Nashoba Valley state representative pushing STEM initiative

Danillo Sena inspired by high school intern to compose legislature to help with funding

Danillo Sena, who was elected to serve his first official term as the 37th Middlesex District state representative on Tuesday night.
Danillo Sena, who was elected to serve his first official term as the 37th Middlesex District state representative on Tuesday night.

AYER  – Students in Massachusetts looking to further their knowledge of science, technology and robotics have a major advocate for them on Beacon Hill.

Danillo Sena, who represents the 37th Middlesex District, last month filed a bill titled, “An Act establishing an elementary and secondary school robotics grant program,” meant to create a grant program that provides public and charter schools the necessary funding to increase robotics and STEM participation during and after school. STEM stands for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, a branch of education meant to help students to become better problem-solvers.

“I am proud to file this legislation to promote robotics and STEM education in Massachusetts,” Sena said in a release. “I strongly believe that we must support our education system so our children have access to a variety of high quality learning opportunities. I have many schools in my district with successful robotics teams, and this grant program would fund programs like these all around the state. Money should not be a barrier between students and access to fun and engaging STEM education programs that foster creativity and have lasting positive effects on student achievement like these robotics teams.”

Sena said on that since his filing, the bill has 10 other co-sponsors moving it through government channels. He said he is waiting to see what the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education says about the proposal.

The bill was created via a collaboration between Sena and Olivia Oestreicher, a member of Team 4905 Andromeda One Robotics at Ayer Shirley Regional High School and an intern for Sena.

Andromeda One launched a MassFIRST Campaign in 2015 to try to get a FIRST Robotics Team in every public or charter school district in Massachusetts. With the bill, Oestreicher hopes to make Massachusetts a leader in STEM education and support underfunded schools in their hopes to back their own robotics teams.

“I came up with this idea as a project for my internship,” she added. “It has been a dream come true being able to work with my fellow students and mentors on Andromeda One, along with Rep. Sena to make this concept become a reality.”

If approved, the bill would provide grants ranging from $435 to $18,000 for schools to start or continue running a FIRST Robotics, VEX Robotics, or Science Olympiad program.

Teams started with the grant money can use the funds to buy building supplies, power tools and equipment. They can also register for competitions, travel and take necessarysafety measures to participate in competitions.

Those looking to apply for the proposed grant program to should be part of a Massachusetts public or charter elementary or secondary school, with institutions not having a sponsored or established robotics team and those located in the Cape Cod and western Massachusetts areas having priority. The program is set to be administered by the state education department.