By MONICA BUSCH | Sentinel & Enterprise
March 4, 2020
LEOMINSTER — Donata Martin, executive director of the Boys & Girls Club of Leominster, Fitchburg and Gardner, received a Black Excellence on the Hill award last month, when she was honored for her work with North Central Mass. youth.
“Each and every day, Ms. Martin works with her team to inspire and enable all young people, especially those who need us most, to realize their full potential as productive, responsible, and caring citizens,” read a description of her from the event’s Feb. 11 program.
Martin was nominated for the award by state Reps. Natalie Higgins, D-Leominster, and Susannah Whipps, R-Athol.
“It was quite an honor to be recognized by the state folks,” Martin said on Wednesday. She said that while she works with state officials, “you never really know how much people notice.”
Martin was named executive director of her local Boys & Girls Club branch in 2009, and since then she has worked to promote intensive and extensive Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics (STEAM) program at their facility.
In part, she said, this is the product of her own love for science, which she said began when she was a child and would attend events at the Boston Museum of Science.
“I just felt that if I had that excitement as a child, other children would as well, and that’s what we’ve found here — that they do,” Martin said.
Sparking that interest in children at the Boys & Girls Club, she said, is also about promoting basic critical thinking and problem solving skills, even if club members don’t necessarily realize at first that that’s what they’re learning.
“They really do need to problem solve, so they learn the engineering method and the scientific method without even knowing that they are learning engineering or scientific methods,” Martin said.
Martin is visibly enthusiastic when describing the multitude of STEAM programming available to club members, and grows excited when sharing her hopes for expanding their offerings. One area she really wants to get into is artificial intelligence (AI), building on already extensive and accomplished robotics and coding programming.
In the art realm, she said, she’d like to start incorporating more music, and possibly drama.
She likened children’s brains to chalkboards that she and other staff members have the opportunity to write on.
“You expose them to as much as you can educationally and see where it goes,” Martin said. “And you really do spark a lot of interest in different fields.”
The Boys & Girls Club provides programming for children and teens, many of whom attend the center five days a week, and sometimes on Saturday.
Martin said she plans to continue diversifying their project areas for as long as she heads the Twin Cities branch, always working “to open their minds to different fields of science.”
By DANIEL MONAHAN | Sentinel & Enterprise
LEOMINSTER — The clock is ticking for Team Terrorbots 3623, a group of local students and members of the Boys & Girls Club of Fitchburg and Leominster who are gearing up to take part in the FIRST Robotics Competition on Feb. 28.
On Monday, the team was in the midst of its six-week build period, and members were working hard to ensure their robot was prepared for competition.
“The frame of our robot is done and now we’re just working on the final mechanisms,” said program coordinator Jacob Janssens, who has been taking part in the robotics competition for 12 years.
“This particular competition is a capstone for what the club does with its S.T.E.A.M. programs,” Janssens said. “It brings all of the science education, the technology, engineering, math, and art all together. They get real experience with the machines, the safety that comes with that, high-level programming, engineering, and design.”
If successful, they will move on to the District Championship in West Springfield, and then the World Championship in Detroit, where they would compete against about 400 teams from across the globe.
“This year, the robot has a ball shooting mechanism, which is very impressive,” said Janssens. “These kids have been working hard, and I know they’ll be ready in two weeks.”
Team member Jancarlos Oquendo, a junior at Fitchburg High School, said the robot this year will need to accurately shoot a ball at a target and climb obstacles during the competition.
“This is probably the most powerful machine we’ve made since I’ve been here,” said Oquendo, who joined the team about five years ago.
Jalen Leider, a junior at Montachusett Regional Vocational Technical School, is tasked with driving the robot during competitions.
“It can get pretty tense while you’re driving with the other two teams,” said Leider. “It’s pretty stressful, but it’s also pretty fun.”
Oquendo said getting involved in the robotics team has allowed him to learn new skills while also gaining a hobby and several friends in the process.
“I came into this with zero knowledge of how to do anything, but I ended up falling in love with it,” Oquendo said. “We just work well together. During the regular season, everybody feels like a family away from home.”
Leominster High School junior Vincent Soubbotin, who designed this year’s robot, said he enjoyed the engineering challenges and design process of putting together a robot.
“The challenge of making this and then actually building it is very intriguing to me,” said Soubbotin. “I’ve always been interested in technology and then I came here a few years ago … and I’ve been in it ever since.”
The rules of the competition require that teams spend no more than $5,500 on their robots, with no single piece of equipment costing more than $500.
Team Terrorbots 3623’s robot remained unnamed as of Monday.
SENTINEL & ENTERPRISE/JOHN LOVE
February 11, 2020
One team is recognized for excellence
LEOMINSTER — Two teams at the Boys & Girls Club of Fitchburg and Leominster have spent the past several months building futuristic cities to compete in the New England competition “Future City” and one team was recognized for its efforts.
Future City is a project-based learning program where students imagine, research, design and build the cities of the future. Keeping the engineering design process and project management front and center, students work in teams to ask and answer an authentic, real-world question: How can we make the world a better place?
The Future City competition focuses on creating cities that could exist at least 100 years. Each of the cities built must incorporate a solution to a design challenge that changes each year. This year’s challenge for the kids was clean water.
One of the Boys & Girls Club teams, called Moon City, with teammates, Desmond Batch, Ava Bettencourt and Aaron Traingue, chose a threat to a city’s water supply, located on an island in the Indian Ocean, and designed a resilient system to maintain a reliable supply of clean water that included desalinization of ocean water.
The other local team, Future Town, with teammates Amya Burgos, Amelia Carboni, Anabelle Bien-Aime and Nicholas Carboni, situated their city in Michigan on the coast of Lake Erie. The biggest threat to their city was a significant pollution problem in the drinking water.
Helping them learn about clean water during the building process was Jeffrey Murawski, the deputy commissioner of the Department of Public Works’ wastewater division. The students also got help from two directors at the center, Christopher Mora, the education director, and Allison Digirolamo, the science education director.
The teams from the Boys & Girls Club of Leominster and Fitchburg were the only Boys & Girls Club group that competed. All the other teams where from middle schools around New England.
The Boys & Girls Club’s Future Town team won three different awards including best model, one of the toughest competitions considering there were more than 20 teams from the New England region. They also won the award for citizen engagement and the most brilliant use of natural resources.
The teams participated on Jan. 26 at the regional competition held at Worcester Polytechnic Institute.
The Leominster manufacturing company is also celebrating its 30th anniversary!
LEOMINSTER — AIS, the largest manufacturer of commercial office furniture and seating in New England, celebrated Manufacturing Month with a number of events and educational sessions throughout October.
Events included visits by Gov. Charlie Baker and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito, tours and discussions for local students, and an employee appreciation day.
The official national Manufacturing Day was Oct. 4 (held annually the first Friday of October) and AIS held events that day as well as throughout the month.
Manufacturing Month activities focused on the importance of manufacturing to the local economy. The events also helped AIS to mark its 30th anniversary. The company was founded in October 1989 by Bruce Platzman and Arthur Maxwell.
“When a local economy rests on a solid manufacturing foundation, local businesses of all sizes and industries benefit. We’re proud to be the largest employer and manufacturer in Leominster and proud to be celebrating 30 years,” AIS President and CEO Bruce Platzman said.
Manufacturing is 10.1% of Massachusetts’ total economic output and comprises 7.8% of the Commonwealth’s workforce (about 250,000 people in the state work in manufacturing), according to MassDevelopment.
With over 600 employees who work in manufacturing jobs at its headquarters location, AIS is one of the largest employers in traditional manufacturing in the state of Massachusetts. More than 250 women work at AIS’s Leominster location, and more than 30 countries are represented in the employee population. With 800 employees nationwide and annual sales of more than $220 million, AIS’s dealer-centric focus and network extends across North America. AIS has been awarded “Manufacturer of the Year” from the Office Furniture Dealers Alliance eight times since 2008.
Some of the Manufacturing Month Activities
Baker visited AIS on Oct. 9, touring the manufacturing floor, meeting employees and presenting a proclamation declaring October to be Manufacturing Month in Massachusetts.
AIS honored its employees with an appreciation day on Oct. 11 that included a picnic under a huge tent at headquarters catered by local food-truck companies. At the event, Platzman awarded the Barney Platzman Award to Francesca Jimenez Vega.
The award, given annually, is named for the CEO’s father and given to an AIS factory team member selected for his or her hard work and dedication. This is the first year that a woman has won the Barney Platzman Award.
“AIS thanks Francesca for her dedication, and we are so thankful for all the hardworking employees we have. We would not be where we are without them,” Platzman said.
AIS also hosted the Boys and Girls Club of Fitchburg and Leominster for factory and showroom tours. The North Central Massachusetts Development Corporation partnered with AIS to provide the experience for the club members.
On Oct. 25, State Sen. Dean Tran visited AIS and presented the company with a special citation honoring AIS’s 30 years in the state of Massachusetts. In 2018, Tran had nominated AIS “Manufacturer of the Year” for Central Massachusetts.
“AIS is a true partner in the region,” said Tran (Fitchburg). “Not only are the company’s quality products unmatched in the industry, their involvement and volunteer work in the region are second to none. AIS’s commitment to the community is greatly appreciated.”
“AIS is committed to being a MassMade company that prides itself on its role in the local community, in the state and in our country,” Platzman said. “It’s been an incredible 30 years and there is so much more ahead of us!”
Posted 11/08/2019 by Boys & Girls Clubs of America in
This post is part of a “Where Are They Now” series highlighting Youth of the Year who have gone on to become leaders, innovators and problem-solvers who now shape our world.
Club alumni like Laura Jenny are using foundational skills they learned at Boys & Girls Clubs to make a difference in their communities and globally. As a Club kid, Laura’s love of academics, the arts and passion for social justice were nurtured through the diverse programming and caring staff at the Boys & Girls Club of Fitchburg and Leominster in Massachusetts.
Now a junior at Harvard University, the versatile 20-year-old is often found staring down the lens of a microscope in the university’s Naomi Pierce Lab, where she studies the role of pests in crop failure and food shortages. Or you may find her performing theatre- and film-inspired compositions as a violinist with the Harvard Pops Orchestra. Laura also recently visited Australia to study tropical biodiversity.
“My Club gave me opportunities to [practice] science and math and fostered curiosity and a love of learning,” says Laura, an Integrative Biology major with a secondary focus in Global Health and Health Policy. “It [also] gave me a safe space to practice violin and express myself artistically.”
Club mentors inspired Laura to stand up for what she believed in. In high school, she co-founded a program that taught kids how to interact safely with police and reduce tensions between the two groups. In 2016, she was named Massachusetts State Youth of the Year for her leadership and volunteerism in the Boys & Girls Club and service to the community.
“The Club instilled in me the desire to give all I can to others and take initiative,” she says. “A village of people gave me and so many other Club kids their time and care. Because of this, I would like to spend my life giving to others what was given to me.”
Laura continues her social justice work as a Cheng Fellow in Harvard Kennedy School’s New World Social Innovation Fellowship. Through her work, she hopes to provide youth with tools to overcome aftereffects of trauma and affect public policy dealing with juvenile justice and child welfare. She is currently developing a survey to document sources of youth trauma. She plans to use data collected by the survey in collaboration with the nonprofit Strategies for Youth to develop a curriculum to teach youth about trauma and how to respond to triggering situations.
She also serves as Chair of the Community Service Board for Eleganza, Harvard’s largest student-run event with over 50 board members, 60 models and dancers and a sold-out crowd of over 1,500 attendees each year who gather to celebrate fashion, dance, music and expression through the innovative show.
Youth of the Year is Boys & Girls Clubs of America’s premier youth leadership program, honoring extraordinary young people and their achievements in leadership, service, academic excellence and leading a healthy lifestyle. Learn more at BGCA.org/YOY.
This week at the Boys & Girls Club Summer Blast Program, we are having a great time. We are doing many activities including science projects such as the volcano experiment, strategy board games, hands-on activities, and funny games like German Baseball.
During this time you can have fun, but it is also good to educate yourself sometimes. That’s why we did volcano experiments. In this project you and your team build a volcano with paper and plastic bottles. After that a staff member pours red vinegar and baking soda into the volcano to make a slight explosion. The students here had an amazing and educational time during this experiment.
Playing board games is fun, but have you ever made your own? Here, as part of our Summer Brain
activities, each team made and created a board game. There was a team of kids who won first place. It was a bit tough, including the fact that we could only use some materials and everyone has to agree with a plan. During this project lots of students learned teamwork skills. This activity was fun and educational.
Another activity that is still going on is the Mars Project, part of our Space Exploration Program. A group of two makes a poster of what you think the environment on Mars looks like. During this activity I learned that Mars was cold instead of hot. Other students here were cooperating and participating, which made the activity even more enjoyable.
Playing the same sport over and over again isn’t as fun, so we learn new ones such as German Baseball. In this game your team has to hit a ball off a cone, then run to the other side of the gym. The other team is lined up, and if they hit you, you are out. We all liked learning and playing this game.
The after-school program starts on Sept. 3 and located beginning this fall at Gardner Middle School. The fee is $30 per month, dismissal to 6 p.m. Monday-Friday. For registration information, call Mio at 978-534-8358, ext. 10 or visit www.bgcflg.org.
Carl and Pat Wilbur of East Templeton were some of the first patrons to enjoy the grand opening of the Ninety-Nine Restaurant in Gardner on Thursday, Aug. 22.
By Daniel Monahan | Sentinel & Enterprise
LEOMINSTER — In the digital age, becoming familiar with and understanding new technologies is important for people of all ages and students at the Boys and Girls Club of Fitchburg and Leominster rolled up their sleeves Wednesday to start on their own technology journey.
The Geek Squad Academy, in a partnership with Best Buy, was hosted at the club with the goal of exposing students to different technologies and arts.
“Because most of the jobs for the future are not in existence now, it’s a great way for kids to start learning about all the different types of technology,” said club Executive Director Donata Martin.
Bristlin said the program gives students the tools necessary to succeed in the 21st Century.
“One of our goals is to bridge the digital divide,” said Bristlin. “The idea is to get kids involved with technology and to be content creators instead of consumers.”
To get students started off on the right foot, the event offered coding projects, stop-motion tutorials, and activities that combined music and technology.
Students who participated in a Star Wars themed coding activity said they were excited to be learning the skill because they might use it in the future.
“We’re doing small coding puzzles right now and it’s really fun,” said Fitchburg resident Conor Elliot.
Jalen Leider, who was coding a project involving famous robot R2D2, said he was potentially interested in coding and computers, but added that he’d have to learn eventually.
“Coding gives kids a basic idea of how logic works,” said instructor Kieth Porazzo. “Coding is the foundation of everything we use from our cellphones to browsing the web.”
Another instructor, Elena Valdez, added that “children are going to be our future and that our future is going to be technology.”
Students also participated in an activity where they made their own stop-motion videos.
Stop-motion is a type of film making that requires painstakingly moving puppets, or in this case Lego pieces, and snapping hundreds of photos until it makes a cohesive, short movie.
Alexis Edmonds, 13, said they had to plan out a scene using Legos and repeatedly move them centimeters at a time while taking photos of every move.
The skit was about two characters that were fighting over their girlfriend, she said.
“It’s fun because you can be creative with our story and we tried different things with the Legos,” said Edmonds.
Bristlin also said it’s important for parents to get children learning about technology whenever possible, adding that he thinks students learn more with hands on activities.
Martin said Geek Squad staff members will be volunteering at the club over the next year to hopefully add to students’ learning.
Sentinel & Enterprise
LUNENBURG — Subaru of America, Inc. and North End Subaru presented a check for $26,233 to the Boys & Girls Club of Lunenburg and Fitchburg-Leominster as its hometown charity choice for the 2018 Subaru Share the Love Event.
The check was presented by Martin Babineau, dealer principal.
From Nov. 15 to Jan. 2, customers who purchased or leased a new Subaru vehicle selected from a list of charities to receive a donation of $250 from SOA.
For the third year in a row, there was no cap on the total donation from Subaru of America to its Share the Love charitable partners.
At the culmination of this year, SOA and its retailers hope to exceed a grand total of $140 million donated nationally since the creation of the Share the Love Event to celebrate the 11th anniversary of the event.
By David Dore
Apr. 15, 2019
People who stopped by Saturday’s sixth annual Central MA Science Festival at the Boys & Girls Club of Fitchburg and Leominster could see the 3D chalk art piece take shape. Appearing to come out of a pond was a pair of green dragon-like creatures with pink fins, based on the two giant serpents from Greek and Roman mythology that killed the Trojan priest Laocoon and his two sons.
Working alongside the teenagers throughout the day were two world-renowned chalk artists, Kurt Wenner and Julie Kirk Purcell. Wenner is considered the innovator of 3D pavement chalk art, and is credited with bringing the art form to the United States. He and Kirk Purcell have traveled the globe creating 3D chalk pieces.
Wenner and Kirk Purcell spent a few days in Leominster with Denise Kowal, founder of the Sarasota Chalk Festival in Florida, passing on the history, tools and techniques of 3D chalk art to Boys & Girls Club members and students from Leominster High School and its Center for Technical Education Innovation, and the Sizer School and Montachusett Regional Vocational Technical School in Fitchburg.
According to Kowal, 3D pavement chalk art is a perfect fit for a place like the Boys & Girls Club, which focuses on science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics. It incorporates math through understanding geometry and perspective, she said, and chemistry through knowing how the products that are used “mix together.”
Kowal said she likes the unique nature of making 3D pavement chalk art, for both the artists and the people who are seeing them create.
The artists, she explained, are “being very vulnerable. They’re allowing people to watch them as they are sitting here creating. The art form is a very interactive art form. I think they’re the most creative and the most giving artists in the world because they are willing to put themselves out there, and before they even know how their products are going to turn out, and it’s all ephemeral. At the end of the day it is chalk, and if it rains it goes away.”
Saturday’s project, originally supposed to be done outside, was moved indoors because of rain. And it’s something that Boys & Girls Club Executive Director Donata Martin has wanted to bring to the Central MA Science Festival for a couple of years. It took a couple of board members meeting with Kowal in Florida to make it happen.
Kowal and Wenner “wanted so very much to work with Boys & Girls Clubs,” Martin said, noting that Wenner is a Boys & Girls Club alum from California.
“When he was approached by Denise, who runs the Sarasota festival, to do this, he really wanted to do this to give back to the Boys & Girls Club,” Martin said. “Having him here, having Julie, and then Denise coming up, who organizes the two big events, it’s more than what we could possibly have imagined doing.”
The hope, Martin said, is to make 3D pavement chalk art a permanent part of the science festival.
For this year’s participants, Kowal said, “they’ve already had an experience that they will remember forever. That’s what our goal is, is to create the experience and a learning opportunity. And in the end, if they end up with a beautiful 3D pavement painting to show the world, then that’s just icing on the cake.”