A Chattanooga-based media company has launched an online STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) curriculum designed for middle schoolers across the country.
Shelia Boyington of Thinking Media said six states have agreed to take part in a pilot program starting in January. They include Tennessee, Georgia, New Mexico, Alabama, Ohio and North Carolina).
She said the full launch of LearningBlade will take place next fall.
Former Congressman Zach Wamp, who heads a prestigious advisory board for LearningBlade, noted that Ms. Boyington and her husband, Dane, earlier started a similar educational software program and eventually "sold it for a lot of money."
Ms. Boyington said LearningBlade is designed with various "missions" that students can embark on to grab their attention. She said they will receive credits for completing various tasks and their grades are posted so that can compete against classmates. Some sample missions are helping an injured dolphin, building an orphanage after a major earthquake or solving energy and transportation needs in a new city.
She said the material is designed to link to "common core standards" educational established by 47 states.
Ms. Boyington said teachers will need very little training in order to utilize the software.
She said the firm currently has 16 programmers at work fulltime on the project, which is constantly being refined.
Ms. Boyington said the product will be sold to states and to individual school districts. She said it will be affordable - "costing just dollars per student."
Former Congressman Wamp said the development responds to "an urgent need for the U.S. to develop workforce proficiency in science, technology, engineering and mathematics." He said it introduces students at an early age "to potential career pathways."
Officials said Learning Blade "provides an entertaining, game-based format that is uniquely student-ready."
Thinking Media is collaborating with BattelleEd.Org, a subsidiary of Battelle Memorial Institute, to help accelerate the rollout of the software program. Dr. William Madia, former director for Battelle of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, is on the advisory board and was at the Chattanoogan hotel for the announcement.
Others on the board include Dr. Tim Anderson chemical engineering professor at the University of Florida; Jamai Blivins, president of Innovate+Educate; Cheryl Carrier, program director for Ford's Next Generation Learning; Dr. Dean Evasius, vice president of Oak Ridge Associated Universities; Jennifer McNelly, president of the Manufacturing Institute; Dr. Merrilea Mayo, founder of Mayo Enterprises; Darlene Miller, president of Permac Industries; Dr. Elaine Swafford, director of the Girls Leadership Academy, and Daniel Traynor, TVA chief information officer.