Webster School tech investment expand

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The Webster School technology program continues to thrive and expand, as well as draw community support – both in spirit and financially.

The Webster ‘Tiger Tech’ program has become a local example of educational innovation for student engineering and construction, which will now go even further with approval granted to purchase a state-of-the-art, 5-axis Computer Numeric Control (CNC) machine, allowing detailed creation of items and parts for students to literally contract out production for private business, enhancing the program with the purchases.

“Lots of (college-level) tech schools don’t even have one (a 5-axis CNC),” stated Tiger Tech program director Roy Ward.

The CNC machine purchase was approved last week by the Webster Board of Education, which dedicated up to $10,000 for the purchase, allowing the order to go through. In reality, the machine costs much more, but will be paid for through a variety of sources, including from Tiger Tech itself, which will pay a large portion of the costs from their own account, on top of a $40,500 donation from the Webster-based Nexen Corporation, which has been a longtime financial supporter of the Tiger Tech program, and has a history of hiring graduates of the program.

“I’m excited for this because the kids are super excited,” Ward added when he asked for board approval. He also outlined some of the program’s success and history, which goes back to 2006, when they took out a loan to purchase equipment, which Nexen matched with an $8,000 grant.

Ward said the Nexen donations have one stipulation, that the school supports the program, as well. 

Ward also noted a number of community investments and support, including a check they received just days prior for $500, included in a Christmas card. 

Ward also gave an update on the new Tiger Tech wing at the school, which they have continued to modify inside, with the removal of a wall using the Tiger Tech robot, which they purchased recently and have put to good use for the program.

Ward noted student involvement and interest in the program also continues to grow, and he mentioned that many students have volunteered their time to save the program money, offering their own ‘elbow grease’ in finishing the expansion wing, from custom-colored epoxy flooring installation to painting, and even the wall removal to allow for the new CNC machine and additional metal work, which they have been doing since 2013.

“It’s the kids’ chance to put their mark on the facility,” Ward said.

The Tiger Tech program is hosting an open house to show the new facility, projects and program offerings, set for February 10.

“It’s going to put a smile on your face,” Ward said of the open house event. 

The school Board offered up their own accolades to the program and Ward, while approving the purchase of the CNC machine.

In other Webster School Board business:

• The board approved several budgeted infrastructure projects, including approval of a bid for $67,649 for asphalt and sidewalks, and up to $225,541 for hardscape construction, both at the elementary school property.

• The board approved the expansion of club options of students, with a board game club and an ‘E-sports’ club for students to establish an electronic gaming sports competition team.

• Superintendent Jeff Fimreite said they have had nine safety drills so far this school year, including two so-called ‘intruder drills’ and on fire drill, all with “no major concerns.”

• The Board heard briefly from the new Communities United in Education (CUE) director, Becky Schmidt, who works for both the Webster and Siren school districts for community education. “It’s a whole new adventure for me!” Schmidt said as she gave some of her own background, outlining an appeal for ideas for classes in the coming year. 

• All three district principals addressed the state ‘report card’ reports issued in recent weeks, offering up areas of concerns and pride, while also noting the overall success of the district in the past year, in spite of the pandemic and distance learning issues. “It’s the first time in a decade that the district performed above the state average,” Fimreite said with a nod to the principals and other teachers. “Kudos to our staff.”

• Fimreite said the Covid-19 testing program operating out of the school has been very successful and has worked well as a drive-through service. “I’ve heard nothing but positive comments from community members,” Fimreite said in closing.