Follansbee chamber hands out school grants, prepares for Halloween event | News, Sports, Jobs

GRANTS AWARDED — The Follansbee Chamber of Commerce presented four grants Wednesday to Brooke County teachers and students for innovative projects and teaching strategies. On hand were, from left, front, education committee members Mary Jane McElroy and Suzanne Davidson; Jayanna Wilson; grant recipient Jerri Wilson; Wilson’s teacher Tom Bane; grant recipient Amy Ludewig and Chamber President Eric Fithyan; and back, Jennifer Sisinni, principal of Brooke Middle School; grant recipients Chris Moore and Thomas Olenick; Michael Lewis, Principal of Brooke High School; and Jeff Crook, superintendent of Brooke County Schools. –Warren Scott

FOLLANSBEE — Efforts centered around local youth were the focus of the Follansbee Chamber of Commerce’s meeting Wednesday, with the group’s education committee handing out grants to students and teachers for innovative projects and teaching strategies and details of its upcoming Trunk or Treat for the public announced.

The chamber’s education committee, which includes Chairperson Suzanne Davidson, Mary Jane McElroy and Carmel Esposito, presented $300 grants to teachers Chris Moore and Amy Ludewig and students Thomas Olenick and Jerri Wilson.

The grants were provided through a donation from chamber members Lou and Pat Accetollo.

Moore said he will use his grant to purchase virtual reality equipment and software that will help students in his history classes at Brooke High School to experience historic events firsthand.

“It’s one thing to talk about history. It’s another to see it,” said Moore, who added the VR equipment also allows students to hear sounds and simulate the touching of objects.

He said he will purchase virtual reality scenarios with the grant but there also are many available at no cost through the Internet.

Moore added his psychology students also can use it in various ways, from exploring areas of the brain to observe and analyze body language displayed by a virtual person.

He said it may be possible for students in the school’s career technology courses to use the equipment to simulate workplace experiences.

“I have high hopes for it,” said Moore.

Ludewig, a computer science teacher at Brooke Middle School, said she will use the grant to purchase a tennis ball sized robot operated by a mobile device that will be programmed by students to perform various tasks, including engaging in jousting matches.

In keeping with the school’s Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math program, the robots will overcome a series of obstacles created and decorated by students as well, she noted.

A senior at Brooke High School, Olenick said he and classmates will use the grant to build a new filter for the aquaponics system created by students in Tom Bane’s engineering design and development course.

The system has been used to grow potatoes, strawberries and herbs in water and to harvest fish and aquatic plants.

Olenick said the previous filter didn’t prevent the formation of algae, which caused the plants to die, and the goal is to create one that will retain nutrients derived from the fish’s waste while preventing the spread of algae.

He said following graduation, he would like to pursue a career in chemical engineering.

A Brooke High School sophomore, Wilson said she will use her grant to purchase a robot about a foot and a half wide that she will program to perform tasks, such as a round of disc golf, for school robotics competitions.

She is a student of Chris Mockbee, a Science Technology Engineering and Math teacher who has led Brooke High School students to national, state and regional robotics competitions.

Chamber President Eric Fithyan said of the grants, “Part of our mission is to always support our businesses and community and link them together, and I think this is a perfect example of that.”

Fithyan said the grants help to prepare students for their future role in the economy.

The four recipients also were presented proclamations of congratulations from US Sen. Joe Manchin, DW.Va.; by his representative, Mary Jo Guidi.

Chamber members also heard from Jeff Crook, Brooke County superintendent of schools; and Michael Lewis, the high school’s new principal; who discussed many opportunities for learning offered to Brooke students.

Fithyan said chamber members are invited to vote on several nominees for its new Young Professional of the Year honor, one of several awards to be presented at its annual dinner.

He said tickets are $40 each for the dinner, which will be held Nov. 16 at St. Francis Centre, and may be purchased at First National Bank in Follansbee.

Chamber members also are preparing for its annual Trunk or Treat, which will be held from 6 pm to 8 pm Oct. 27 outside the Follansbee Community House.

Chamber treasurer Brandy Puskarich said after being held at Lyle’s Auto Sales in recent years, the event needed more space.

Puskarich said the auto dealer, which had moved vehicles into its showroom to accommodate the event, has been an excellent partner and will continue to participate.

She said with the increase in space, the number of businesses and organizations offering trunks full of treats has grown from about 17 to 40.

Puskarich said in the past, the businesses and groups have been creative in decorating their vehicles, adopting themes ranging from astronauts to pirates, and donning costumes to match. This year, as an extra incentive, there will be trophies for the best trunk and most unique costume, she said.

Puskarich added there also will be free entertainment by magician the Amazing Nick and disc jockey GCon, a free pumpkin-decorating contest and food for sale by the Chef’s Table food truck, which will offer a special children’s menu; and a kettle corn vendor.

She said the event is a good way to show that “We as a business organization and nonprofit care about the children in our community.”

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