Additional Title IV/Florida articles:
ORLANDO, FL – When the final bell rings on
the last day of school, most teachers are as eager
as their students for summer break to begin.
James Jones, though, is not most teachers. On
the last day of school this past spring, Jones was
excited about starting a new school year.
How is that possible, you wonder? Because
that was the day when Jones learned that
a federal grant would fund materials for his
much-needed after-school robotics club
featuring the TETRIX® building system from
Pitsco Education, coding materials from
Arduino, and 3-D printing from Afinia.
“I had been sharing my vision for these
projects with [Orange County Public Schools
Senior Manager for Grants and Special Projects]
Teresa Shipley and her team,” Jones explained.
“I get a call in April and she tells me there is
money available; would I write up my ideas that
we’d been discussing? This process continued
until the last day of school when we found out
we had won the grant.”
Specifically, a federal Title IV grant funded
the after-school robotics program. Not only
that, but when Shipley saw the fruits of Jones’s
efforts, she enlisted his help during the summer
to apply for the same funding for the 22 other
middle schools in the district, consuming
hundreds of hours from Jones, Shipley, her
team, and others within the school district.
Why would a teacher give up a large chunk
of summer vacation to write grants for his
peers? For the same reason Jones enjoys
attending national education conferences
where he can be found putting on workshops
or giving presentations. “I hope I am reaching
tens of thousands of students,” Jones said. “It
simply isn’t enough anymore to just reach into
your own backyard. It is a global world, and we
as teachers need to think and teach globally,
whenever the opportunity arises.”
TITLE IV FUNDING FOR STEM
While Perkins Career and Technical Education
and Title I federal funds are commonly
known as sources for STEM funding, Title IV is
lesser known but equally viable as a funding
source for teachers and CTE officials looking
to implement STEM, robotics, and coding
curriculum and materials.
Title IV Part A includes a flexible block grant
known as Student Support and Academic
Enrichment Grants. These grants cover, among
other things, STEM programs, career and
college counseling, and the use of technology
backed by professional development and
Pursuing Title IV funding was new to Jones, but
he and Shipley were determined from the outset.
“I am not much on giving up. If we had not
gotten the grant, I would have written more
grants,” Jones said. “[Shipley] just started
reaching out to middle school principals. At first,
the response was slow. Many of them couldn’t
believe their school was going to receive
$25,000 in equipment, but they got on board.”
CAREER OPTIONS THROUGH EXPLORATION
As in most other states, Florida’s future
economic health will depend on having a
workforce ready to use the skills they hone
at every level of education. The new state
Workforce Education law passed in 2019
requires that students be made aware of their
career options through exploration during
Grades 6-8, so funding for after-school robotics
clubs at all Orange County Public Schools could
not have been timelier.
“More and more personal electronics have less
buttons and more programming,” Jones said.
“This will translate into more jobs that require
more of these skills as part of the daily workplace.”
Case in point is Florida lobbying to bring
even more tech companies into the state.
The Orlando area already boasts Lockheed
Martin, Northrop Grumman, Coke (robotic
arms), Medical City, and many start-up tech
companies. Jones wants his students to finish
school with not only a foundation in robotics
and STEM but also a few layers of real-world
experience. That’s more likely to happen if
students become knowledgeable about careers
at the elementary and middle levels.
“Today, students need to be thinking about
careers in middle school,” Jones said. “If students
wait until they are juniors or seniors in high school
to decide, their options are already getting slim.
Finding a direction in middle school allows for
research, job shadowing, and internships in high school. This way they know what a career really
looks like, instead of jumping into a job and
finding out that they are miserable.”
PLANS FOR ROBOTICS AND CODING
Each of the 23 Orange County middle
schools will begin its after-school robotics
program with 12 TETRIX PRIME robotics sets
from Pitsco, two TETRIX MAX Competition in
a Box fields, three Arduino Education CTC Go!
sets, three Arduino Internet of Things sets, and
two Afinia 3-D printers.
Jones, a 24-year veteran of teaching and
facilitating science, STEM, careers, robotics,
and computer science courses, is leading
professional development for all teachers who
will oversee the after-school programs.
“I want to add more robotics to our
curriculum. Dream big or go home is my
philosophy. This past summer we ran two weeks
of camps for rising eighth graders. It was a
transition camp at our feeder high school,” Jones
said. “[Pitsco Education Robotics Application
Specialist] Tim Lankford does a fantastic job of
getting people started with his videos on the
Pitsco website. I will support the teachers here as
well. Best of all, this can be replicated year after
year with little to no cost.”