Georgia Tech's CEISMC Teams Up with Dougherty County's GEAR UP to Provide STEAM Programs through Virtual Learning

Staff Report

Tuesday, November 9th, 2021

The Center for Education Integrating Science Mathematics and Computing (CEISMC) at Georgia Tech Savannah and Atlanta campuses recently partnered with GEAR UP (Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Potential) in Dougherty County to introduce a new initiative. This program provided a group of local high school students with CEISMC’s high-level STEAM virtual workshops at no cost to the students.

GEAR UP, an initiative that supports after-school and Saturday enrichment-based programming designed to increase the number of low-income students who are prepared to enter and succeed in postsecondary education, Dougherty Director, Dr. Alana Simmons, learned of CEISMC’s virtual STEM/STEAM offerings and hoped her students could be involved. She reached out to Georgia Tech to learn if there was an innovative and creative way, they could get Dougherty County students involved to be introduced to STEAM education and career opportunities. 

Timothy Cone, CEISMC Program Director at the Georgia Tech-Savannah campus, and Sirocus Barnes, CEISMC Student Programs Director at the Georgia Tech-Atlanta campus, developed a 15-session program from February – May 2021 for Dougherty County 8th and 9th grade students who are members of the GEAR UP cohort. 

The initiative involved both campuses which allowed Georgia Tech the opportunity to extend access to programming that otherwise would have been delivered on campus. Students had not been able to travel to Savannah or Atlanta before for STEAM learning events. The virtual program provided over 200 students with school materials and project packets that were mailed to their house before every session. There were virtual instructors from all over the state providing an inclusive learning environment where students were able to explore advanced programming centered around Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics.

Students explored areas such as neuroscience, renewable energy, coding, 3D modeling, and meteorology through hands-on projects that were led by a combination of Georgia Tech professors, students, and certified teachers.

CEISMC and GEAR UP coordinated a field trip to Atlanta on Aug. 3, 2021 where students were able to explore the Georgia Tech campus and experience the technology they learned about during the program.

“Through GEAR UP, it is my responsibility to provide Dougherty County students with the opportunity to access higher education that sets them up for success upon graduating; and I knew by participating in CEISMC’s STEAM workshops, our students would have a whole new world opened up to them that would expose them to future career opportunities,” said Dr. Alana Simmons, Dougherty County School System. GEAR UP Director. “Everyone in Dougherty County has been so thankful for this opportunity with Georgia Tech. We sent out a survey to the students afterwards, and we got an outpouring of responses saying that everyone in Dougherty County should have access to this type of learning. I even had parents reaching out saying they would sit in on the workshops and were appreciative and surprised that Dougherty County was providing this level of education, all thanks to Georgia Tech. The instructors were very helpful, and the sessions were even recorded for the students to go back and work on their projects. Being able to offer this to students at no cost, especially during the pandemic, was extremely beneficial and impactful. It was not just a new experience for our students, but a holistic family experience as even younger siblings of our participants would sit in and learn. And having the resources for our students to travel to the Atlanta campus was a great full circle moment – to see their transformation and their faces light up when they got to leave their community and see a big city and a wonderful institution of higher learning was truly heartwarming. These students do not have much opportunity to leave their small town and be a witness to the many options there are after high school. I cannot say enough good things about Georgia Tech – the team has been very accommodating and has gone out of their way for the students to be more than satisfied with the program.”

CEISMC and GEAR UP plan to continue their partnership this Fall and Spring though continued virtual programs and opportunities to visit the main campus. 

“To be able to provide an in-need community with higher-level learning has truly been a gratifying experience for us here at Georgia Tech. When Dr. Simmons reached out to us, we knew we had to provide a way for these students to have access to project-based learning, especially during the pandemic when a sense of community and togetherness seemed to be lacking. During the workshops, our instructors worked with the students to implement STEAM curriculum and bring to light real community problems that the students could help solve. Students could ask questions, interact with each other, and show their families their projects. This was a great opportunity for Dougherty County students to be exposed to learning they otherwise would not have had the opportunity to access, and we look forward to continuing this partnership with GEAR UP,” said Timothy Cone, CEISMC Program Director at the Georgia Tech-Savannah campus.

For more information about CEISMIC’s programs, please visit: 

For more information on the Georgia Tech-Savannah campus, visit