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Inaugural education festival hosted by GSMST

Staff Photo: Frank Reddy James Sato, 17, far right, operates the BIOLOID, an interactive robot controlled by laptop. Students from Marshall Middle School in Columbus, Ga., watch the robot do pushups. Hundreds arrived at Gwinnett School of Math, Science and Technology Friday for the inaugural STEM fest, sponsored by the Georgia Department of Education.

Staff Photo: Frank Reddy James Sato, 17, far right, operates the BIOLOID, an interactive robot controlled by laptop. Students from Marshall Middle School in Columbus, Ga., watch the robot do pushups. Hundreds arrived at Gwinnett School of Math, Science and Technology Friday for the inaugural STEM fest, sponsored by the Georgia Department of Education.

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Photo: Frank Reddy Shelisia Cobb, 11, listens to a professor discuss the differences in canine skulls during the inaugural STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) festival Friday at a local school.

Ask most any student from Columbus-based Marshall Middle School: it was worth the two-hour ride to Gwinnett County.

It was evident from the looks on their faces as they smiled, watching robots roll along the carpet, or studied the skulls of canines to determine the breed.

Young people like those from Marshall Middle school filled the halls of Gwinnett School of Math, Science and Technology during the inaugural STEM Festival. In total, nearly a dozen schools visited Friday.

Sponsored by the Georgia Department of Education, the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math fest featured exhibitors from all over the state showing students some of the latest field developments.

The local charter school got to do some of its own robotics exhibitions too.

James Sato, 17, showed students the capabilities of BIOLOID, an interactive robot controlled by laptop.

Visitors watched the robot do pushups and even dance.

"All the students coming through seem very interested in the robots," said Sato, a student of GSMST. "They seem really big on the idea of robots, and robots are the future."

Marshall Middle Student Shelisia Cobb, 11, said she enjoyed "the hands-on experiences" Friday.

The school's principal, Michael Forte, said it's good for students like Cobb to find learning opportunities in places other than the classroom.

"If you look at these kids, they're all engaged," Forte said. "It's obvious that they are really interested. I wish I could take a school like this and bring it to Columbus."

Hosting the event was an honor, said GSMST Principal Jeff Mathews.

It was pioneered by the Georgia Department of Education to "inspire Georgia's students to consider STEM disciplines that may be pursued,"

Exhibitors at the event included Georgia Aquarium, LEGO Robotics, Valdosta State University, the Museum of Aviation/NASA, Texas Instruments, the Georgia Department of Education, Georgia State University Bio-Bus Program and Life Labs.

According to Georgia STEM Festival's website: "The shortage of scientists and engineers in the United States provides an unprecedented opportunity to seize upon the workforce needs of Georgia and America's STEM pipeline via a Georgia STEM Festival public display of science, technology, engineering, and math event in which all educational stakeholders can participate."