Budding engineers in the Toms River High School East Robotics Club win $1,000 to support their competitions and elementary school outreach, courtesy of the Staples Foundation.

Toms River East Robotics Club (Michael Kenny)
Toms River East Robotics Club (Michael Kenny)

The Raiders Shortcircuits have a former member to thank, for pointing them to the Foundation's "2 Million & Change" program, which distributes $2,000,000 nationwide each year to non-profit groups that focus on education and job skills. Organizations active in volunteering and fundraising are eligible for grants of up to $25,000.

Alexa Leon, a High School East alumna who specialized in computer programming during her four years, now works for the office supply corporation.

She recommended the team for sponsorship and helped them start the entry procedures. Club advisor Suzanne Signorelli completed it, along with Catherine Applegat and Walt Patelunas..

The team plans to use the money to buy electronic parts in preparation for the 2017-2018 FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Challenge Robotics Competition.

New Hampshire-based FIRST, founded by inventor Dean Kamen in 1989, nurtures young, scientifically-minded students toward careers in the rapidly-evolving world of technology.

"This is exciting news because not only was it initiated by one of our former students, it directly impacts our students, and connects us with a local organization that is doing great work for the community," said Superintendent David Healy. "Our district is grateful to Staples for this donation and commends Alexa Leone for her initiative with this grant."

The Shortcircuits routinely take the automatons they build to the district's elementaries, to heighten interest in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) courses, and they also place their bots in competition with teams from other schools.

High School East will house the STEAM Academy, one of three career academies debuting in the district in September.

For more information on High School East's Robotics Club, e-mail advisor Suzanne Signorelli.

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