Armstrong Junior High freshman Ailani Barr wants to find a way to help alleviate her grandmother’s liver troubles.
As part of a new project-based learning STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) program, FlexFactor, Barr has learned the importance of flexible hybrid electronics and how to utilize them to solve real-world problems.
To identify gastrointestinal diseases and other issues that can stem from the liver, she, along with a few other students, has invented the idea of a camera contained in a pill that goes through the digestive system and attaches onto the liver to find potential gastro complications.
“We thought about it because my grandma has liver problems, and she’s older so she doesn’t believe in a lot of medical technology, so this could give her a way to identify if she has any problems in her liver,” Barr said.
Students across the Golden Triangle are learning of the importance of manufacturing and hybrid electronics.
Directed locally by East Mississippi Community College and owned by research institute NextFlex, FlexFactor allows students to discover new solutions to some of life’s troubles. Students identify a problem they want to fix, research a way to solve it and show their project idea to a panel in a “Shark Tank” style presentation. EMCC FlexFactor Outreach Coordinator Camille Cooper said this program not only teaches students to critically think but also exposes them to career fields they might not necessarily be familiar with.
“We want students to see themselves as doing something after high school,” Cooper said. “We’re not necessarily trying to push them to EMCC or an advanced manufacturing career. … This program just exposes them to a lot of different options and teaches them about real life.”
Along with Armstrong Junior High, EMCC has partnered with Columbus High School and Golden Triangle Early College High School to produce FlexFactor — with 278 students across these three schools learning skills such as problem identification, research methods and slide presentation programs.
The program began in mid-October and will conclude Nov. 17 when the students present their final projects to the panels consisting of school board members, community partners and Golden Triangle Development Link representatives. Cooper said FlexFactor ties together K-12 education, college and the professional industry together to help future generations.
“It’s really rewarding to see how far these students have come within a six-week period,” Cooper said. “This program makes them think outside of the box. There are already solutions out there for a lot of things, but this makes them think a little harder and gives them the option to create their own solution.”
AJH freshmen faculty sponsor Katie Young said students were chosen for this program by those who accelerated in the manufacturing and technology sections of the “You Science” test, an aptitude examination that measures not only career interests but also skills. Young said she has loved watching her students excel in this program because it allows them to be exposed to manufacturing careers.
“It’s been great to see our kids do something outside of their normal routine,” Young said. “It’s a way to apply the skills they’re learning in the classroom and solve real world issues. That’s really empowering to teenagers.”
Barr said FlexFactor has inspired her to possibly pursue a career in manufacturing in the future because she now knows the process of creating technological products.
“This has been a good experience because I’ve gotten to see how things are made,” Barr said. “… I could potentially see myself working a job like this.”