Full STEAM Ahead For Riverhead

Nathan King
Councilwoman Jodi Giglio standing next to Greg Penza, founder and CEO of ULC Robotics, and a CISBOT robot.

Town of Riverhead councilwoman Jodi Giglio is committed to enhancing the education of today’s youth and, in turn, improve the community workforce.

Giglio has facilitated a partnership between ULC Robotics and the Long Island Science Center to create a curriculum for students in kindergarten through sixth grade with the hopes of igniting interest in science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics careers.

“We have to focus more on these STEAM programs for our youth here on the East End and all of New York,” Giglio said. “The more we get our kids involved in the high-tech industry, and into using computers to create things, and 3D printing and robotics, we are going to be establishing the workforce here. One of the biggest concerns that a lot of these high-tech companies have in coming here is where are they getting the workforce from?”

Founded in 1990, the Long Island Science Center offers an array of STEAM programming, both to the public and to school groups. Giglio said ULC Robotics is donating tablets to local schools to initiate and foster interest in engineering and robotics programs from an early age. After students learn to operate basic functions on the tablets, the hope is that field trips to the Long Island Science Center will become part of the curriculum.

ULC Robotics is going to be donating 30 tablets and charging stations, along with a package of 25 STEAM-oriented robotics kits, designed by a STEAM student named Danielle Boyer, to the Long Island Science Center, said David Antanavige, a mechanical design engineer at ULC Robotics. As the students spend time building, tweaking, and redesigning these robots, they can learn about various aspects of the program topics.

“It’s a little bit selfish, too,” Antanavige said, “because we’re hoping that we’re going to be developing the engineers that will someday come and work for us.”

According to a 2019 survey conducted by Junior Achievement USA, 85 percent of teens know what kind of job they want after graduation. Unfortunately, survey results indicated a significant drop in teens looking to pursue STEAM-related careers, a statistic Giglio hopes to improve.

With three of her own children still in the school system, Giglio is aware how important integrating STEAM programs into the early childhood education curriculum can be in terms of both rounding out a student’s education, and creating future job opportunities.

“We are incredibly grateful for the opportunity this partnership will provide to broaden our curricula,” said Cailin Kaller, executive director of Long Island Science Center. “We need STEAM education to develop the next generation of innovators and to train our future workforce. Breaking down STEAM barriers and sparking early interest is essential.”

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