Mr. Oknefski researched grant opportunities to restart the robotics program at Ridgway. He was fortunate to find funding from the Elk County Community Foundation. The following is a statement from Mr. Oknefski.
Ridgway Area School District needed an alternative way to teach robotics which is becoming a huge field not only in the surrounding area but around the country. Robotics has proven itself not only fun but extremely educational because robotics has the ability to integrate science, technology, engineering, and math seamlessly all while keeping students engaged. Robotics is also not a cookie cutter curriculum because it allows each student to creatively think of solutions to problems and then build a robot to solve the problem. When the robot is built, students have the option to manually operate the robot using a remote control, or they can program it using software to repeat steps over and over just like a robot in production.
Last year, Mr. Oknefski wrote a grant explaining all the benefits that robotics can have on education and explained how Ridgway could be a model program. Excitement and publicity in the program could cause other schools in the area to peruse education using robots enhancing an entire community as well as the counties educational experience. It does just stop in the school. After school, students who have been taught using robots will be able to take their knowledge into the workforce, college, or the military and succeed and expand from there.
The Elk County Community Foundation graciously agreed to give our school district a $5,000 grant towards the purchase of the robots. With that money, plus some given by our school, we will be able to purchase four Vex robots and two computers that will have the appropriate curriculum and software downloaded onto it. The robots will be used in the pre-engineering II class to accommodate 8 students (working in pairs) this year and could possibly be expanded into a class of its own in the future. We also anticipate students competing in events using vex robots. I hope to see an excitement and knowledge gained from the use of these robots. If it is as big as a success as I anticipate, I hope others will see its importance and choose to push the program further. It would be a real accomplishment to see the education in this field to continue with a large amount of students using their brains to find creative solutions to problems they are faced with.