2016 FIRST Robotics Competition Kickoff

January 28, 2016
frc-stronghold-blockA few weeks ago, January 9th, local FIRST Robotics teams gathered at Spencerport High School to watch this year’s challenge be announced.

FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) is a non-profit organization that is meant to inspire students to become interested in science, technology, math, engineering, and entrepreneurship through robotics. Within FIRST, there is the FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC), FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC), FIRST Lego League (FLL), and FIRST Lego League Jr (FLLJr). For FRC, every year in January, a new challenged is released to teams all over the world followed by a 6 week building period. After the build season is completed, teams compete in regionals across the globe. Qualifying teams move onto a championship with over 600 other teams in attendance.

This year’s challenge is FIRST STRONGHOLD. Teams will score points by crossing their opponent alliance defense, throwing “boulders” into openings in their opponent’s towers, and then hoisting their robot onto bars attached to the tower, all within 2 minutes and 30 seconds. Alliances are made of 3 teams and are rotated throughout the competition. The video below details all the difficulties in this year’s challenge:

The local regional will be taking place Thursday, March 24 – Saturday, March 26, 2016 at the Gordon Field House at RIT. 50 teams from across NY, Canada, and even one from Florida, will be competing locally this year. For more information on the Finger Lakes Regional, check out: http://www.upstatenyfirst.org/FIRST_Robotics_Competition_(logo)
If you want a preview of the robot action that will take place at the regional, Penfield High School’s team, Rolling Thunder, will be holding a scrimmage event on Sunday, February 21st,  from 10AM to 4PM at the school. For more details, check out https://www.facebook.com/events/1669066630033506/.

 For more information on FIRST: http://www.firstinspires.org/

Dan Schneiderman is an organizer, web developer, and maker. He is currently co-chair the Rochester Mini Maker Faire, a member of the Finger Lakes Regional STEM Hub, and is working on a few interactive light projects. Within the past year, he has helped schools with their Maker programs, volunteered at FIRST Robotics events, and hosted LED throwie experiences. He recently left his job to focus on expanding the maker movement within Rochester.

New Year, New Director for Finger Lakes STEM Hub

January 22, 2016


The Finger Lakes STEM hub is pleased to announce the appointment of our new Director: Joe Marinelli

Joe takes over the reins from Sara Silverstone, who was the Founding Director of our Hub. Joe has been an active member of the Finger Lakes STEM Hub’s Steering Committee since his retirement in 2012,  after 18 years as Superintendent of Wayne-Finger Lakes BOCES. Prior to joining the Steering Committee, Joe served on our Board of Champions.

Joe Marinelli, Ph.D

Joe Marinelli, Ph.D

As a member of the Steering Committee, he played a significant leadership role in  the development of our Strategic Plan, and in our efforts to reach out to our regional BOCES districts and our NYS Regents. In addition to his new role with the Finger Lakes STEM Hub, Joe continues to serve as the Vice President for Exploring with the Seneca Waterways Council of the Boy Scouts of America.

We asked Dr. Marinelli to tell us a little bit about himself and the future of the STEM Hub as he sees it.

Tell us a little bit about yourself:

I am a native New Yorker, but spent many years in Florida. I graduated from the University of Florida with BS in psychology and Masters in counseling. My Ph.D is in Ed Admin from University of Wisconsin-Madison. After serving as  a rural high school counselor and administrator, and attending UW, I was awarded a fellowship to learn about the federal education political arena at the headquarters of the Council for Exceptional Children in DC. That led to a job as Washington Lobbyist for Florida’s Commissioner of Education.  I was Associate Superintendent in Orange Co.(Orlando) FL and Superintendent in Livonia, MI, a Detroit suburb. In Orlando I handled state and federal governmental relations, strategic planning, grants development and management and the district’s foundation. Because of my interest and experiences in lobbying on behalf of education and in particular, educational opportunity for all students, I became active in state and national associations, eventually serving as president of both the Florida Association of School Administrators and National Association of Federal Education Program Administrators.  During my tenure as District Superintendent of the Wayne-Finger Lakes BOCES, I served as president of the Association of Educational Service Agencies. I am married to the former Becky Slavis, a journalist at the Orlando Sentinel. We enjoy traveling, visiting family and friends, and collecting art glass.

How/when did you become involved with the STEM Hub?

My interest in STEM precedes involvement in the STEM Hub. As far back as 2005 our BOCES began to pay attention to what futurists were saying about workforce and economic development and the growing need to create interest in and prepare individuals for jobs in STEM careers. As a new strategic plan priority and early adopter of STEM, we created enrichment programs in STEM, career tech programs in renewable energy and engineering technology, home energy audit technician training, online accelerated STEM courses and expanded professional development offerings. When the Hub was created the BOCES superintendents were invited to be members of its Board of Champions. I have been involved in the Seneca Waterways Council of the Boy Scouts of America for a number of years,  but since retiring from BOCES in 2012 I have served as its VP for the Exploring Program.  It is a career education and mentoring program whereby businesses, associations and government agencies sponsor units at their locations so youth get hands on knowledge of careers offered by those sponsors. Growing units in STEM and locating units accessible to youth are priorities. I have represented that program while on the Hub’s Steering Committee.

Why did you want to become the new Director?

I felt that my commitment, experiences, active involvement on the Hub’s Steering Committee and available time would allow me to build on our successes with Sara Silverstone as our director, and advance our STEM agenda. Serving as a judge for the youth STEM advertising awards, member of the professional development conference and strategic planning committees, initiator of annual meetings with members of the Board of Regents and potential additional partnerships with the BOCES have all contributed to my interest in the position.

What future projects or events are you most looking forward to?

We should keep in mind our mission, vision, core values and commitments as we consider future projects and events. To paraphrase, we are a catalyst for collaboration among business, education, community organizations, individuals and government entities. We leverage diverse resources to advance the interdisciplinary teaching and learning of STEM disciplines for sustained economic vitality in our nine county region. We are committed to college and career readiness among students and pathways to achieve them. We create, sustain and enrich partnerships, and assure access to and awareness of STEM opportunities. We are a catalyst, enabler and accelerant in the region. Currently, there are three priority areas, professional learning, community awareness and involvement, and student impact.

In light of the above,  it is important to note that, while we sometimes carry out projects directly as we currently do in those three priority areas, we also create conditions whereby organizations can come together and partner or support each other’s endeavors. My thoughts for consideration are the following:

1. The Hub’s need for sustainability which requires us to examine how we are organized and seek the resources to carry out our mission, be it by memberships and/or grants.
2. Related to the project above is for us to capitalize on the value we can offer to all of our 3 constituencies, k-12, higher education and business and industry, and consider offering services currently unavailable to them.
3. An area in our strategic plan which needs to be addressed is the provision and accessibility of hands on career education, including pathways to careers, and mentoring opportunities in STEM for young people. This has been expressed in survey results by local school district personnel.
4. We should broaden our professional development services and give k-12 instructors opportunities to engage with STEM  businesses and higher education training programs to better understand the skills needed to be employed in those fields.
5. The Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council is an important body whose economic and workforce development priorities in STEM should be monitored so that we can be a player in supporting those initiatives.
6. I envision a STEM Hub website that is the “go to” clearinghouse in our Hub region for current information about STEM organizations, reliable resources, sound references, events, recognized quality programs, etc. This is currently a work in progress.
7. It has been several years since we reviewed our strategic plan. It is time to consider examining and updating it as appropriate.

As we go forward I know that other suggestions will surface for us to consider as well.

Anything else you would like to share with our readers?

For those of you who have not attended our Steering Committee’s monthly meetings on the second Friday of each month at the RMSC,  let me invite you join us to hear at each meeting what’s happening in each organization represented at the table, network and collaborate with other advocates, lend your advice and counsel, add to the energy and diversity of resources represented and actively support the activities we carry out directly.

The STEM Hub congratulates Dr Marinelli on his appointment and looks forward to a successful 2016 and beyond!

Photonics meeting to be held at RSMC

January 21, 2016

Photonics is an up and coming industry, especially in the Rochester Area.  The Finger Lakes STEM Hub would like to invite you to an exploratory meeting next week to learn more about photonics and other emerging industries.   The goal of the meeting is to introduce some of these technologies to the K-12 arena, and discuss what skills will need to be taught to prepare students for either research or advanced manufacturing positions in these fields.

We welcome a couple of guest speakers who are intimately involved in these industries, who both also have an educational role.

Dr. Michael Jackson is an Associate Professor and researcher at RIT’s Kate Gleason College of Engineering focused on correlating material properties to electrical performance of solid state devices. His teaching responsibilities include device physics, E-M fields, optics, meteorology, thin film processing, and device processing courses. Mike is also the Electrical Engineering department’s Outreach Director, involved with dissemination of programs to the K-12, Community College, and Industrial communities.

Dr. Alexis Vogt is an Associate Professor and Endowed Chair of MCC’s Optical Systems Technology program. She has a strong background in the optics and photonics industries, having worked for Bausch & Lomb and Melles Griot prior to taking her adjunct role at MCC to a full time position. Alexis has been a visible face recently in taking the discussion around photonics to the public; check out her recent profile in the D&C.

This event is open to anyone who might be interested, so please share with your educators, counselors, administrators, and colleagues. Since space is limited in the Cunningham House Studio, please RSVP so we can make sure we have enough seating.

Meeting details:

Friday January 29 2:30pm at the RMSC Cunningham House Studio (map)

Please RSVP to Clement Chung:  cchung.pe@gmail.com