LEAVITTSBURG, Ohio (WKBN) – The first winner of WKBN’s Caring for Our Community – Creative Classroom contest was surprised in his classroom on Tuesday.
Joe Slifka, technology teacher at LaBrae Middle School in Leavittsburg, applied for the $500 prize to be used in the classroom. The teachers were asked to explain how they would use the money to advance education in a creative way.
Slifka’s junior high technology classes are taught using the Lego Mindstorms robotics kits. He says students are excited to come to class to “play,” while they are using the robotic kits to explore a variety of STEM concepts.
It is Slifka’s fourth year of teaching at LaBrae Middle School. Last year, he started a robotics club, and he and 14 students prepared for the Notheast Ohio Robotics Education Program competition at Youngstown State University. During the club’s first year, students earned first place in one of the robotic games, third place in “Best Technical Journal” and third place team overall.
Slifka said the size of the club has since doubled.
“I don’t have enough computers in my lab to meet with the group just once per week, so we are meeting twice a week. I have just enough robotics kits to outfit my classes, as well as the team, and these are all very good problems to have,” he wrote in his application. “I would use the grant to partially fund the entry fees for both the new high school and expanded middle school team we’re sending this year. Additionally, supplies for the competition will be purchased, as well as a Space Challenge Activity Pack that would allow me to teach my classes in a structure that mimics the competition format we see.”
Slifka said he believed it would not only increase student awareness and interest in the robotics club, but also show students that STEM can be “exciting and engaging learning.”