Students First – Immokalee teams bring home wins

(Submitted photo/Jennifer L. Kupiec) From left to right: Superintendent Dr. Kamela Patton, board members Stephanie Lucarelli and Jory Westberry, Immokalee High School’s Austin De La Cruz, Coach Fred Rimmler, Alex Garcia, Alan Ramirez, Fatima Ramirez, America Reyes, Azucena Cruz, and Suncoast Federal Credit Union’s Herby Benson.

Immokalee is becoming a leader in the way of Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math, otherwise known as STEAM. In fact, two teams from our Immokalee schools came home with first place wins after competing with schools across the district at the 6th Annual STEAM Competition on Saturday, April 13, at Florida SouthWestern State College’s Naples Campus.

Four fourth-grade students from Lake Trafford Elementary School (LTE) brought home the title in the littleBits competition. They were led by LTE science teacher Kristen Labuzienski. “When I heard Lake Trafford announced as the first place winner, it almost didn’t feel real at first. When the initial shock wore off, we jumped up out of our seats and ran up to the stage. We were beyond thrilled!”

Each day, the team got together during lunch and recess to prepare for the competition. They practiced making a variety of creations using the pieces provided in the littleBits kit. “We got to make tons of inventions,” shares team member Jenevieve. “I like that you can build lots of things with technology, but it also includes engineering and science,” adds team member Mackenna.

“Being able to participate in a STEAM Competition was a mind-opening experience for these students,” adds Labuzienski. “They got to learn incredible skills, and it opened up their minds to the possibilities of exciting careers they could have some day.”

“When I grow up I want to be a robotics engineer!” exclaims Ramon.

“My team went in with a great attitude and a positive mindset,” boasts Labuzienski. “Winning first place was just the icing on the cake!”

Fred Rimmler’s students at Immokalee High School (IHS) are no strangers to success! They’ve been in the competition circuit a few years now, making it to the VEX Robotics World Championship competition in 2017. They continue to reign supreme at the STEAM Competition, holding the top spot in VEX Robotics since its inception.

“I’m proud that we have established IHS as the top school in the district,” shares Rimmler. “Robotics in Collier County has grown tremendously since we started, and we work hard to stay to the forefront.”

“Mr. Rimmler is a man with a lot of experience,” shares team member Alan Ramirez. “He lets us make mistakes and learn as we build, but is there with tips and tricks and helps us stay focused to solve one problem at a time. If he can’t figure out a problem, he learns it along with us.”

Preparation for the tournament included a lot of driver practice and fine tuning. “Our team had the robot finished beforehand so it was a matter of dialing in the program and minor mechanic work,” shares team captain Fatima Ramirez. “I enjoy working with robots because it is a learning experience for my future career and it’s also a fun way to learn about engineering.”

The team’s current focus is on improving documentation until next season’s competition is revealed (April 27). They have a timeline of responsibilities for May and are aiming to have working prototypes complete before summer break.

Jennifer L. Kupiec is the Specialist, Communications & Community Engagement Collier County Public Schools

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