By Jonathan Hardison
PELHAM (WBRC) - Governor Bob Riley visited Pelham Wednesday to get a closer look at the Alabama Math Science and Technology Institute, or AMSTI.
Riley calls AMSTI one of the signature achievements of his education plan and said he will fight even after leaving office to keep funding for the program.
Many AMSTI projects look more like something that will land students in detention rather than the key to an "A" in science class, but experiments like using ethanol fumes to shoot a Nerf ball are exactly the kind of science AMSTI is bringing to more than 340,000 students across the state.
Several students using the facilities Wednesday explained why it helps them learn:
"To me, AMSTI is great because I'm a more hands-on learner," Lincoln High School student DeMarco Willis said. "I wanna know what I'm doing, see what I'm doing and do it for myself, basically, versus looking at a book. I like to work with my hands a lot."
"AMSTI class provides supplies and equipment for rural schools like Lincoln High School where I go, and otherwise we wouldn't be able to do the kind of experiments we do or have the kind of hands-on experience we have," said Ethan Pettis, another Lincoln student.
"I'm more of a visual person anyway," said Oak Mt. High School student Charniece Wilcox. "So it helps me to see it, to understand it because it's class every day. I can't just read a book, I have to be hands-on. It helps me to understand it better."
AMSTI funding cost about $26 million this year and with a tight education budget projected for next year, supporters are concerned the program could be scaled back, something Riley says he will fight even once he's out of office.
"I won't be governor next year, but I'm not too sure I'm not gonna advocate for things that work," Riley said.