Newport News Schools update – May 2020

Robotics team gets younger students rolling

The Menchville Robotics Team and the Assistive Technology Resource Center collaborated to provide two adapted power cars to the classrooms that support students with severe intellectual and physical disabilities at Kiln Creek Elementary School. One car was adapted with three switches: one to move the car forward and the other two switches to play the radio and honk the horn. The other car was adapted with a joystick.

The inspiration for this project comes from the Go Baby Go Project out of the University of Delaware. The cars give students with physical and intellectual disability the power of mobility to explore their environments.

Students on the robotics team adapted the cars and were excited to help students in their own district. The Kiln Creek students were equally excited to drive their shiny red Mercedes and neon green Jeep down the hall to the cheers of their teachers.

A doctoral student in the VCU occupational therapy program coordinated the adaptation of the cars with the robotics team as a community service project. She is creating a system for surrounding school divisions to request similar collaborations.

Donna Waldman, assistive technology coordinator, completed an informational session for the team in November to demonstrate how switches and environmental controls work and the importance of these controls to students who have physical and cognitive disabilities.

Drivers mentor students to accelerate their achievement

In addition to shuttling students to and from school and events, our bus drivers make a positive impact on students. The transportation department is proud to have two retired military drivers dedicate some of their personal time to B.C. Charles — Boys to Men Development, a mentoring program led by bus drivers Reginald Franks and James Pretlow. Franks and Pretlow created the program for eight fourth- and fifth-grade students chosen because of their actions on the bus and in the classroom. The mentoring program aims to educate, encourage and engage the students to help them strive to be positive and successful.

The mentors meet with the selected students, three times a week. Students are counseled on appearance, respect, decision making and overcoming obstacles. They memorize a motivational quote weekly and in their pocket-sized notebooks teachers or school staff comment on their achievements or behaviors.

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