Local Teacher Uses Robotics to Showcase Student Potential
Former state park ranger transitions into the classroom to fulfill lifelong dream
GRENADA, Miss. – As a kid Ryan Melton enjoyed taking things apart and putting them back together. He just recently parted with his favorite childhood Legos as he passed them on to his own daughter.
Now, as a teacher and coach for the FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Lego league and robotics team at Grenada Middle School, he gets to share his excitement of creating something new with the next generation of designers.
“It’s amazing to see the students come out of their shells and gain confidence from working on a project they had complete ownership over,” Melton, of Grenada, said.
“They start from scratch, work hard, and in the end, they have built, programmed, and competed with a robot that was their creation.
“It gives them a chance to belong to a group and to showcase their potential.”
As a 2000 graduate from Grenada High School, Melton attended Holmes Community College and then went into a career as a park ranger with the Mississippi Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.
“My favorite part of the job was interacting with our park visitors and teaching them interesting facts about the world around us. I could talk to anyone about anything.”
In 2008, Melton felt the call to return to college to pursue a career in education. He enrolled in the first cohort of education majors at the University of Mississippi-Grenada.
“I wanted a career change, and the program was tailored perfectly for me so that I could work during the day and attend classes in the evenings.”
Melton says he appreciated the extra support and encouragement he received from faculty, staff, and classmates at UM-Grenada.
“It truly is like a family there,” he said. “We had a close group of classmates that walked through the program together.”
Upon graduation in 2010, Melton began teaching science in Greenwood Public Schools and in 2013 he transferred to teach science at his old stomping grounds of Grenada Middle.
Along with seventh and eighth grade science, Melton teaches the “Project Lead-the-Way” engineering and medical investigation classes.
This nationwide curriculum helps boost engagement and comprehension for students in the fields of computer science, engineering, and biomedical science.
As the robotics team coach, Melton says as the students are building a new robot each year and learning engineering concepts, computer programming, and design, they are also learning something equally as important—teamwork.
In 2017, the Grenada Middle robotics team was invited to compete in the First Tech Challenge World Championship in Houston, Texas.
“It was amazing to see our students interacting with teens from all over the world,” Melton said. “We were set up next to teams from Germany and Japan. It was just a great opportunity for them to learn from other students and have a new experience.
“They also had a chance to see how different parts of the competition could be related into a career skill and that there are careers in the things they are passionate about.”
Melton says he stresses the importance of continuing to learn and pursuing your goals with his students. He’s currently illustrating this by working toward his master’s degree in education.
“Kids right now are struggling, and they need the encouragement and support that their teachers can give them,” Melton said.
“I’m just glad I get to share with my students how important their education is, and how they will use this information and knowledge in the real world.”
For more information on undergraduate and graduate programs for educators offered on the University of Mississippi-Grenada campus, and the numerous scholarships available, visit UM-Grenada website.