Middle school students at Akron’s Buchtel Community Learning Center will start working in a newly renovated STEM lab to study and integrate science, technology, engineering and math into their education.
The renovation is part of a partnership between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., with the two businesses giving $1 million in support for STEM programs in Akron Public Schools and the Cleveland Metropolitan School District, with each district receiving $100,000 a year for five years.
"We've worked with Goodyear and your school district to make this middle school STEM lab a great place to learn, create and innovate for the students here today and for all the students who will walk through the halls of Buchtel CLC in the future,” Cavaliers CEO Len Komoroski told students as he stood under balloon arches spelling out "science," "technology," "engineering" and "math" in silver letters.
The renovated lab off the middle school library was revealed to students Tuesday afternoon, during a program emceed by Cavaliers in-arena host Ahmaad Crump. It included hands-on STEM activities.
This was the partnership’s first STEM project in Akron as part of the five-year program, which started in 2018. More work at Buchtel high school is planned and construction is underway on a similar STEM lab in Cleveland.
Buchtel librarian Darlene Alaniz said discussions about ideas for new uses of the middle school library started last April.
One room, now a hands-on STEM workroom with maroon and gold walls, was formerly the school’s computer lab. It didn’t get as much use after the district started its 1:World program, with each student getting a Chromebook, Alaniz said. The space now includes robotics, a Lego wall, virtual reality and augmented reality and esports — a collaboration with the University of Akron.
A second room, formerly storage, is now a workroom/studio with wooden basketball court-style floors and a green screen, 3D printers and a T-shirt press. The main library area still includes books, but it has a coffee shop vibe, with booths with whiteboard tables students can write on for small group work.
This year, seventh- and eighth-graders will use the space, which also includes new paint and floors, along with the new equipment. Next year, sixth-graders will also start using it.
“I hope it encourages them to want to create, explore, learn ... I want them to do more hands-on projects and independent learning,” Alaniz said of her hopes for students using the new space.
Akron Superintendent David James said the STEM lab will help middle school students prepare to attend one of the district's high schools, which have 57 career pathways through the district’s College and Career Academies, and their post-high school futures.
Buchtel campus principal Nicole Hughes said the school's student body could include the next NASA research mathematician Katherine Johnson, who inspired the 2016 movie “Hidden Figures;” astronaut Mae Jemison; astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson; or rapper Nipsey Hussle, the Grammy-nominated rapper known for his community outreach in South Los Angeles who was shot to death Sunday.
“Who am I talking about? I'm talking about each and every one of you who have the capacity, the very seeds of brilliance,” she told students.
Komoroski said students could work in STEM at Quicken Loans Arena, from making ice for a Cleveland Monsters game to working as members of the QTV or basketball analytics teams. Goodyear senior vice president of global communications Laura Duda also encouraged students to consider careers in STEM after they graduate, including at Goodyear.
“We believe that the success of Akron and our community tomorrow means starting today with our students and inspiring them to achieve their full potential,” she said. “Your possibilities are endless, and we like to think that they're gonna start here, in this lab."
Emily Mills at 330-996-3334, firstname.lastname@example.org and @EmilyMills818.