Students working on projects through Taft College's STEM Program. Chevron's $25,000 donation part of its program to reach out to students

Lincoln Junior High School’s fledgling engineering program got a boost Monday through a $25,000 donation from Chevron.
The oil company donation is part of its project entitled Lead the Way Gateway to Technology curriculum designed to challenge and motivate middle school students.
Chevron public affairs representative Adam Alvidrez presented the check during a meeting of the school’s new Innovators Club.  Students in the club study astronomy, robotics and other scientific subjects as part of Taft College’s grant-funded STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) program.
“When the opportunity to partner with Chevron came along, it was just a perfect fit with what we are doing through the Taft College STEM program,” said Lincoln principal Brandi Swearengin.  “It provides our students with a more hands-on experience.”
Students involved in Young Innovators use 3-D modeling software to build robots while they learn about energy, the environment, applied technology and physics.
The club meets after school every Monday and Thursday.
Joe McFaddin is the adviser to the club.  He also coordinates TC’s STEM program that kicked off last summer with a camp on campus for local junior high students.  Another camp is being planned for next summer, he said.
Lincoln students learn engineering concepts utilizing the LEGO Mindstorms program that introduces them to robotics.  They start by learning basic robot building instructions, programming and movement, then move on to working with sensors and more complex robot behaviors.
It is another step in the college’s STEM program designed to get younger students excited about studying science.  
In the initial summer camp, students built and launched miniature rockets.
The centerpiece of the effort is a mobile science lab that includes a variety of experiments, including how to program and maneuver a Mars rover.  
The lab is visiting Westside area campuses in an effort to spark interest among elementary school students.
Swearengin said interest in the program has initiated a discussion about starting an elective class that will build on the success of the Young Innovators Club.
“We’re really excited about the possibilities,” she said.