Grant will help Monessen to develop robotics program

April 12, 2017
Exterior of Monessen High School.

MONESSEN – Monessen school students will be studying robotics with the help of a $20,000 grant from a local business.

Superintendent Leanne Spazak announced that the district has received the grant through Project Lead the Way with the help of local sponsor ArcelorMittal, an integrated steel and mining company in Monessen.

Spazak said the district will receive two $10,000 grants over the next two years. The first grant will be used for an automation and robotics program at the middle school, where students will learn the history and impact of robotics and automation and will also learn to design items such as robotic arms.

Spazak said the second installment of the grant will be used for an App Creators program at the high school that will be used to expose students to computer science and show them how to develop mobile applications while teaching students the positive impact of applying computer science to other disciplines and to society.

Spazak said the district hopes to develop a robotics team and enter in future competitions. Mon Valley Career and Technology Center students recently competed in a robotics competition that Spazak watched. “It’s a really full event that brings together different kids,” she said, explaining that these types of programs have a variety of benefits by providing team-building skills and new ways to solve problems.

Vice President Roberta Bergstedt said the CTC’s robotics program has been very successful so far. Bergstedt said this is the first year the school introduced the program and its robotics team has recently placed third in the BotsIQ competition against 33 other school districts. Bergstedt said students designed and built a robot that was equipped with various weapons, controlling it in a cage match against other robots.

She said the team will move on to the next round of the competition where it will be competing against 180 school districts. She said when parents spoke about the new robotics program, many of them expressed that the program “changed their kids lives.”

In other business, the board voted 8-1 to retain Gina Naccarato as elementary vice principal. Board secretary Cindy Pawelec voted against retaining Naccarato because of the district’s current financial situation. She said Naccarato’s performance in the position has been great but said the district does not currently need four administrators. “If we were in a better financial situation, my vote would have been yes,” Pawelec said.

The board voted unanimously to hire Mark Gibson as a school police officer with a four-year contract effective April 1 to June 30, 2021.

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