The Union Recorder

May 17, 2013

STEM laboratory projected by next summer

Kyle Collins
The Union-Recorder

MILLEDGEVILLE — A former Drug Enforcement Administration laboratory director wants Milledgeville to become a hub for science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education. With the Central State Hospital Local Redevelopment Authority’s (CSHLRA) help, Darrell Davis hopes to have the old Wilkes Building retrofitted for a laboratory program by next summer.

Davis retired from the DEA in August 2012 and approached the CSHLRA representing his Committee for Action Program Services (CAPS) non-profit last September.

CAPS is a science and technology organization that is located in Cedar Hill, Texas. The primary objective of the organization is to provide professional development for k-12 science educators and encourage minority students to seek STEM career fields.

Since then, Davis started a new for-profit company called CAPS-Analytical Training Laboratory, LLC. He wants Central State to house a CAPS-ATL facility as part of the campus reuse efforts.

“The whole idea is that we want to get more underrepresented kids into the STEM field,” the organization’s chairman said. “Kids from the CAPS program or other non-profits can do science fair or STEM projects in the facility.”

According to the vision statement, CAPS-ATL will be a leader in developing well-trained scientists to create a diverse 21st century workforce and conduct cutting edge research and provide analytical services for worldwide recognition and consumption.

Davis said the forensics field, which includes chemistry, video analysis, DNA analysis, engineering and criminalistics, is hard up for more specialists. 

The Boston bombing incident suspects were found through quick forensic work. Davis said technological advances put a strain on organizations like the DEA to keep up with smarter criminals.

“There is almost a panic because backlogs and crime continue to go up, but there are no students in a workforce pipeline,” Davis said. “One of our goals is to get kids from this area into the program.”

CAPS-ATL will instill integrity and ethics learned from the chairman’s 33 years with the Department of Justice.

DEA and STEM grant support monies are available to build and conduct the local program. All funds go toward student training.

Davis said the program could begin at a Georgia College facility if the Wilkes Building isn’t ready for use. CSHLRA Executive Director Mike Couch submitted a lease package for Wilkes and two other campus buildings to the State Properties Commission and expects a quick June turnaround. 

For a Texas man, Davis grew a Milledgeville attachment, while trying to recruit a former student in the city. He chose Georgia for the CAPS-ATL location soon after.

“My focus was trying to stay in Texas. Also, I believe that this is something I’m giving back to the community and if that community is here in Milledgeville, I’m still doing what I want to do,” he said Wednesday.

The first shot assisting Central State and the community’s educational image is a July 17-18 STEM Summit. The conference gatherings will occur at Georgia College and CSH.

Davis covets the chance to show the community the seriousness and sincerity of the Central State Hospital housed analytical laboratory plan.

Professors and legislators from all over the country will attend the Milledgeville showcase. Congressional attendees, Georgia Congressman Paul Broun and Texas Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson, both sit on the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology. As Davis jokes, the nation’s scientists are getting old. CAPS-ATL might provide suitable replacements,

“We haven’t focused on how we are going to replace those bodies. We need to focus on how we get more kids into STEM. The whole concept of CAPS-ATL is to provide a place for these kids to learn and take their skills into the 21st century workforce.”

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