What began in the 2010-2011 school year as a small elementary school robotics program by Sylvania teacher and Sylvan Elementary School parent, Crystal Burnworth, has grown into the Sylvania STEM Center, a 501 (c) (3) organization serving as the regional gathering place for science, technology, engineering and math education and exploration.
Initially, Burnwoth introduced STEM programs to students through FIRST® LEGO league programs and those FLL teams quickly expanded. By 2015, her husband, Tom, took on the full-time job as director of the program. The program moved into a rental facility on Centennial Avenue and continued to expand.
“We had outgrown our Centennial Road location before COVID and began searching for larger space,” Burnworth said. “Because of the pandemic, the urgency to relocate lessened and our dream got placed on the back burner. However, this did allow time for our board to launch a successful capital campaign. When Megan Malczewski, CCIM, of Signature Associates found this building at 7335 West Sylvania Ave., we agreed that it was ideally suited for our needs. Our board had raised $140,000 and with the Sylvania Rotary Foundation’s donation of $50,000 we had enough money for the down payment and renovations for this building.” The organization acquired the 9,000-square-foot building last August. Laura Dosch of Waterford Bank handled the financing for the transaction.
The large open area contains tables and equipment for the FLL Explore teams for first to third grade students and the FLL Challenge teams for fourth to eighth grade students. Here students use LEGO bricks to design and build challenge-related models using research, teamwork, and imagination.
The focus for older elementary students is geared toward solving real-world problems. Teams design, build, and program LEGO robots to compete on a table-top playing field. “This new facility allows us to have all stations set up in tournament format,” Burnworth explained.
The far end of the building holds the First Tech program area for middle school children who are challenged to design, build, program, and operate robots for competition. Teams also raise funds, design and market their team brand, and do community outreach.
FIRST Robotics Competition takes place in the senior high school room in the adjacent building, offering a direct line of sight to the different stations and the tools for those stations. These teams of students have a short (approximately 8 week build season) and must raise funds, design a team brand, build and program an industrial-size robot to play a difficult field game against other competitors. “This combines the excitement of sport with the rigors of science and technology. We call FIRST Robotics Competition the ultimate Sport for the Mind,” Burnworth said.
He also noted that the high school shop is well equipped with tools for students. “If they can think it, they can build it” is the theory for the shop. “Students make what they design. The board and I are eager to see how this space evolves as the students begin to work here,” Burnworth stated. “Another big advantage of this new building is that each age group of kids can see the fun setups for the next age group and they can anticipate what is next. This builds anticipation and makes the program interesting for all participants.”
In addition to the space for STEM programming, a large conference room, designated as the Rotary Conference Room, will house Rotary items and host Rotary board meetings. When not scheduled for that group, the room is available for rent by the community.
“This is an ideal space to hold a small meeting or for private music lessons for example,” Burnworth said