Research, robotics projects point way to brighter future

Published 7:00 pm Sunday, December 11, 2011

DNA testing, robotics and small communityschools don’t often come together in the same line of thought.

    Lincoln County schools, however, are changing the perception ofwhat can be made available to students in rural settings.

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    Groups of Enterprise, Bogue Chitto and Loyd Star students, alongwith those from other area schools and the Jackson metro area, tookpart in the state’s first biotechnology rodeo this past week atCopiah-Lincoln Community College.

       As part of a project connectedwith the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) in Massachusetts, thestudents conducted DNA lab tests on ants, mosquitoes and fleas todetermine the presence of a specific type of bacteria calledWolbochia.

    And last weekend, two groups of Enterprise elementary/junior highstudents participated in a NASA-sponsored robotics competition inHattiesburg. One of the local groups even captured a first-placeprogramming award from among the 45 participating teams, includingsome from larger schools in Jackson, Starkville and the GulfCoast.

    DNA research and robotics competitions are pretty “heady stuff.”They also are a far cry from the course offerings and curriculumsthat were available to many of today’s adults and previousgenerations.

    The DNA research, usually reserved for graduate and post-graduatework at the university level, expands horizons for high schoolstudents and opens their minds to possibilities that can await themin the future.

    In the short-term, these research projects keep students engagedand interested in education. While most of today’s students may notcontinue along a scientific career path, their enthusiasm foreducation could urge them forward in another area with positiveresults in the future.

    Like the “creative economy” promoted for this area during a recentmeeting at the Mississippi School of the Arts, exposing high schoolstudents to such concepts as DNA research and robotics fosters thepotential for a “scientific economy” in the years ahead. Havingstudents with such high-tech knowledge will only strengthen thiscommunity’s employee base in the future and make this area moreattractive if and when research labs and similar scientificoperations look to expand beyond larger metropolitan areas.

    Through the study of microscopic organisms or the tiny gears andgadgets of robotics, Lincoln County students are taking big stepstoward a brighter future for themselves and their community.