This year, at Brookhaven’s , students are set to learn not only reading, writing, and arithmetic, but robotics as well.
The Remote Automation Management Project, or RAMP program, is a group of manufacturing, robotics, production enterprise, and automation classes now being offered to those at Cross Keys as well as seven other North DeKalb schools.
RAMP is available through a partnership between DeKalb County Schools and Moultrie Tech, and funded by the Cross Keys Foundation, a local nonprofit that organizes support and fundraising for Cross Keys High School.
DeKalb County Schools hired 23-year teaching veteran Patrick Gunter to lead the program. Gunter, an A-list robotics instructor who built one of the first solar cars in the Southeast (now housed at Georgia Tech), says that just about everything in our society is the product of robot-driven manufacturing, and hands-on training is an absolute must for young people entering the field.
“If you’re going to be in today’s industry, they want somebody who has experience, it’s good to have high test scores and an excellent GPA, but how are you going to apply it? You must be able to demonstrate that you have these skills,” Gunter said.
At Cross Keys, if it’s skills they want, it’s skills they get. During the school day, Gunter teaches four blocks of students, with topics ranging from material science to robotics and automated systems. Their work is hands-on, with students writing programs to operate robotics systems.
But their instruction doesn’t stop at the classroom. Gunter has lined up more than a dozen local and not-so-local competitions for his students; showcasing a Cross Keys solar car team and two robotics teams. Like an extra-curricular activity or sport, these kids stay after school to perfect their craft---training, creating programs, and operating machines that reflect their young genius.
But Gunter maintains that his program is not one of exclusivity. He says that any student from the eight feeder schools with the drive to learn and the dedication can and will be successful in RAMP.
“Anyone with the will can do this,” explained Gunter, who believes that Cross Keys will soon have a top notch, world-class program. “[I tell my students ] you can achieve any heights you want if you put the work in. [These students] are exemplary and our program will be exemplary….a real-world education.”
Gunter jokes that one day, his students’ success will generate interest from all over, joking that even President Obama will have to take a trip to Cross Keys to see for himself what these kids have been up to. But even with such expectations for his group, Gunter is still on teaching life skills that can be taken into any workplace - whether his students go into vast world of technology or not.
“[This program] teaches them qualities like good work ethic, respect, working well with a team, and other work related skills. It’s showing them how to be productive--and that can take them anywhere.”