Teacher Nicholas Holmes' mechatronics class at West Ashley High School is on the leading wave of STEM-based education efforts.

This is the first year the robotics class has been taught at West Ashley, and most of Holmes' 32 students plan to go on to college in fields such as engineering, physics or chemistry.

"There's a lot of math," said Lauren Biggs, a junior who hopes to become an engineer, as she tinkered with her robot. "It's a lot more fun than I thought it would be. I know this class will help me for when I get into college for what I need to know and am going to learn."

Sophomore Anthony Brown, who wants to be a businessman and engineer, said, "There's a lot of trial and error. It took us two months to build our robots, and then we had to learn to drive them."

Junior Derwin Simpson, an aspiring chemist, said the class uses a lot of science-based math.

Sophomore Daniel Coury, who plans to enlist in the Coast Guard before going on to college, said it's interesting to learn how all the different parts work together to make one object function.

Ninth-grader Dustin Taft is used to building motorized objects at home, and the mechatronics class is a perfect fit for him.

He doesn't know if he will go to college, but he said a career as a technician in heating and air conditioning would suit him fine.

"For manufacturing, this is the introductory course," Holmes said. "The stuff they are getting here is very applicable in the real world. Even just the design process. ... It's amazing how much they are learning and having fun doing it."

Warren Wise