Dozens of children cheered loudly at the chance to represent their junior high or middle school as three schools will compete in the Connect a Million Minds Project.
Students in after-school programs at De Anza Magnet Elementary, Kennedy Middle School and Wilson Junior High School will compete —against each other and then against competing schools — to form the best solar-powered fiber optic system the students can build.
The students did a wave for STEM, or science, technology, engineering and math, across the bleachers of the Wilson Junior High gymnasium Wednesday as the kickoff to the competition commenced in El Centro.
The Connect a Million Minds project is a partnership between Time Warner Cable and the El Centro Elementary School District in order to promote and advance learning in STEM, according to a press release.
“We believe as a corporation that we needed to help stimulate the schools within our country, and to do so we got behind this project to get kids interested in coming back to the basics,” said Ricky Rinehart, Time Warner Southwest area manager.
The idea for the fiber-optics project came from within the district from former De Anza Magnet teacher Mike Laine and current science specialist Richard Sanchez.
Once Time Warner heard the idea it was excited to jump on board with it, Sanchez said.
“It was a good meld of the two: telecommunications with fiber optics blended with solar panels,” he said. “It’s really connecting the classroom and science to real world experiences.”
“Through these types of opportunities we hope to ignite student passion for science and engineering fields so that one day more of our students might become scientists and engineers,” added ECESD Superintendent Robert Pletka.
And the students seemed as excited about the project as the adults.
“It looks very interesting,” 12-year-old De Anza seventh-grader Jordanne Quiroz said. “The fact that we get to put technology together (is interesting). It will be more eco-friendly,” she said.
“I think it’s going to be kind of hard but it’s a good way to start engineering,” said 13-year-old Hector Salcido, an eighth-grader at Kennedy Middle. “I want to know how they actually make it,” he said.
“I want to mess with the technology,” said Valeria Reyes, a 13-year-old eighth-grader at Wilson Junior High.
“It’s gonna be fun,” she said.