Rural middle schools shine at math contest

DAVE MUNDAY/STAFF Connor Kiker, a 7th-grader at Gregg Middle School, focuses on a challenge during a DimensionU math game competition at the SPAWAR complex in North Charleston March 29.

It looked like any other video game, except math equations kept flashing up on the screens.

Students from six local middle schools kept solving the problems and moving on before most observers even had a chance to absorb the question, let alone figure out the answer.

The screens were projecting images from laptops that students were operating so that spectators could watch the action.

It was a competition among 12 teams from six local middle schools in a game called DimensionU.

Teams sat at several tables in a SPAWAR complex cafeteria in North Charleston. Teachers sat in folding chairs, many enthusiastically cheering them on, several holding up school signs.

Haut Gap, St. Stephen, Oakbrook, Westview, Gregg and River Oaks each sent two teams to the March 29 competition.

DimensionU, originally billed as Tabula Digita, is funded by the National Defense Education Program.

SPAWAR supports it as part of its wider educational program called STEM, which stands for science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

The goal is to encourage more young people to become scientists and engineers, said Lonnie Cowart, SPAWAR’s local public affairs officer.

Shanda Johnson, a graduate of Garrett High School, is SPAWAR’s STEM coordinator.

“These are our future scientists and engineers,” she said while watching the action.

She was especially pleased when Haut Gap on Johns Island and St. Stephen in Berkeley County took the top four spots.

“This is a victory for rural schools, who often don’t have the technological advantages of schools in the city,” she said.

Janice Jolly, Charleston County STEM coordinator, is sold on the program.

“This is what kids do at home,” she said. “When they solve a problem, they get to go to the next level. I just think gaming is so important. Some of these children will be our inventors and own patents one day.”

She said she hopes to get Mount Pleasant middle schools involved as well.

Hanahan Mayor Minnie Blackwell, an educator, is the Dorchester District 2 STEM coordinator.

“These are the future workers of America,” she said at the competition.

Here are the students who took part in the competition, according to a list provided by the organizers.

Haut Gap: Ikenna Aniweze, Aaron Winchester, Daniel Darnell, Robyn Loucks, Seth McCall, Mackie McLernon and Eli Roberts.

Oakbrook: Brandon Bowdoin, Nick Bross, Tyler Brown, Jordan Howell, Corey Tanton, Craig Tanton and Isaiah Wilson.

Gregg: Jacob Deardon, Kenzie Driggers, Connor Kiker, Matthew Lorenz, Colton Sims and Alexander Squire.

River Oaks: Trevor Abel, Michael Andrus, Kevin Bates, Rick Comps, Dennis Daly, Tay Todman and Justin Williams.

St. Stephen: Giovanni Alston, Malik Brown, Alex Chandler, Darius Hamilton, Tykiesha Pinckney, Kervell Rhames, Jonathan Stewart and Falonzo White.

Westview: Mikyler Dickerson, Kaitlynn Ferland, Charles Fletcher, Jarvis Moore, Serena Pasquino and Samuel Stevenson.

Reach Dave Munday at 937-5553.