Councilmember Rogowski stresses the importance of STEM technology in schools

James Rogowski loads a ball into
James Rogowski loads a ball into "Zeus" while Lockport High School Sophmore Kaite Miner looks on. (Jim Herr/Cheektowaga Chronicle)

CLARENCE – Cheektowaga Councilmember James Rogowski knows the importance of teaching STEM and STEAM technology to his students at Lockport High School.  His class brought that message and their robot Zeus to the Barns and Noble on Transit Road for “Buy a Book, Save a Robot Day” this past Sunday.

“You see shoppers all over the place which is good for the store and good for us to get the (public relations) for what our kids have designed and built,” said Mr. Rogowski.

Huddled in the corner of the store’s cafe, “The Warlocks” – We Are Robotics; Lockport’s Original Cyber Kids Society – are showing off their robot Zeus which was a top 25 finalist in a global robot competition in 2012.

“What the robot had to do is pick up these grey balls off of the floor and shoot them into goals for points,” said Lockport Sophmore Kaite Miner.

She and her classmates joined the STEM technology program at Lockport because “It’s our future essentially.”

“It’s helped me understand the basis of creative thinking and problem solving, being creative with our designs and cooperating with others,” added Ms. Miner.

STEM stands for (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) and the United States Department of Education under President Obama made it a priority to help students “move from the middle to the top of the pack in science and math.” 

However, only five STEM programs exist in Western New York according to Mr. Rogowski.  But schools are coming around.  Two schools in the Buffalo School District are talking with Mr. Rogowski about starting STEM programs.

“Years ago people used to slam the door on me saying ‘you’re crazy.’  Today the door is wide open and more and more schools are looking to evolve into STEM and STEAM technology because that’s where our future generations are going to be,” said Mr. Rogowski.

100% of Mr. Rogowski’s students attend college – 84% of them enroll in a higher education STEM program.  The robotics competition his students compete in every year – FIRST Robotics Competition – awards $49 million in scholarships every year.  His students are attending RIT, Kettering, Harvard, Yale, and he’s working on partnering with the University at Buffalo to give kids a local option.

“There are plenty of them out there that would give kids scholarships to go to school.  A lot of our kids that are in Lockport get the opportunity to apply,” added Mr. Rogowski.

The kids also land good-paying jobs according to Mr. Rogowski at Yahoo, General Motors, NASA, and for private military contractors.  One student who grew up in a family stuck in a rut of generational social service dependency landed one of those jobs and now donates money every year to the Lockport program.

“There is a huge future, and that is the way the United States is going to move, and if people will grasp upon that, that’s how we’re going to create jobs and we’re going to be successful in this country,” said Mr. Rogowski.