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Magnetic F-rated Robot Aimed At Reversing The Seminole School

Sanford aeryona reading, 9, dug a complete block, pulled out a small, yellow angle. A classmate of her on the robot hand size lion, when completed, will be in its legs and roar.

Aeryona and her classmates were in a robotics class at Hamilton Elementary School in Sanford, which this year has been renamed the Hamilton Elementary School of Engineering and Technology.

In July, Hamilton got an F from the state, the first failing grade for a Seminole County school since the grading system began in 1999. The new magnet, which focuses on robotics as part of a science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) curriculum, is aimed at turning around the school.

"This gives them a real hands-on way to be successful and then translate that to other subjects," said Anna-Marie Cote, deputy superintendent for Seminole schools.

cComments
Years ago, a SCPS middle school had a new technology lab. The cost was in the hundreds of thousands. It was never used. The course was discontinued, as more time had to be allocated to testing. Now they are doing this. You will still have the problems of no parental support, disinterested...

With a $2.1 million grant from the Magnet Schools Assistance Program, the school has created a robotics lab that all students visit weekly. A STEM lab will be created during the summer, said magnet director Jessica Webb. A Verizon grant will bring 3-D printers to the school. Even the school's Hawks mascot has been replaced with a robot.

"I love engineering," said Aeryona, a third-grader. "You build stuff and learn how to build. Hamilton is really good. It should be an A school."

The students said they appreciate the new robotics equipment and the large computer screens that demonstrate, step by step, how their robots should be assembled.

"Most schools don't really have this," said Dale Beall, 8. "It's different."

Todd Mann, executive director of Magnet Schools of America, said magnets help increase student achievement.

"School districts across the nation are using the magnet school approach to turn around some of their lowest-performing schools," he said. Magnet Schools of America is a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit association representing magnet schools and educators.

Hamilton Principal Samelia Phillips said A-rated Goldsboro Elementary in Sanford, which focuses on math, science and technology, is a model.

"We're looking forward to being just as magnificent," she said.

The STEM theme fit Hamilton because the school has for many years taken part in a program aimed at increasing the number of women and minorities in engineering and technology. The school's mousetrap car was a national winner in 2011.

But the 646-student school has had its share of struggles. It has been among the state's lowest performers on state reading assessments for two years in a row. Across Central Florida, only 15 other schools received F's this year.

Before its F, Hamilton had a D, with three C's before that. And the school's previous principal was removed after a student brought a gun to school in a backpack two days in a row. About 94 percent of the school's students qualify for free or reduced-price lunches, the highest rate in the county.

But parents say the magnet, which officially launched this fall, is already making a difference. It has drawn 40 students from out of its attendance zone, and the culture of the school is changing for the better, parents and administrators said.

"I think it's the best thing that ever happened to Hamilton," said Lendward Huggins, Aeryona's grandfather. He said he considered moving her after the F grade but decided to stay because his granddaughter is happy there.

And he's glad he did. Teachers are communicating more with parents, parents are getting more involved, and the science focus is affecting other parts of the curriculum.

And Dale's mother, Chantile Beall, said her son shares new discoveries he makes in school with her every day.

"It has changed his outlook on school. He's excited to go and learn new things," she said.Source:orlandosentinel.com

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