Windber school receives grant for innovative technology program


Windber Area School District received a Pennsylvania Association of Rural and Small Schools Grant Award for $3,800.02 for an innovative technology and arts based program. It will use the FarmBot open educational resource that will be integrated in the school’s current STEAM program.

The application was prepared and submitted by Dave Dzurko, Windber Area Middle School STEAM teacher, and supported by middle school principal Jessica Shuster.

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“This grant will provide our students from grades 6-12 an opportunity to learn a variety of STEM topics such as plant science and computer coding,” Dzurko said in an email. “The goal of the FarmBot technology will be focused on making subjects come to life through hands-on training. Students will be programming a machine to help enable plants to grow and thrive.”FarmBot is the first component piece of the long term project that will culminate with an outdoor cultivation and arts classroom, according to a press release provided by Windber school. FarmBot provides a cutting-edge and engaging project for students to learn a variety of STEM subjects such as plant science, coding, operation of CNC equipment, electronics and hardware engineering. FarmBot is also an open educational resource, organized into four domains with each one covering a wide range of topics, as well as the inter-relations between each topic and domain, the release said.The four topics consist of hardware, software, farming and sustainability.

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“Our Technology and Engineering students regularly cover such topics as electronics, robotics, 3D design and problem solving,” Dzurko said. “This grant request will help further develop our cross-curricular topics. This should allow us an opportunity to take our STEM classrooms to the next level, while also getting them outdoors to experience science and technology firsthand.”FarmBot can provide a hands-on extracurricular technical project that inspires students to pursue further education in STEM fields such as electronics, mechanical engineering, robotics and soil science.”This initial request is the start of something wonderful at the Windber Area School District,” he said. “The future goal of this entire project will be an outdoor learning environment for all students that pass through our school system. Taking students beyond the classroom and engaging them in STEM lessons.”Grant applications submitted to PARSS totaled 48 with 13 grants to be awarded. Total grant money awarded was $26,354.82 and the average grant award was $2,027, according to the press release. WASD was one of four educational entities to receive a grant in the $2,000-$4,000 grant range.

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“I would like to personally add that we are sincerely thankful and honored to be a recipient of the Pennsylvania Association of Rural and Small Schools grant,” Jessica Shuster said. “I am also grateful for our wonderful educators like Mr. Dave Dzurko, who daily provide exceptional learning opportunities to our students. This grant will continue to support the incredible work they do each day.”

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