MASPETH — For Brian Witanowski, an eighth-grader at St. Stanislaus Kostka Catholic Academy of Queens, Maspeth, it was a “S.T.R.E.A.M.” come true.
Witanowski knows a lot about computers, but he had only dreamed about building one himself. After just two weeks in his school’s new S.T.R.E.A.M. lab, his dream is a reality: He built a computer.
“It’s fun because it’s something new,” he said. “We’ve never done anything like this.”
Two years ago, the idea for a new classroom for science, technology, religion, engineering, the arts and mathematics, or S.T.R.E.A.M., at St. Stanislaus Kostka was born. In October, the S.T.R.E.A.M. lab became a reality with the help from a local bank.
Principal Catherine Mangone is grateful to Maspeth Federal Savings Bank and its president, Tom Rudzewick, a 1979 St. Stanislaus Kostka graduate, for bringing the project to fruition so quickly. The bank donated the $250,000 that was used to renovate the room and buy the equipment and to now pay the teacher’s salary.
“Through all of my formal education, the clergy in my life have said, ‘You need to make sure that you pay it forward,’” Rudzewick said.
The classroom includes an interactive floor, two 3D printers, a Smart Board, supplies for students to build their own computers and tablets, and robots that the students can program themselves. It also will provide opportunities for the students to create art projects, such as designing props for school plays, like the school’s spring production of “Into The Woods.”
The bank has supported the academy over the years, raising money to upgrade facilities and help pay for athletics. Rudzewick said the bank sees itself as a focal point of a neighborhood community it wants to keep a tightknit family.
“It’s a community that comes together and prays together at church, sends their children to the school, and it continues that faith and dedication to really what our service is, and that is to always make the community better,” Rudzewick added.
Stephanie Giordano, the facilitator for S.T.R.E.A.M. at St. Stanislaus Kostka, has a passion for teaching students about using technology. She has a job that she enjoys.
“They’re in those seats and working the entire time,” Giordano said. “I give them very minimal instruction. I demo, and then I let them do it because mistakes are what will make them better problem-solvers here.”
The lab allows students to build computers and tablets and create coding to operate robots. It teaches students in grades as low as kindergarten about coding. Giordano described “Kano Blocks,” which are physical blocks for kindergarteners to put together to create a code that will make a car move.
“I try to lead them to helping them fix things, as opposed to being like, ‘This is how it goes,’” Giordano said. “It’s what I love about this room.”