Building up STEM education at Roy-Hart schools

Via Zoom, students in the technology/engineering program at Royalton-Hartland High School hear from a 2012 graduate, Ryan Czaja, who’s now a junior product engineer at Takeform in Medina. Czaja was a guest speaker for the program on Tuesday. (Ben Joe / staff)

MIDDLEPORT — With the right education, a young person is bound to go far. For Ryan Czaja, however, that education paved the way to him doing great things close to home.

Czaja, a 2012 graduate of Royalton-Hartland High School, is a junior product engineer at Takeform in Medina. He’s also the chief of Middleport Fire Department, and on Tuesday he was a guest speaker in Roy-Hart’s technology/engineering program via Zoom.

Czaja told students in the program that his time at Roy-Hart helped him achieve success. He talked about taking technology and engineering classes that are a part of the Niagara County Community College CAP (College Acceleration Program), and how that education steered him to his current job.

“Some of my class’s credits transferred over, so I took advantage of that and enrolled at NCCC and transferred over 12 credit hours,” Czaja said. “That helped lighten my load for the first two or three semesters at NCCC.”

After earning his associate’s degree, Czaja attended Buffalo State College. He encouraged his younger counterparts at Roy-Hart to talk to their instructors.

“The best advice I can give you students in your spot is to listen to the people around you,” he said. “The teachers, the professors. As much as you think you know about the experience, the professors and teachers have real life experience. They know what they’ve done and how things work.”

Roy-Hart technology teacher Michele Parker said the district’s engineering/technology program, which she directs, is a good experience for any student, whether or not they decide to pursue a career in a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) field.

“I want (students) to be able to take the classes and experience it. What if you find out that you really like it and that’s the area you want to get into?” Parker said. “Or a student tries it and says, ‘I can’t stand sitting at a desk!’ That’s good! You figured something out.”

Jacob Hagen, a junior, said he figured out how challenging and engaging the subject matter is in the technology/engineering program.

“It’s very interesting, because I like learning about new things and prepare for my real life, when I grow up and use it in a future job,” Hagen said. “I like more hands-on kind of things and it gets a lot different than normal classes. It’s interesting to learn about different applications I can use.”

Classes in the program include Design Drawing and Production (DDP), Materials Processing, Principles of Engineering, Energy and Transportation, Micro-Computer Applications, Computer Science and Digital Photography.

District superintendent Hank Stopinski praised IT technician Dan Mault for engaging students at all grade levels with STEM concepts.

“Dan runs a club at the elementary school right now, it’s got 60 kids involved, and they’re doing everything from robotics, all kinds of engineering. It’s not a class, it’s about the excitement of science, it’s about the excitement of engineering,” Stopinski said. “It’s about the excitement of learning, and when you foster that at the early ages, it feeds all the way up.

“I think STEM is here, it’s something the board said we needed and approved three years ago, and it’s something we’ve put together, the pieces and the parts. We’re very excited about teaching it.”

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