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St. Martin High School Valedictorian Taylor Barnes believes students who are given opportunities to create with technology when they’re young will become students who are interested in studying technology when they’re older.
Barnes, a National Merit Finalist who made a perfect 36 score on the ACT, will be studying computer engineering on a full ride scholarship at the University of Central Florida this fall.
During his senior year, Barnes spent part of his school days at the Jackson County School District’s “Fab Lab” (short for “fabrication laboratory”) down the road from the high school. The Fab Lab, stocked with all the computers and machinery necessary to take a project from concept to final product, is designed to give Jackson County students hands-on experience with the entire engineering design process.
During the summer, Barnes will be running a series of summer camps to teach children programming for robotics. Barnes, along with the Fab Lab manager Scott Beebe, wrote a $5,000 grant to fund the summer camp.
As a student ambassador for the Fab Lab this year, Barnes helped younger students visiting the lab with projects like laser printing, vinyl cutting and more. Places like the Fab Lab pique students’ interest in STEM studies—science, technology, engineering and math—and give them a head start in preparing for the future if they are interested in those types of jobs, Barnes said.
“That kind of thing gets students interested in technology early in their lives,” Barnes said of the Fab Lab. “That way when they’re older they have that foundation in STEM so they can learn even more when they get to those high level math and science classes.”
St. Martin High School Principal Dina Holland described Barnes as “focused”—a leader on campus who has been instrumental in bringing robotics programs to St. Martin High School and even to the middle school.
“I’ve been in this business for 35 years and have gotten the opportunity to work with a lot of amazing students, but he has set the bar that’s going to be the new standard,” Holland said.