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2020 Grants & Award Winners

Grant Winners

Innovating Agriculture Through Food Computers

Half Hollow Hills CSD; Melville, NY

Students will use the resources provided for this grant to construct personal food computers.  Students will apply the engineering design process and use robotic systems to control and monitor climate, energy, and plant growth inside these growing chambers. They will offer a spectrum of control so that students can make their growing experience as a manual or as automated as they would like while collecting data to further their research and participate in various citizen science campaigns.  

Accelerated Biology: Turning a challenge into an opportunity

Susan E. Wagner High School; Staten Island, NY

In 2020-21, we will have many students entering 9th grade with prior exposure to Living Environment and a waiver on the Regents exam, but who have not yet attained a full year of mastery in Biology.  With these students, we will be exploring advanced topics in a new class, Accelerated Biology, which reinforces the material from Living Environment while simultaneously preparing them for advanced science classes like AP Biology.  There will be a research focus to increase science literacy.  We hope to increase the technological tools available to these students to move beyond the traditional first-year biology course and engage students in authentic biological inquiry.  To this end, we hope to acquire one set of Vernier Biology GoDirect probes to use throughout the year in whole-class experiments that will explore topics such as photosynthesis, food energy content, enzymatic catalysis, transpiration, fermentation, and human physiology.  By increasing availability of cutting-edge technology, we will increase student performance in these classes compared to our traditional Honors sections and increase AP readiness, thereby providing more access to AP Science courses.

Engineering Brightness - Empowering Students to Make a Difference

Genesee Elementary School and Auburn High School; Auburn Enlarged City School District

The grant project is a collaboration between Auburn High School Librarian Victoria Calarco, Genesee Elementary School Librarian Anne Mlod, and Engineering Brightness. Engineering Brightness ( is a non-profit organization dedicated to empowering students to be active in addressing light poverty issues around the world. It accomplishes this by leading students in the design and creation of 3D printed solar-powered lanterns that are sent to people in countries where safe light is an issue. This year they selected two school districts to be part of a learning cohort; our district, Auburn,  is one of them. We (librarians Anne Mlod & Victoria Calarco) have raised funds from community organizations and businesses for founders John Howe and Tracey Winey to come to Auburn and work with students for three days in October on this project. Our NYSCATE grant request is for $1,974, which covers the cost of the supplies students will use to design and create 50 solar-powered lanterns that will be delivered to people in a country where light poverty is an issue.

Harnessing the Wind

REACH Academy Charter School; Buffalo, NY

Harnessing the Wind will provide fourth-grade students with hands-on learning about wind power as an energy source. Students will use KidWind Go Direct Packages to investigate the basics of wind power. After these investigations, students will take what they’ve learned and, in groups of 3, build a 4-foot wind turbine. While the turbine bases will be constructed from PVC pipe, students will be in charge of selecting materials for the turbine blades and making decisions about things like the size, shape, and number of blades as well as installing the generator, hub, and wiring in their turbines. Students will have the opportunity to test their designs throughout the project using a homemade wind tunnel that will be present in the classroom during every session. Each group will keep a journal that includes sketches of the various designs used as well as the results of each test and thoughts about what needs to be changed or not changed. Energy sensors included in the KidWind Go Direct Packages quantify the voltage, current, and energy output of the turbines and integrate with Vernier’s Graphical Analysis 4, software that creates various graphs from the data collected. Students will read and interpret their data as well as compare their data to the data of other groups. By the end of the project, students will be able to support their opinion on whether or not wind power is a viable replacement for non-renewable energy sources.

Award Winners

Outstanding Leader Award

Salamanca City School District

Aaron is Coordinator of STEAM Education at Salamanca City School District. He earned his undergraduate degree in Electronic and Computer Engineering Technology at Grantham University and Master of Education in Educational Technology at the American College of Education.  Over the course of his career, Aaron taught numerous elementary and secondary courses in robotics, trades and instructional technology.   While serving in Salamanca, Aaron led a taskforce to start the award-winning STEAM Summer School program, "STEAM Camp" and assisted with the design of Salamanca’s state-of-the-art STEAM center,  modeled after a STEM manufacturing firm.  A student of engineering himself, Mr. Straus has been awarded several prestigious honors such as the New York State Society of Professional Engineers Contribution to Education Award and the Margaret Ashida STEM Leadership Award for his work with program innovation.

Outstanding Superintendent Award

Greenburgh North-Castle Union Free School District

My 30+ year career has been devoted to helping children with learning, social-emotional, developmental, and behavioral disabilities. To that end, I earned two doctorates from Teachers College Columbia University, one in Special Education and the other in Psychology. Prior to becoming the Superintendent of Greenburgh North-Castle Union Free School District (GNC), I created highly-regarded, inclusive, special education programs for students with autism spectrum disorder, severe emotional disturbance and learning disabilities. I also created a school-based American Psychological Association (APA) approved psychology internship program and served as a college professor and clinical supervisor. In my private practice, I conduct psychotherapy, neuropsychological evaluations, and educational consultation. I am passionate in my belief that administrators, teachers, therapists, counselors, and paraprofessionals must utilize evidence-based interventions to assure all students achieve optimally. 

Under my leadership, the four Academies compromising the Greenburgh North-Castle Union Free School District (GNC) have expanded academic, social-emotional, and vocational opportunities for students with emotional, developmental, behavioral and learning disabilities from grade 7 to age 21. In the academic realm, our special education teachers differentiate instruction in accordance with students' learning profiles. Student progress is monitored, and instruction is data-driven. We have added Advanced Placement (AP) courses to our full complement of Regents-based classes, as we strive to challenge our students. 

In the social-emotional and behavioral realms, our students are explicitly taught social skills and strategies for self-regulation. To that end, we implement components of Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT), Collaborative Problem Solving (CPS), Restorative Justice, and Trauma-Focused Therapy. These programs provide students with the tools needed for success in life. 

Outstanding Teacher Award

Fredonia Central Middle School

Amanda Pacanowski currently teaches Grade 8 students, mathematics.  She currently has two sections of math 8, the Accelerated 8th grade students taking High School Algebra, she works with the Consultant Teacher, and teaches a Innovation course focusing on critical thinking and curation.  Amanda has taught all levels 7-12.  She’s also served as K-12 Technology Integrator for her district under a one year grant funded position.

Outstanding Teacher Award

Highland Falls-Fort Montgomery CSD

Kristen teaches STREAM (Science, Technology, Research, Engineering, Art and Media) classes for students in grades Pre-K - 6th grade. Five years ago she began the development of the program and it has continuously grown to include new and emerging technologies. Today the students at all grade levels learn how to code, conduct research, and create multi-media presentations to showcase their work. When we had to pivot to an emergency remote learning environment last March, Kristen immediately changed her role and became an instructional technology coach to support her elementary colleagues in the new learning environment. She scheduled 1:1 consultations and small group professional learning opportunities with the teachers. She continues in the those role today and also teaches STREAM to the 6th grade students.