Emerging Technology Institute officials share information about computer vision and artificial intelligence with students during a Monday visit to Pembroke Elementary School

Caption: Pembroke Elementary students could be seen learning about computer vision and artificial intelligence Monday with the guidance of Emerging Technology Institute staff members during an ETI demonstration event at the school. 

PEMBROKE — Whirring sounds of drones and shouts of excitement filled the gymnasium of Pembroke Elementary School Monday as students saw STEM in action.

 The event, held in two separate sessions Monday morning, included a display of technology including drones, computer vision, a remote-controlled vehicle and 3D printing courtesy of the Emerging Technology Institute, the Red Springs-based technology hub which works to support the U.S. Department of Defense. Students from first, fourth, and fifth grades could be seen engaged during the event as they raised their hands, asked questions and listened intently.

ETI CEO James Freeman told students about what it means to be an entrepreneur and that they too could work in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) careers where they can build machines like those displayed on Monday.

 But, students can begin building and working with technology now by using basic engineering and science, he said.

 “You can actually do this at your age right now if you can understand how to do it,” he told students.

 Pembroke Elementary School Principal Joanna Hunt asked students if they could see themselves working in the career field displayed to them during the event. Students responded with a resounding “yes!”

 “You know what STEM is teaching you?” Principal Hunt asked. “The possibilities are endless.”

Freeman said the event was a demonstration to help identify students who might be interested in participating in ETI’s STEM Kit Project which allows students in grades 5-12 to work with STEM kits and online modules.

Students then will have a chance to use various technologies in the STEM kit to engage in a competition in which they will use lessons learned to escape from an online scenario. They also will have a chance to win scholarship monies. The project is federally funded at $1.9 million through the U.S. Department of Defense and seeks to promote learning in the classroom through STEM lessons.

Pembroke Elementary School is one of about 15 schools within PSRC set to take part in the STEM Kits Project. Schools served in the project are located in Scotland, Robeson and Hoke counties, Freeman said. He also has been contacted by individuals outside of North Carolina.

“There’s a desire to expand it nationally,” he said.

The goal was originally to reach high school students, Freeman said.

“What we realized is that there’s a desire right down to the elementary and middle school levels,” he said.

A demonstration at a local charter school allowed Freeman to see students in grades 4-5 building the STEM kits during a STEM kit event. Both events bring with them lessons about today’s students, Freeman said.

“You start seeing how far advanced these students already are,” he said. “There’s a knowledge base that’s already there and there’s a desire for it.”

Darleen Trujillo, a 5th-grade educator at the school, called Monday’s event exciting.

Components like coding, robotics and 3D printing are used in the school’s 21st Century Program, she said.

“So, this is a beautiful opportunity,” she said.

“I think this is awesome for the students to have this experience with hands-on STEM activities,” said Sherrie Harris, a 5th-grade Science teacher.

Some fifth graders also had an opportunity to speak with an individual who is currently employed at the Pentagon.

“We don’t know what sparks we’re igniting today in these children,” Principal Hunt said.

 But, such events can allow them the opportunity to grow and become ready to excel in the STEM careers of tomorrow, she said.