuit college in the nation.
Participating Cadets originated from 14 area high schools, 12 from the Mobile County Public School System (MCPSS) and one each from Chickasaw and Satsuma City School Systems, and consisted of 13 Army and 1 Navy JROTC programs. Cadets were divided into six platoons with each platoon consisting of approximately 26 Cadets (two squads each). A STEM Instructor (a MCPSS math or science teacher), a STEM Leader and Assistant (Spring Hill College upper level or graduate students), and two JROTC cadre staff were assigned to each Platoon. All STEM instructors and assistants participated in two days of professional development in preparation for leading the Cadets in the Academy.
The Academy JROTC Cadets participated in field trips to area industries, including BASF Chemical Plant in McIntosh, Alabama; SSAB Steel Plant in Axis, Alabama; and Hyundai Motors Auto Manufacturing Plant in Montgomery, Alabama. Cadets also toured the Alabama Air National Guard Airbase in Montgomery, future home of the F-35 Joint Fighter. Additional tours were conducted with the US Coast Guard at the Aviation Training Command (ATC) training facility. Cadets also spent a half day on the campus of the University of South Alabama (USA) conducting STEM investigations and interacting with faculty and graduate students in USA’s College of Engineering. The Cadets also toured both USA and Spring Hill’s campuses learning about expectations and support for students and how to enroll. In addition, each day Cadet teams of explored STEM content and developed critical thinking, communication and leadership skills through hands-on projects. Platoons and the engineering teams were purposefully constructed so that they consisted of students from different high schools, providing the most opportunity for individual professional development.
Each Cadet engineering team created, tested, and redesigned solutions to two STEM Challenges, which required Cadets to design and build a computer controlled robot to conduct a variety of tasks on a controlled playing field. The robotic kits were purchased from VEX Robotics and included hundreds of components allowing a wide variety of prototype designs to be constructed to complete the assigned task. Each project required initial design development, construction, trial and error analysis, and final production. Each solution had to meet stated criteria and constraints in order to be considered a success. The Cadet teams created presentations to describe the process used to solve the challenge and reported their results and recommendations for improvement to their fellow Cadets and leaders. Each evening the Cadets were motivated to pursue their goals in STEM as local business and industry leaders shared their own inspiring stories of perseverance and commitment to a vision for success. On the last day of the JROTC STEM Academy, business, industry and education leaders joined the Cadets for a Celebration and Awards Ceremony where Cadets shared presentations and gave inspiring testimonies as to the value of their weeklong experience in the Academy.
One of the highlights again this year was the incorporation of key components of JCLC into the STEM Academy’s goals and outcomes. This hybrid STEM / JCLC Academy was a huge success and included drown-proof training conducted at the US Coast Guard ATC swimming pool; rappelling at the City of Mobile’s Fire and Rescue Department’s rappel tower; land-navigation training at historic Blakeley State Park in Baldwin County, Alabama; daily physical fitness training which included an evening of team sports; and numerous leadership opportunities for the Cadets. They are convinced that combining the JCLC requirements in Cadet Command Regulation (CCR) 145-2 with related STEM challenges results in a win-win experience that links academic goals with the team-building/leadership goals of JROTC.
This year they had a tremendous compilation of guest speakers and included leaders in academia, industry, and military officials. Among these were COL (Ret) Patrick Downing, a retired Special Forces Officer who served in Vietnam and is engaged in numerous veterans organizations in the Mobile area; Dr. Andrea Kent, the Dean of the College of Education and Professional Studies at the University of South Alabama and graduate of Theodore High School located in MCPSS district; LTC Chris Chapman, a graduate of the University of South Alabama and former Cadet during LTC (Retired) Barrow’s time there as the Army ROTC Professor of Military Science. He also graduated from Shaw High School (now a middle school) located in MCPSS district; COL Michael Stinnett, Director of JROTC at US Army Cadet Command; and Ms. Liz Perry, an engineer and active educator sponsoring STEM programs across the nation.
Funding came from multiple sources to include funds from the Career & Technical Education Department, educational endowments and business & industry partners, the Mobile County Commission, the City of Mobile Council, and the National Science Foundation. Please note that the U.S. Army paid zero dollars toward this camp this year. Having support from community stakeholders and government officials, local school districts (Mobile County Public Schools and Chickasaw & Satsuma City School Systems), the Army and Air National Guard, and officials from two of the regional collegiate institutions was critical to the successful outcome of this academy. They could not have accomplished their goals without the support from each of these agencies.