Cairo High Students Win Georgia Tech Buzz Cup Challenge in Grady County

Three Cairo High School students — Catherine Wilson, David Miller and Austin Collins — placed first through third in the 2010 Georgia Tech Buzz Cup Challenge held Dec. 7 at Cairo High School. The competition is a series of rigorous science and technology activities designed to assist communities in their efforts to improve the workforce by supporting and encouraging students, teachers, parents and lifelong learners in their understanding and appreciation of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

Under strict rules, limited resources and time limits, students were challenged to conduct extensive research projects on STEM careers, use information technology tools to design products, and build and program robots to perform prescribed tasks against a field of competitors. In addition to the Buzz Cup Performance award, students were vying for top technology tools as prizes such as netbook computers, digital cameras and MP3 players.

The Buzz Cup Challenge began as an initiative of Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute (EI2) to encourage high school students and teachers in their understanding and appreciation of STEM and related fields. The regional competition drew students from Dougherty and Grady counties, and focused on the theme “The Importance of STEM and STEM Career Choices.” Each student researched a STEM career, identifying its educational requirements, employment outlook, future job opportunity and median wages, and designed a t-shirt to promote STEM careers.

“Georgia’s future depends on young people developing skills in science, technology, engineering and math to keep our economy strong,” said EI2’s Hortense Jackson, who served a project director for the initiative. “The ongoing development of knowledge and skills related to science, technology, engineering and mathematics is crucial for competing in the global economy and requires collaboration among educators, employers and economic developers.”

The United States is lagging behind other nations in developing its future workforce of scientists, engineers and technology experts. Only 18 percent of U.S. high school seniors are proficient in science according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP 2005), and a mere 5 percent of current college graduates earn science, engineering or technology degrees compared to 66 percent in Japan and 59 percent in China. Couple these statistics with the fact that current scientists and engineers are retiring in record numbers, and it becomes clear that America faces a challenge in keeping up with increasing demand for these professionals.

The top three students in the Buzz Cup Challenge are all involved in Cairo High School’s Career Technical Agricultural and Education (CTAE) program. Wilson, a high school senior, placed first in the competition by developing an innovative career pathway model for the physician assistant profession.

“Participation in the Georgia Tech Buzz Cup Challenge was a simple decision for me because of my desire to pursue a future career in the science field,” Wilson said. “Through this project, I enjoyed the chance to explore my prospective career and enhance my knowledge of programs that benefit it.”

Miller, a high school junior who placed second in the competition, was inspired by his parents, David and Gina Miller, to participate in the competition. His desire to pursue an engineering career and explore Georgia Tech’s engineering programs motivated him to design a career pathways model for aerospace engineering.

Third place winner Collins, son of Kevin and Sara Collins, conducted an interview with a mechanical engineer to learn life lessons from a professional engineer. The sophomore noted that participation in the challenge gave him a deepened understanding of the skills required to excel in the mechanical engineering field.

“Science, technology, engineering and mathematics play a very important role in the career pathway program because they are aligned to the Georgia Performance Standards (GPS), help students in completing their chosen pathway and help to prepare them for a rewarding post-secondary career,” said Horace Williams, CTAE director. “I hope my students will participate in the 2011 Buzz Cup Challenge.”

In partnership with Albany Technical College and the Southwest Georgia Agribusiness Consortium, Georgia Tech has been supporting the future workforce development needs of biotechnology and agribusiness companies through Georgia’s CTAE program and economic development-sponsored programs through the Georgia Work Ready Regional program. Grady County has been striving to earn “Georgia Work Ready” Community status. To be designated a Certified Work Ready Community, the county must drive current workers of the available workforce to earn Work Ready Certificates, demonstrate a commitment to improving public high school graduation rates and build community commitment for meeting these goals.

For more information on the Buzz Cup Challenge and how students can get involved, please contact Hortense Jackson at 229-430-4327 or

About Enterprise Innovation Institute:

The Georgia Tech Enterprise Innovation Institute helps companies, entrepreneurs, economic developers and communities improve their competitiveness through the application of science, technology and innovation. It is one of the most comprehensive university-based programs of business and industry assistance, technology commercialization and economic development in the nation.

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