Stewart Middle School Robotics

     Thank you for considering helping my students, and my school.  My name is Eric Price, a robotics and engineering teacher in Tampa, Florida.  

     My school is a public magnet school in downtown Tampa.   A magnet school is a purposeful combination of students living in the surrounding urban neighborhoods, and students from further suburban or rural areas.  Demographically, we are a majority Black and Hispanic school.  As a magnet school, our goal is to provide equity to all students to prepare them for life, whether that involves pursuing a degree or trade path upon graduating 8th grade.

     Our school culture is built through a great integration of students from various socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds. The theme of our magnet school is STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Mathematics). This magnet theme is what draws student interest to attend. Throughout our building, all class subjects are taught to influence students to explore and ask questions about the unknown.  We as a staff want all of our kids to become interested in making the next changes and advances in society.

     In my  district's current financial situation, I will struggle to give kids the rich experiences they deserve in a course so unique.  My obligation at our school is to make students of all levels reach and exceed their potential by helping them create, collaborate, and compete.  I need your help to allow me to maximize my effect on my kids.

     Robotics classes are a mixture of traditional Science class and project-based learning.  Seventy-Five percent of my school year is spent doing "experiments" or "labs" with the students.  A great, hands-on activity is only effective for its intended audience.  For example, a great two-person experiment can have little effect if you assign that to a group of five or six.  

     In Robotics, all of the materials the kids use to design and create come in a "kit".  To make things simple, just imagine this as a set of LEGOs or Lincoln Logs on a store shelf.  There may be 300 pieces in a kit, but those 300 pieces can build an infinite amount of unique creations that are neccessary for my students to learn and apply knowledge.  

     My district's "standard" for robotics classes is that we maintain a 2:1 student-to-kit ratio.  From various sources of research and experience, students can only get the full experience from working in groups of two or three.  They need to learn to collaborate and be responsible.  Two-or-Three students per robot kit assures that students all have a fair, challenging workload, and they are accountable for their team's success.  

     Last school year, I worked to repair old and outdated supplies for my students.  We operated last year around a 5:1 and 6:1 student-to-kit ratio.  This year, I am taking on 20-25 additional students with those same supplies.  My heart sinks thinking of my most engaged students growing bored in class from having too small of a role in large teams.  Whether college-bound or pursuing a career straight from high school, technology and engineering is the future.  We cannot let supply shortages be the cause of a student thinking that engineering is "not for me".

     The funding I receive from you will go straight to my students.  I am trying to lead a "reboot" of my Robotics program with your help.  One helpful part of my funding request is that 90% of the money ($7,700) is a one-time purchase.  These are not resources that need to be refreshed yearly.  This $7,700 is the amount I have calculated to allow my kids to work at exactly a 3:1 ratio.  Robot kits are proprietary and expensive, totaling nearly $350 for a kit.  In addition, each year Robotics classes world-wide teach the same exact "challenge set".  This could be compared to using a new book each year in a traditional class.  For my seventh graders this year, the accessories needed to teach the 2[phone redacted] challenge set cost $300.  For my 8th graders this year, the accessories set is $500.  At many other middle schools, this $800 yearly accessory fee is their only worry.

     I have every type of kid in my class.  I have kids that will work for NASA.  I have kids that will be car mechanics.  I have kids that are too cool (at first) to play with LEGOs.  Every one of them can benefit and learn from the teamwork, problem-solving, and competition offered in engineering education.  I hope I have helped you understand the impact you would be making if you choose to help us.


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Eric Price 
Tampa, FL
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