Parents, teachers, and even a few lunchroom workers came out to Anniston High School on Friday morning to watch Anniston Middle School students test out a go-kart they built as part of a science camp program.

The 20 students in the program gathered in the parking lot of the high school to test the go-kart, which they built from the ground up over the past two weeks. The students came to the school each day from 8 a.m. to noon to work on the project, which was sponsored by Gadsden State Community College and the Public Education Foundation of Anniston, PEFA.

The science camp was a part of a national science, technology, engineering and math, STEM, program to encourage students to get involved in different areas of education.

Anniston Middle students and sisters Madison and Brooklyn Reyes are both on the team that built the go-kart. The sisters said it was a lot to learn but the project helped them to figure out how to work through issues more easily.

“Mr. Porterfield gives us instructions and then lets us do the work; he is really good at teaching us how to work on our own,” Madison Reyes said.

Bentley Porterfield, a welding instructor at Anniston High, taught and supervised the students during the program. Porterfield said the students’ willingness to sign up for a program that occurred during their summer vacation speaks highly of their character.

“The kids did everything — they unpacked all the parts, painted the frame, welded it together themselves, installed the engine, all of it,” Porterfield said. “This is a different, hands-on opportunity for them, much different from sitting in a desk and regurgitating material.”

All the supplies needed for the project were funded by PEFA, according to Wonder Osborne, the executive director of the foundation. Osborne said the program is meant to encourage students to get involved in areas of science, math, and engineering in which they had not been previously interested.

“We hope this is the beginning of something new,” Osborne said. “The students are going to take the go-kart apart now, to learn the reverse process.”

Darriante Kirksey, a student in the program, said it was helpful having to figure out what they were doing wrong and what they did right throughout the process. Kirksey’s favorite part was welding the pieces together. Shernevelyne Hill, the continuing education manager at Gadsden State Community College, said the students also learned proper safety procedures while building the go-kart.

With help from the PEFA and Gadsden State Community College, the school system was able to provide the students with free lunch and breakfast. Superintendent Darren Douthitt said the board of education plans to expand the program next year.

“We want to get 50 students involved next year, but we will need to get more instructors on board for that,” Douthitt said.

Anniston Middle Principal Kimberly Garrick agreed with Douthitt.

“This project just goes to show what our kids are capable of —  achievements they never even believed of themselves,” Garrick said.

Douthitt said the program is an innovation that is crucial to the education of the students.

“We have to plant that seed and do it often that students can be successful in the fields they are interested in,” Douthitt said. “We won’t have to recruit these students next year, they are already interested in coming back — it will grow from there each year.”

Each student got to test-drive the go-kart in the parking lot Friday morning. Hill presented each student with a certificate at the end of the event. Test-driving the finished product was the best part, several of the students said.

“We got to see all the work we did and actually use it,” said Shatia Scott, a student at Anniston Middle.

Jada Johnson, another student, said seeing the completed product was just as enjoyable as the whole program, though.

“There are no words to describe it,” Johnson said.

Staff Writer Elizabeth Manning: 256-235-3550. On Twitter @emanning_Star.