source: http://www.centralctcommunications.com/bristolpress/article_0037efc8-c724–11e6–9a14–9f3903fa2f67.html

Plainville declared state finalist in contest

December 20

By BRIAN M. JOHNSON STAFF WRITER

PLAINVILLE — The Plainville School district is among five state finalists in Samsung’s Solve for Tomorrow Contest — which will challenge them to solve real-world problems in their communities using their skills in science, technology, engineering, art and math.

Local middle school and high school students will be working with town officials, local cycle shops, cycling groups such as the Plainville Greenway Alliance and nonprofits like the Petit Family Foundation to come up with a plan for improving access to the Rails to Trails bike path.

These students will compete against 255 other districts nationwide to come up with the best plan to showcase their classroom skills and benefit the community. With each tier of the contest that the school district advances, they will earn money for additional technology for their schools. For becoming state finalists, Plainville schools received a $400 Samsung tablet and a $250 check. Should they win the national competition, they will receive $150,000 from Samsung. Steve LePage, assistant superintendent of schools, said that within a week, he learned that Plainville had been narrowed down to the top five schools in the state.

“If we make it to the next step [to regionals], it means $25,000 more for the district,” said LePage.

LePage said that students are currently in the planning and conceptualizing stage of the project. For this, they are working with Kevin Ross, technology director and technology education teachers David Gaignard, Kim Coyle, Mark Chase and Camille Westfall.

“I estimate that 15 to 20 students who are studying tech ed., art and robotics will be involved,” he said. “The idea is to develop a prototype and to eventually install a kiosk or multiple kiosks offering cycling resources and basic tools for repairing bikes. Their goal is to create a solar-powered air compressor. Art students will also be involved in the design to make it visually appealing. Students may also create maps of Plainville for the kiosk and may speak to the Plainville Historic Center to include some town history.”

“This is an authentic opportunity for students to apply what they learn to real life situations,” LePage continued. “The issue with the Rails to Trails bike path is that we have a lot of active rail. There are many local groups who are trying to expand accessibility and in the district we also want to promote outdoor physical activity. These kiosks may help to do so and they may be placed either in Plainville or the Plainville-Farmington line. We may also open it up for advertising for local restaurants or businesses. We are also partnering with the Petit Family Foundation, which has a shared goal of improving the lives of youth in the sciences.”

LePage added that Plainville students also are partnering with the local police department to refurbish bicycles that are no longer in service with officers and provide them to needy people in the community.

“This is a great example of collaboration between teachers and town leadership to move our community forward,” said Maureen Brummett, superintendent of schools. “It is also an excellent opportunity for the kids.”

Brummett thanked LePage for editing a concise application for the contest.

“We also have to give credit to the Florence P. FitzGibbon trust for supporting our students’ STEM education,” she said. “In the past, this money had been used for scholarships. We spoke with the trustees and they said that it could be used for anything as long as it was for the betterment of education funds. This allowed us to create a STEM lab at the high school, which Elizabeth Esty visited and said was the best in the state. We are now creating a blueprint for STEM labs at the middle schools, which I anticipate will be completed over the summer with $75,000 to $80,000 from the trust. This is money that we do not have to put into the Board of Education budget. We have also set up a maker space at Toffolon elementary and we hope to create one at Linden and Wheeler.”

Brian M. Johnson can be reached at 860–973–1806 or [email protected]