Nestled beside the sleepy Erie Canal, Chittenango High School boasts one the most cutting-edge robotics teams in the state.
Last year, the team finished in the top 1 percent at the Robotics World Championship in Texas, and this year they earned high honors at the VEX IQ Northern NYS Championship, securing them a slot in this year’s world championship.
Led by faculty advisor and STEM teacher David Chizzonite, the team learns how to design, build and operate robots. These tech-heavy projects require students to learn mechanical design software, write thousands of lines of code, fabricate tools like pneumatic wings and catapulting arms and respond quickly to the challenges that take place in the ring. “Necessity drives all our learning here,” said Chizzonite, who is president of the Chittenango Teachers Association and a member of the NYSUT Board of Directors.
Success like theirs demands effective communication. Teams are run like democracies, with each member getting a vote on decisions about the robot, he said. Students may not always agree but they have to resolve differences honestly and peacefully.
Another fundamental lesson? “Take the time to do it right, or make the time to do it over,” Chizzonite says.
Team members also become adept at problem-solving, strategic thinking, and situation analysis – all competencies that will serve them well in a variety of technology fields, he said.
Last fall, Chizzonite and his students were gratified to learn that tech giant Micron was preparing to build their largest chip fabrication plant in nearby Syracuse, creating 50,000 high-paying tech jobs right in their backyard.
“Our students will now be growing up in a part of the country that plays home to one of the largest advanced technology production facilities in the world,” Chizzonite said. “The opportunities for employment are limitless, not just with Micron, but with all of the other businesses that will be needed to support the Micron facility and the workers that will call Central New York home.”
Spurred by Micron’s announcement, Hochul announced in December that the state would co-fund a $4 million New York Advanced Technology Framework which will help schools expand Career and Technical Education programming across New York.
The framework, which is being developed by state educators and NYSUT members in partnership with Micron, will be piloted in 10 school districts, including Chittenango.
Chizzonite said this new framework will expose students to new units that can be integrated into the existing courses. The framework also opens the possibility for new opportunities to be developed across our buildings, from elementary through high school, he said.
Micron is also transforming the old “Central Tech” school in downtown Syracuse into the region’s first STEAM high school.
“I think the revitalization of the "Central Tech" building is fantastic,” said Chizzonite. “I would walk by that building frequently when attending events downtown at the War Memorial, OnCenter and Civic Center, and it was always sad to me that a school named "Central Tech" was mothballed, a part of our past, something that no longer seemed to carry relevance. Central New York has a rich history as a hub of manufacturing, and Central Tech was a part of that history. Now, the CNY STEAM School and the Central Tech building that will house it will have a place in the manufacturing future of CNY.”