Booneville is known for its Rocky Balboabots and the school district recently landed a $100,000 grant to teach college level robotics courses in high school.

The district also has teams elementary teams competing in lego robotics events.

That left a junior high gap that principal Josh Walker and robotics instructor Melissa Bradford would like to fill with a program called Project Lead The Way the pair told the Booneville School Board last week.

The idea is to help students move towards science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields for careers.

“There are 2.4 STEM jobs that open for every unemployed STEM professional, but in non STEM fields there’s 4.4 unemployed people for every job,” said Walker. “There’s obviously a need there and we’re trying to get them going in that direction.

“I think something like this will help bolster the influence our students go in that direction.”

“STEM is a fundamental aspect in our economy,” Tatum added. “Rockline was here visiting with out students. They’ve got lost of STEM jobs and they’re having to get people in from out of state or other parts of the state to fill these jobs because there’s no one here locally.”

Tatum said the curriculum is updated annually.

“There is all kinds of stuff,” she said. “Kids are sitting there doing nothing. They’re building, they’re writing, they’re getting on the computers. They’re doing things.”

To implement the program a seventh student will take on keyboarding, currently an eighth grade mandate.

Because the program builds upon itself the first year will only be open to seventh grade, Walker said.

“Seventh graders will either take a tools for learning class which is to help them learn how to study, learn how to get their homework turned in because that’s an issue,” said Walker. “For our more advanced students they would take Project Lead The Way for those three sections of seventh grade.

“The next year we would add the eighth grade.”

Funding for the project can come from the National School Lunch Act funds the school receives.

Once fully implemented at the junior high the student can move straight into Tatum’s classes that started this year through a $100,000 grant to launch the robotics classes for the high school.

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Those students also gave board members a demonstration of what they have learned in those classes since that program launched at the start of the school year.

In other matters Tuesday the board approved a $14,990 expenditure for new servers because the current servers will not run software unless it is designed for Windows 7 or earlier.

The school has also been asked to, on June 6, attend and speak at Arkansas Career Education conference regarding the robotics team .

“It was honor for our school being invited to present at that.”

Lexi Danekas, who was involved in the demonstration for the board, and who will be attending the World Championships to represent the region as a spokesperson.

Booneville Elementary School assistant principal Jyme Beth Diffee also said she would be turning in the school’s grant application for a school-based wellness center in person in Little Rock on Thursday.