Even though they are elementary students, members of Decatur Heritage Christian Academy's robotics team realize the importance of their partnership with MICOR Industries.
"We couldn't have done it without their help because we only knew so much," team member Houston South said.
MICOR program specialist Joey King provided the expertise that helped the team qualify for the state robotics competition for the first time in school history.
His support highlights the importance of partnerships between schools and industries, a trend that has increased in the past decade, according to National Association of Partners in Education.
Just about every school in Lawrence, Limestone and Morgan counties has some kind of business partnership.
The Council for Corporate and School Partnerships estimates these relationships account for more than $1 billion annually and generate 109 million volunteer hours for schools.
"We're always looking to the business world to help our schools," Decatur City Schools Superintendent Ed Nichols said.
Sometimes the support goes directly to school sites, while additional support may be funneled through organizations like the Decatur City Schools Foundation.
In 2011, the foundation helped purchase Netbooks for every fifth-grader in the Decatur school system.
Almost a year later, the Decatur Minority Development Association raised money so Brookhaven could purchase 30 iPads for $14,120. The association gave the school $12,500, and the school paid the difference.
The partnership with MICOR, a global manufacturing plant near the Tennessee River, and Decatur Heritage garnered much attention because of what the relationship produced.
With this year's robotics competition theme being "issues seniors face," students produced a watch they called "Medicine Watcher."
"We wanted to do something to help older people remember when they are suppose to take their medicine," Carter Sample said.
The students made a water-resistant watch equipped with flashing lights.
Houston South said the first step was to break down a watch "so we could understand how all the parts work."
King explained to the students what they could and couldn't do, teacher sponsor Connie Murray said.
"The students wanted sound and vibration to go with the LED lights, but Joey explained that this would require too much battery power," she said.
Deangelo McDaniel can be reached at 256-340-2469 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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