A robotics camp at Oakbrook Middle School is about to get even bigger thanks to a new grant the school has earned.
On Aug. 28 State Superintendent of Education Mick Zais announced that $5.3 million in 21st Century Community Learning Centers (CCLC) grants have been awarded to 19 districts to establish after-school programs this school year.
In Dorchester District Two, Oakbrook Middle is the sole recipient of this grant. Principal Brion Rutherford said the money will go toward the school’s robotics camp, which will be held Monday through Friday for approximately 50 students after school.
A press release from the state’s Department of Education states each sub-grantee will receive up to $200,000 annually for up to four years to operate “a community learning center that provides a multitude of academic and enrichment activities to students before and after school, and during the summer.” These federally funded grants, authorized under No Child Left Behind, are awarded through a competitive process.
Rutherford said he is “definitely excited” about the school receiving money; Oakbrook Middle will be receiving $100,000 a year for two years to expand the robotics camp.
After those two years Rutherford said that monetary amount will decrease, but by then the school plans to find other means of funding.
Rutherford said the robotics camp creates a big opportunity for students to immerse themselves in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics)-related activities.
“We’re looking to expose them to as many STEM fields and opportunities as we can,” he said. “And, obviously, when they enjoy school a little bit more they tend to do a little bit better in their classes.”
Oakbrook Middle Gateway to Technology teacher Amy Baldwin and Michael Washington, who coordinates sixth through eighth grade intervention labs, have both coached robotics teams for the school. Baldwin said the students on the robotics teams create robots out of LEGO bricks and go on to compete in a LEGO robotics competition. The students also program the robots to move and operate.
Baldwin said they were “extremely ecstatic” to earn the grant because the school is always trying to find ways to help students think on their feet and use their math and science skills.
“The goal is just hands-on math and science,” she said.
Washington said his favorite part of the robotics camp is actually using the LEGOs to create the robots.
“I was a big fan of LEGOs growing up so that’s why I was like, ‘I can’t wait to join because I can play with LEGOs,’” he said with a laugh.
Rutherford extended his thanks to the DD2 office, Superintendent Joe Pye and the school board for supporting the school in its efforts to obtain the grant.