When eighth-grader Emily Cowart learned she would be on the Club Car STEAM project, she had mixed emotions.
“I’m not going to lie to you,” she wrote in her blog. “I am a little nervous because I’m not used to having to talk to people I don’t know. But I think it is time I put change in my life…I can’t wait to start this real-world, hands-on project.”
That ambivalent feeling was typical of the youngsters in anticipation of the project. They expressed fear, nervousness, amazement, excitement, good fortune, discomfort, even terror. But in the end they all felt a sense of accomplishment in themselves and pride in moving their community education forward.
Collaboration with school system
The STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Mathematics) project was a collaboration between Club Car, Ingersoll Rand and the Jefferson County School System in Louisville, Georgia.
In years past, Club Car has teamed with school systems closer to home in Columbia County.
“This year we reached out to a rural school system to inspire progress and impact cultural change in a school system and understand diversity in a new way,” said Tawana Jackson, operational excellence change agent for Club Car.
Former math teacher leads the way
Tawana, a former high school mathematics teacher in the Jefferson County schools, was the right person to lead the program and her competence was vital to the success of the program.
The 40 eighth-grade students from the Louisville and Wrens middle schools had an exciting assignment. They participated in a five-month program to design custom 14-inch wheels for Club Car’s spiffy new consumer car, the Onward®.
Combine design with business
“The students worked with our people to design their wheels and presented 3-D prototypes of their products in a ‘Shark Tank’-style event earlier this month,” Tawana said. “Their presentations included a business case, market research and marketing plans. They did outstanding work.”
As for Emily Cowart, her determination outweighed her concerns: “I’m ready to show these people who don’t believe in us that we will do anything to achieve and that we’re gonna put Jefferson County on the map.” She and her fellow students made good on that prediction.
The effect of the program went well beyond the classroom.
“This project impacted the students, teachers, administrators, and community at large in a very personal way,” Tawana said. “It totally changed their outlook on themselves and education.”
“And as a result of this project,” she added, “the school system will now introduce coding and animation as early as the second grade.”
The effort was sponsored by three employee groups at Club Car: the Women Employees Network, the Black Employees Network and the Veterans Employee Resource Group.
Club Car executives Tyrone Ellis, Mary Bell, Robert McElreath and Eric Powell lent their support to the program. The core team also included: Joshua Scott, Valerie Salera, Camille Chism, Clarence Jackson, Jennifer Cheng, Garrett Favier, George Flemming, Julie Bickel, Isheman Williams, Caleb Rule and Keiwana Pettis.