By Chanda Temple
Special to the Times
When Huffman High School Science Teacher Justin Sanders sees a problem, he works until he finds a way to solve it.
Over the last year, his efforts to bolster educational opportunities for his students have helped him secure nearly $8,000 from various outside resources to:
- A) Host a Best Buy technology camp in June 2016 at the school
- B) Improve the school’s robotics program and class with donations of laptops and hard drives this spring
- C) Gain a Lowe’s grant in May 2016 to build an in-school recording studio to address literacy, music education and the science of sound
- D) Buy robotics kits and advance the school’s new robotics program
“We had tools and materials to work with. We just didn’t have a lot of electronics for programming such as motherboards and enough laptops for a class or group setting,” said Sanders. “Through this additional funding, we hope to increase student engagement and motivation for learning, especially when it comes to computer programming.”
Last fall, Sanders saw a need for laptops for his classroom. He read about Computers for Learning, a government group that donates used laptops, minus the hard drives. After Sanders applied, 12 laptops were donated in January 2016. But because the laptops did not have hard drives, which are essential for the machines to work, Sanders started researching how much hard drives would cost.
An employee from Vulcan Materials heard about his plight and worked to donate 12 hard drives to Sanders’ program this spring. The company plans to donate about $1,400 to the school’s robotics program, he said.
The laptops will be used in labs, scientific simulations, word processing, computer programming activities for the robotics team and online activities. Sanders said the donations will allow his students to better focus on computer programming and STEM-related concepts.
Ronald Youngblood, one of Sanders’ physics students and a rising senior, said he’s excited about all of the technology coming to Sanders’ class. “If we can see what’s happening by using these tools, I feel like that will make the class more interesting and will make people take the (robotics) class and join the robotics team,” Youngblood said. “These tools will put us on a winning level. I don’t like to lose.”
To expose students to opportunities involving video production, Sanders Googled the topic and found that Best Buy offered a summer academy. Last year, he applied to be a host school for the company’s Geek Squad Academy. His application was approved in March 2016. As a result, Huffman will host a two-day camp June 29-30. The camp, which will cost $15, will address the latest technology for photography, film production, 3D Design, digital music creation and more. To apply, please visit www.bhamcityschools.org/Huffman or http://bit.ly/1XuIUbw.
“I thought this would be a cool way to get students interested in video production, which is something I had done in my class before. And it was also something I had done in recording our sports games,” said Sanders.
Sanders saw how big a role music played in student learning, and he wondered how else he could combine technology and music to help students. Earlier this month, he was notified that his application for the Lowe’s Tool Box for Education had been approved. He will receive $5,000 to build an in-school recording studio at Huffman.
But that’s not all.
In fall 2015, he received a $1,000 WIAT One Classroom at a Time grant to buy robotics kits. And in 2014, Sanders received $500 from the Bright House Classroom Innovators Grant Program to allow students to produce educational media that demonstrates their understanding of scientific concepts in a fun and interactive way.
“I really feel humbled, if anything, about all of this,” said Sanders. “This is a big responsibility. I want to make sure that everything – the equipment, the tools, the robotics kits – are used to enhance a student’s educational experience,” he said.
“I want to thank all of our donors, especially Kevin Jackson of Vulcan Materials, for their support. These donations will make a huge difference in the lives of our students at Huffman.”