Partnership effort places HCOT students in Elite 8 on outreach project

From left, Assistant Principal/COT Director John McCullar, Agriscience Teacher Jeff McKinney, students Karman Speakman, Erin Thrasher, Caleb Williams, Nash Collum and Julia Bonner, Drafting Teacher Jamie White and Winston County Extension Coordinator Zack Brannon.

HALEYVILLE  - Students at the Haleyville Center of Technology have truly experienced how one of their projects can have a far reaching effect of helping others,  now that project has earned them into the Elite 8 at a state level competition possibly facing nationals.
The walk-in cooler, designed by the drafting students of Jamie White and constructed by drafting and the agriscience students of Jeff McKinney has impressed those with the Samsung Solve for Tomorrow competition, that HCS has been listed in the top eight of 2,000 statewide applicants, school officials proudly stated.
This elite status was due to McKinney explaining in an application he received by e-mail that the students designed and constructed the project as well as how  that project impacted their community.
In this case, the walk-in cooler, which was first constructed at HCOT then reassembled at Main Street Ministries, will be the location where perishable foods are stored before being given away each week to families in need throughout Winston County.
In fact, Main Street, headquartered on Highway 195 in Double Springs, helps about 800 families a month have food and other necessities.
Now that the HCOT has been placed in the top eight in the state based on these efforts, phase 2 will be answering a questionnaire of seven to eight questions on how they incorporated their STEAM program into the construction.
The two basic concepts being sought in this competition is originality and feasibility, showing how the project helps others.
Deadline to have submissions for phase 2 turned in is Dec. 4. Once submissions are received, there will be a review time for submissions before the state finalists will be chosen on Dec. 23, to represent the school and state at nationals in April 2020.
For qualifying in the elite 8, HCS will receive a Samsung tablet. 
If HCS wins, they will receive $15,000 in resources to be divided between the drafting and agriscience programs.
STEAM, which stands for Science, Technology, Engineering Art and Mathematics, was the basic concept behind the  walk-in cooler, which relied heavily upon math and other skills in doing a hands-on project of service to others.
“This project is a perfect example of how there is no limit to what students can do when they are paired with tremendous educators who pursue great things,” pointed out High School Assistant Principal Candy Garner, who also works as STEAM coordinator.
“What STEAM does is it opens the door for teachers to have the freedom to empower their students to do great things,” Garner pointed out.
Garner admitted she never expected this walk-in cooler project would have gained the recognition that could possibly lead students to national competition next spring.
“I wasn’t really expecting that. I just knew it was presented but it was a great thing for everybody involved,” Garner added. “It’s just a great example of how good things come from good things. When you do good, good things happen.”
Several team players assisted in this project, from the Winston County Extension Service, HCOT, as well as the Northwest Alabama Resource and Conservation Development Council which provided $5,000 toward the efforts.
Alabama Power also donated $800 to Main Street Ministries  for electrical work on the building; on the same project with a $2,000 donation of lumber by MillCreek Lumber.
The Winston County Diabetes Support Coalition, operated through the Haleyville Community Foundation,  also submitted $2,115 to purchase equipment and supplies for the project.
“This year since we are working on our STEAM certification, we decided we would use a STEAM model to develop the plans and create the ideas and make these things come to life,” McKinney said.
The opportunity for the Samsung Solve for Tomorrow contest came into play during the project, when McKinney received an e-mail  in late September, early October.
McKinney completed the application on the Samsung website, giving out school and contact information, project overview and how that project would solve a community problem, he said.
“Our community problem, we’re calling it food security,” said McKinney, “because we have so many families in our area, they are not real sure where their next meal is coming from.”
The mission was how could the HCOT provide these families with a viable source of food and how the project helped an existing entity expand their food service program, McKinney added.
The Samsung Solve for Tomorrow program, which is in its 10th year, contacted HCS Thursday, Nov. 14, alerting them they were in the elite eight or the list of state finalists, school officials said.
If Haleyville makes it to nationals, students will display a working model of the project filmed for a Youtube video which will be reviewed by a panel of judges as well as be prepared to explain and list their project’s benefits before a panel of judges.
Educators feel confident that students can excel in this area, especially since they have already completed the project and explained to officials locally.
“We look like we’re ahead of the curve, in my mind,” McKinney said.
Part of the process helping build this support is to present pictures or videos of the project online, whether Facebook, Twitter, with the hashtag Solve for Tomorrow or Samsung Solve for Tomorrow, White pointed out.
“We need our community’s help,”  McKinney added. “Part of the process of winning at nationals is community support, getting the word out to the community. The community will play a part with our ranking at nationals as a whole.”
WC Extension Coordinator Zack Brannon noted, “Even if (this recognition) had not have happened, just the impact that this will make on the community, but now it’s going even a step further.
“You don’t get this kind of opportunity every day,” Brannon added. “And for these kids to be a part of that and not only the kids, but the school as a whole and just Winston County. You guys are representing the whole county here.”
“It’s kind of surreal that this idea has actually caught hold...and has grown into what it is today,” McKinney added.
“Now that a nationally recognized or internationally recognized company has looked at our idea and deemed it worthy for greater recognition, it’s just surreal. I never thought it would get to this point,” McKinney pointed out.
Students involved with the project shared their ideas about the project and how it feels to be considered for state and possibly national status.
First, drafting students in Jamie White’s class shared how they designed the project,  and how they assisted the agriscience class in constructing it.
“We used a computerized program for drafting and architectural,” Caleb Williams noted. The computerized diagram, he added, helped students build walls to the dimensions specified. The concept was a 12x12x7 room.
Students also had to figure how much room was needed for the door of the cooler, space needed for the window air conditioner unit and other strict measurements before the cooler could be constructed.
“We used 2X6s in the walls and we spread them out 24 inches,” Williams noted.
“I think it’s a big opportunity for our school system and community, for going from a small project for the area around Winston County, to go into a big national and getting a lot of attention from it.”
Student Erin Thrasher noted students definitely had to know math, understanding how to create the correct dimensions.
“Haleyville is a small school...At the national level we can say, hey we are not just a small town in north Alabama. Just because we’re from a small town doesn’t mean we can’t do big things,” Thrasher pointed out.
Karman Speakman noted students had to know the amount of material needed before the cooler was built.
“We didn’t expect all of the publicity that we’re getting now,” Speakman said. 
Agriscience students Nash Collum and Julia Bonner discussed what it was like to reassemble the walk-in cooler at Main Street Ministries, where it will benefit countless people.
“It was a real world application,” Bonner said. “It was really getting out there and hands on. We could do that here, but we wouldn’t have the actual  (real-world) application.”
Collum said this allowed students to see how the project would benefit others. “I don’t see another school doing this, how we’re doing it,” he said. “It’s really unique and one-of-a-kind.”
John McCullar, assistant principal and center of technology director, admitted he realized the magnitude of the project due to the partnership of all of the involved agencies.
“To the fact that it may go national, probably not really, but statewide definitely,” McCullar said. “It’s really a blessing to be considered to go national with this and for it to be on the news.
“It just shows what kind of school system we have,” McCullar added. “It’s not just the center of technology. It’s the elementary, middle school and high school. We all produce quality students, because we have a quality  school system with quality teachers and teacher leaders.”
The walk-in cooler project was also desperately needed because the small cool-bot trailer that McKinney’s classes had built for Main Street, was more of a portable unit that was also needed by area farmers.
The walk-in cooler will give Main Street Ministries more of a permanent structure to keep perishable foods at cooler temperatures in preparation for the giveaways.


See complete story in the Northwest Alabamian.
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