COE outreach includes summer robotics for Springfield students

From The Republican newspaper
Robotics program wins funding
Friday, April 01, 2011


SPRINGFIELD - The state has awarded a federally funded, $123,900 grant to Springfield to provide a six-week robotics program at Van Sickle Middle School this summer, expected to serve 145 local students.

Springfield was one of just four school districts chosen statewide for the expanded-year, summer pilot program. The districts received grants up to $125,000 from the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

"This is about enrichment and empowerment," said Mayor Domenic J. Sarno, among local and state officials who gathered at Van Sickle on Wednesday to announce the grant and program.

The program is for youth who participated during the school year in Springfield's 21st Century Community Learning Centers Afterschool Program. In addition to Van Sickle, it will target students from "feeder" schools, namely Liberty, Pottenger, Bowles and Glenwood, said Paula E. Thayer, the city's assistant director of recreation who submitted the city's proposal.

The program was designed to "significantly expand innovative summer learning that address both the academic and developmental needs of students," Thayer said.

Superintendent of Schools Alan J. Ingram said the program will help "strengthen and build the character and academic achievement of students."

The children will have an opportunity to learn about robotics while having fun; it is also designed to prevent regression in learning that can occur over summer, officials said.

Karyl Resnick, the state's coordinator of the 21st Century Community Learning Centers Projects, said Springfield's application rose above many others in part because the many groups and individuals that will work together on the robotics summer program.

The planning team in Springfield consists of Springfield College; University of Massachusetts-Amherst; Tufts University; the Hampden County Regional Employment Board; Hasbro Summer Learning Initiative; and Van Sickle's principal, Cheryl DeSpirt; a district science specialist; and two of Van Sickle's science teachers who were trained in LEGO robotics.

Other districts that received the grants were North Adams, Wareham, and the Triton Regional School District.