2012-04-06 / Front Page

Hopes high at Boys & Girls Club

By Kristy Wagner
Staff Writer


Time Warner donated three Kindle Fires to the South Portland Boys & Girls Clubhouse. The donation of the e-readers was a way for Time Warner to show its gratitude to the children who participated in the company’s “Wouldn’t it be cool if ... “ contest. From left, Unit Director of the South Portland Boys & Girls Clubhouse Jennifer Pierce, Virginia Saunders, Max Johnson, Aliyah Palmer, Communications Manager for Time Warner Cable Andrew Russell, Jacob Noon, Will Kirk, Chief Operating Officer for Boys & Girls Clubs Southern Maine Karen MacDonald, Suzy Valesquez, and area Vice President for Time Warner Cable Paul S. Schonewolf. (Kristy Wagner photo) Time Warner donated three Kindle Fires to the South Portland Boys & Girls Clubhouse. The donation of the e-readers was a way for Time Warner to show its gratitude to the children who participated in the company’s “Wouldn’t it be cool if ... “ contest. From left, Unit Director of the South Portland Boys & Girls Clubhouse Jennifer Pierce, Virginia Saunders, Max Johnson, Aliyah Palmer, Communications Manager for Time Warner Cable Andrew Russell, Jacob Noon, Will Kirk, Chief Operating Officer for Boys & Girls Clubs Southern Maine Karen MacDonald, Suzy Valesquez, and area Vice President for Time Warner Cable Paul S. Schonewolf. (Kristy Wagner photo) Wouldn’t it be cool if a dog collar could translate what a dog said when it barked? The children at the South Portland Boys & Girls Club think it would be and that is why they decided to participate in the “Wouldn’t it be cool if...” contest.

The national competition encourages children to come up with innovative and creative ideas centered on science and technology. It is a collaboration of i.am FIRST, founded by Black Eyed Peas artist, will. i.am, and Time Warner’s Connect a Million Minds program. Both programs promote the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Education Coalition, which supports STEM programs for teachers and students throughout the United States. STEM affiliates include the U.S. Department of Education and the National Science Foundation, among other organizations that support STEM-related programs.

The winner of “Wouldn’t it be cool if ...” will work with Fahrenheit 212, a leading innovation firm in New York, to make their idea a reality. More than 1,100 children from Time Warner Cable markets nationwide submitted invention ideas to the competition. The contest began taking submissions on Feb. 21 and the deadline for submissions was March 28. Four competition finalists will be announced on April 9. Finalists will pitch their ideas to a panel of judges at the FIRST Robotics Championships in St. Louis, Mo. The grand prize winner will be announced that same day.

Time Warner Cable Communication Manager Andrew Russell and the company’s Area Vice President Paul Schonewolf, visited the Boys & Girls Club in South Portland on March 28 to recognize the children who participated for their hard work and creativity. The cable company also presented the clubhouse with three Kindle Fires to show their support and congratulations.

“This is a celebration of our partnership with Time Warner Cable,” said Karen MacDonald, chief operating officer for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Southern Maine. “The idea behind it is getting kids across America to think, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool to change the world?’”

MacDonald said the contest is great at getting children not only thinking about mathematical and scientific concepts, but also applying those concepts into a real design theory on paper.

Russell explained how Time Warner Cable established Connect a Million Minds in 2009 and how the will.i.am contest was launched last month.

Russell said science, technology, engineering and math are important industries in today’s world and the earlier children get interested in these subject areas, the more likely they are to pursue them as future careers.

“That’s where our jobs are going to be and what our company needs – we need computer experts,” Russell said.

Russell and Schonewolf’s visit to the clubhouse included a chance for the children to present all of their original ideas to an audience and to explain the three ideas the group chose for their official contest submissions.

Kaitlyn DiRenzo, Boys & Girls Club staff member, supervised the group while they worked on their ideas. She assisted Jacob Noon and Will Kirk as they presented their top three ideas to the audience. Noon explained his idea of a solar powered pop-up tent that can fold itself up with the push of a button. DiRenzo added that the group also brainstormed ideas for a core temperature fabric, which is supposed to monitor body temperature during physical activity and an animal decoder collar that translates animal sounds into speech.

DiRenzo outlined other creative ideas that were not chosen for submission. Those included a toothbrush with built-in toothpaste; glasses equipped with GPS, video and music; a voice activated alarm clock; and solar powered plants, among others.

Schonewolf and Russell listened attentively and asked Noon and Kirk questions about each idea, then thanked the five children who participated.

“It’s really important to pay attention to STEM and to get excited about it because you have the potential to change the world with creative and innovative products,” Schonewolf said to the children.

He went on to explain to the children why companies like Time Warner Cable need math, science and engineering professionals in the future.

“All of our products are made by scientists and engineering technology,” Schonewolf said. “Eighty percent of the jobs over the next 10 years will be created in STEM fields.”

Children who participated in the contest along with Noon and Kirk were Virginia Saunders, Max Johnson and Aliyah Palmer. The group also received much of its support and encouragement from the clubhouse Unit Director, Jennifer Pierce.

Schonewolf and Russell surprised the creative bunch with the Kindle Fires at the end of the presentation and they provided ice cream for all of the children in the clubhouse.

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