Mt. Pleasant to Fuel STEAM with $500K Grant

By Mike Christensen with the Daily Herald

MT. PLEASANT — The Maury County Public Schools District is celebrating another major step forward in the pursuit of STEAM learning.

Last week, the district learned it will receive a $500,000 grant to create an innovation lab at Mt. Pleasant High School, where students will work on problem-based learning projects, preparing them for future careers.

The grant is a partnership between Mt. Pleasant High School and the CLARCOR Innovation Center, a leading research and development center for filtration technology recently acquired by Parker Hannifin Corporation Filtration.

Through the grant, high-schoolers to pursue major projects, such as the two, well-received escape rooms designed and constructed entirely by students last year.

“This is the future of education, leveraging education and growing business,” Mt. Pleasant STEAM administrator and high school principal Ryan B. Jackson said. “It is a testament to everything that is going on with everything from Mechatronics and Project Lead the Way.”

Funded by Clark Legacy Foundation, the program was one of many projects funded by the corporation to support education and special improvement efforts to raise the quality of life in areas its employees call home.

“This grant will allow Mt. Pleasant’s students to continue the work they have been doing but with greater access to tools and technology,” Vice President of Innovation Ryan Pastrana said.

Pastrana worked with the school’s administration to apply for the grant.

“Ryan has been an awesome education partner; he gets our vision,” Jackson said. “It is an incredible story.”

Previously, the two organizations have worked in cooperation to host the Mt. Pleasant STEAM Summit, providing hands-on lessons in science, technology, arts, engineering and mathematics.

Because of the grant, students enrolled in Mt. Pleasant’s mechatronics and Project Lead the Way program will have the opportunity to build components for the partnering business, offering students work experience from within the school’s walls.

New additions will include special work spaces complete with powerful computers, giving students the opportunity to begin designing products machines and other equipment.

Mt. Pleasant educator Armin Begtrup, who leads both programs, said the grant will first be used to generate the electric infrastructure required to support the new equipment inside the building currently equipped with 50-year-old wiring.

“CLARCOR was one of the first companies that we started talking to develop a partnership,” Begtrup said.“This allows us to not have to worry about resources and alleviate those concerns and allow us to focus and getting kids excited, intrigued and move forward. This allows us to go for the stars.

He said the funds will play a significant role helping students on their journey to obtain associate degree awarded to the students in the mechatronics program as they compete high school.

“This signifies not only our commitment to STEAM for the county, state and community, it shows that the community is buying into our pursuit,” Begtrup said. “We have one less obstacle to be concerned about. Now we can really dive into the teaching and experimentation.”

“We are in a unique opportune moment where these kids, who get this education, are going to be the leaders of this industry as it evolves,” Begtrup said. “They are going to be a part of a rapid change. In 20 years from now, they are going to be in their prime, making an impact in thousands of lives. It’s exciting, and I know they find it exciting. It’s an eye-opener, these kids are starting to realize that this is another avenue, another approach they can take to enriching their lives.”