Monday, May 21, 2018
Education

Brink Foundation, school district create Town ’N Country STEM hub

TAMPA — Elementary school students programmed an electronic mouse to make its way through a maze.

Middle school students directed an electronic vehicle to stop on a dime, then use its arms to locate and lift a tiny cube.

When the demonstration was done and the applause died down, a Hillsborough County School District official posed a question.

"Adults in this room, how many of you had the opportunity to do things like this during your kindergarten through 12th grade education?’’ said Larry Plank, director of STEM Education for the district. "None, right? So the world is an ever-changing place.

"These kids are learning how to solve problems through iteration. They’re solving code that doesn’t exist. It’s the same type of thing the U.S. government is doing, what banks and institutions are doing through cyber security. We’re developing a very important skill set in these kids because that’s the future.’’

Last week, that future got even brighter.

The Brink Foundation, a nonprofit organization that has contributed to academic projects in the Town ‘n’ Country area for nearly a decade, donated $35,000 to advance the school district’s STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) curriculum.

Four elementary schools (Dickenson, Morgan Woods, Town ‘n’ Country and Woodbridge), two middle schools (Pierce and Webb) and one high school (Leto) each received $5,000 checks to help establish a STEM Hub among the area schools.

Theoretically, students can follow a STEM continuum from kindergarten through their senior year of high school.

"This is a game-changer for us,’’ said Marcos Murillo, a school district area superintendent. "This is a model that could apply to the entire county and state, if not the nation.’’

"I can already see the benefits,’’ said Frank Marcantoni, a robotics instructor at Webb Middle School. "Elementary school kids who have been exposed to STEM come in as sixth-graders and grasp something in six days that previously would’ve taken an entire quarter for the eighth-graders. They are learning critical thinking skills and how to overcome obstacles. They’re doing better in math, better in science because they’re learning how to think.’’

And that’s the aim of the Brink Foundation, which identifies and funds worthy projects.

"Our family goes back in this (Town ‘n’ Country) neighborhood some 50 years,’’ said Chris Brink, who sits on the foundation’s board of directors. "We’re very focused on career and technical education. How can we end the poverty cycle? The best way to do that is get these kids employable.

"STEM is the obvious future. You put a kid with technology and I don’t think they get left behind. Tampa has been good to us and we hope to be that good to Tampa. In our view, there’s no better form of social justice than public education. That’s why we do what we do.’’

As principals from the seven area schools gathered at Leto to witness the STEM demonstration and receive their checks, they were excited about the possibilities.

"This will have a major impact at Webb Middle School,’’ Webb principal Frank Diaz said. "It’s going to raise the bar for our students and going to attract the students who belong to our school back to our community.’’

"I see such potential and world of opportunity for our kids,’’ Town ‘n’ Country Elementary School principal Melissa Babanats said. "It will allow for continuous progress from elementary to middle to high school and it has opened up a gateway for a very smooth transition.’’

That transition will continue well beyond high school, officials said.

"The kids will have a greater level of sophistication,’’ Marcantoni said. "What does that mean? We’ll get them ready to do better in high school. They will easily transition to college or somewhere in the manufacturing or technical field. They’ll be ready to work and earn more money. This is the future.’’

Contact Joey Johnston at [email protected]

Comments
Parents score victory in effort to make travel safer for Westchase students

Parents score victory in effort to make travel safer for Westchase students

TAMPA — Hillsborough County school leaders call it courtesy busing, but to Lauren Hawkins it’s more a matter of life and death.More students living close to their schools in the Westchase community used the Hillsborough school district’s courtesy bus...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Eckerd College hosts a royal celebration of its own

Eckerd College hosts a royal celebration of its own

A day after England’s royal wedding between Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, St. Petersburg hosted a royal celebration of its own. Among the estimated 500 graduates to receive an Eckerd College diploma at Sunday’s graduation ceremony held...
Updated: 6 hours ago
At vigil, another school mourns: ‘It is hope in the face of tragedy that brings us together today.’

At vigil, another school mourns: ‘It is hope in the face of tragedy that brings us together today.’

SANTA FE, Texas - They gathered here by the dozens Friday evening, wearing their school colors, T-shirts that said "Texas Tough," while huddling under the shade of a gaggle of pine trees, not 11 hours after the first shots were fired.They came to pra...
Published: 05/19/18
‘I always felt it would eventually happen here’: A Santa Fe High School survivor’s reaction to the shooting

‘I always felt it would eventually happen here’: A Santa Fe High School survivor’s reaction to the shooting

Paige Curry tried to keep calm Friday morning as a gunman tore through her Santa Fe High School, eventually killing 10 people and injuring another 10. The 17-year-old watched as a girl nearby panicked. Curry, herself terrified, considered running out...
Published: 05/19/18
Class of 2018: Meet the valedictorians and salutatorians for Pinellas private high schools

Class of 2018: Meet the valedictorians and salutatorians for Pinellas private high schools

Before they could get away, we asked the top graduates at Pinellas County’s private schools to write a Twitter-length paragraph about what’s on their mind. We suggested they reflect on the past or the future, or talk about the people who helped them ...
Published: 05/18/18
Class of 2018: TBT’s Anita Morgan rises above abuse to thrive

Class of 2018: TBT’s Anita Morgan rises above abuse to thrive

TAMPA — For those who fear there is no hope, or help, or heart left in this world, there is the story of Anita Morgan.There are any number of life-wrenching places to begin …In the middle of the night, in the back of a police car, cruising over the b...
Published: 05/18/18
Class of 2018: TBT’s Anita Morgan rises above abuse to thrive

Class of 2018: TBT’s Anita Morgan rises above abuse to thrive

TAMPA — For those who fear there is no hope, or help, or heart left in this world, there is the story of Anita Morgan.There are any number of life-wrenching places to begin …In the middle of the night, in the back of a police car, cruising over the b...
Published: 05/17/18
Updated: 05/18/18
Florida teacher accused of drowning raccoons in class placed on leave

Florida teacher accused of drowning raccoons in class placed on leave

A Florida teacher was placed on administrative leave after school officials were told that he had students help him drown wild raccoons during class.A 14-second video published by CBS affiliate WKMG showed a group of students filling a tub of water u...
Published: 05/17/18
The US spends less on children than almost any other developed nation

The US spends less on children than almost any other developed nation

The federal government now spends less than it did about 30 years ago on some of the country’s poorest children, the result of cuts to federal welfare programs, according to a new research paper.In 1990, the government spent about $8,700 on every chi...
Published: 05/17/18
Two gifts on graduation day: white Crocs, and a lesson that ‘it can’t hurt to ask’

Two gifts on graduation day: white Crocs, and a lesson that ‘it can’t hurt to ask’

ST. PETERSBURG — Sarah Agee and her friends never pictured themselves wearing Crocs to their graduation. But the foam shoes were comfortable, offered better footing than heels, and now the Seminole High seniors had a story to tell.It all started a li...
Published: 05/16/18
Updated: 05/17/18