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Curriculum In North Texas Schools Could Pave Way To High-Tech Jobs

DALLAS (CBS 11 NEWS) - The nationwide competition to lure Amazon's second corporate headquarters, HQ2, and it's 50,000 high-paying jobs, has gained lots of attention in North Texas and nationwide.

The jobs are based on what's called STEM: Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, and the U.S. Labor Department says there's a huge need to fill millions of these positions in the next five years and beyond.

More and more students in North Texas and across the country are learning the STEM curriculum in school. While it isn't brand new, the curriculum is evolving because of new technology, research, and the needs of industry.

E.B. Comstock Middle School is now one of 80 schools in North Texas and 10,500 schools nationwide using a curriculum provided by a non-profit organization named Project Lead The Way. Besides middle schools, the campuses include high schools and elementary schools.

D'Karya Jones, an 8th grade STEM student at Comstock says she enjoys the curriculum. "Every time I pick up the materials, piece them together, it makes me feel like a real engineer." Learning how to build has sparked a passion. "I didn't think I'd be in this position, actually building, actually enjoying, I thought it'd be boring and not in my interest."

When CBS 11 News visited their class, Jones and her fellow classmates were working on their latest assignment: designing and building a dollhouse -- out of cardboard -- making all of the furniture inside, and even figuring out how to power it by using wind and solar energy.

Dakysha Johnson, another 8th grader says, "I was shocked because I was like how can you make a dollhouse out of cardboard? But after I had seen different dollhouses, that we made I though that I could do it."

Both girls began taking the STEM curriculum in elementary school and plan on continuing it through high school and college.

Pamela Gantt-Lee has been teaching STEM at Comstock Middle School for 10 years. "This is not a textbook class. This is a class where you have to use critical thinking skills. These are skills required to survive in our society today," she said.

Gantt-Lee says the dollhouse project is only the beginning. "Flight and space, creating apps, automation and robotics. Amazon is all about automation and robotics."

Aside from the STEM curriculum, the students still learn their core subjects.

While Gantt-Lee teaches her students Monday through Friday, she also sees them on Saturdays for competitions. She also credits Lockheed Martin, and specifically engineer Chad Harper in Fort Worth, for sponsoring their classroom supplies.

Gantt-Lee says she believes her students are future software developers, IT managers, and engineers -- filling a real need in this country. "We won't have to go out-sourcing. We're breeding our engineers at E.B. Comstock."

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