Community laps the track for technology

Flip and digital cameras: check. SMART Board: check. Wireless network: check.

A small technology arsenal is slowly building at Concord's Coltrane-Webb Elementary School, as the school prepares to launch its new STEM magnet program in the fall.

Laptop computers are next on the list of wants for the budding scientists, engineers and mathematicians. Last month, nearly 200 parents, students and faculty did their part to make that a reality.

Laps for Laptops, sponsored by Coltrane-Webb's Parent Teacher Community Organization, challenged families and staff to gain sponsors and walk enough laps on Concord Middle School's quarter-mile track for the school to afford a laptop for each student next year.

PTCO President Shanda Pierce deemed the May 21 event a success that helped the school reach nearly half its goal of $20,000.

"It's been fantastic," said Pierce, who watched as parent after parent dropped off checks under the shelter set up with snacks and water for the walkers. "The count now is around $7,000, just today," she said. Corporate sponsors gave $2,800, bringing the day's total close to $10,000.

Several students took to the track to earn laptops for their classmates. Caitlyn Flanagan, 10, a fourth-grader at Coltrane-Webb, rounded the loop 40 times to raise nearly $150.

"We left it up to them," Pierce said of the amount of laps families and teachers should walk. "Some people did a lap. Some did 30."

The PTCO also sold around 100 STEM T-shirts. The shirts, with a beaker on the front along with the STEM logo, sold for $10; of that $6 will go toward the purchase of computers.

Each of the Apple Mac laptops will cost $900, including software, said Coltrane-Webb Principal Mary Roth. The school owns 190 laptops but would like to have 475 next year.

Pierce said another Laps for Laptops event is planned for the fall, and a grant writer will begin working to secure more computers from Apple.

Roth stressed the importance of having laptops for the students.

"We're going to be completely wireless next year," she said. "They'll be able to do their research on their science units, their engineering units."

Coltrane-Webb is the site of one of two new magnet programs offered by the Cabarrus County Schools next year, serving as an elementary STEM magnet school. J.N. Fries Middle School will be the site of a STEM program for middle schoolers.

The STEM course of study puts an emphasis on science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Earlier this year students with a strong interest in math and science were encouraged to apply to the STEM magnets. Middle school students were selected in part on their end-of-grade test scores from 2009-10. Elementary students were chosen based on a strong interest or talent in math and science and willingness to work hard.

The district already has two magnet schools, the Performance Learning Center and the Cabarrus-Kannapolis Early College High School.