South Side Middle School opens new high-tech lab


The Rockville Centre School District unveiled its new high-tech Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math lab, known as STEAM, at the South Side Middle School on Dec. 14. The lab, funded by a $30,000 grant from the Rockville Centre Education Foundation, is dedicated to blending arts and technology.

The ribbon cutting was followed by presentations from four teachers detailing how they use the new technologies in classes ranging from music and photography to technology. Brian Zuar, director of the arts, discussing the importance of such a lab in education, quoted the late Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple. “These teachers and I live every day in that ‘magical place,’ the intersection where science meets humanities,” Zuar said. “Where engineering meets artistic design. Where technology meets music. We live there every day.”

Anna Elias-Bonet, a music teacher at the middle school, explained to members of the administration and the foundation how her classes use the new computers and keyboards to compose music with a program called Finale, and played examples of their work through headphones at each computer station.

Elias-Bonet also sampled the work of students who used the lab’s new electric guitars along with a program called GarageBand. “I can listen to what they’re doing individually from [the front of the class] and I can give them suggestions,” she said. “I have folders for each class and complete electronic portfolios for each student from the beginning of the year all the way to the end of the year.”

Daniel LaManna, a technology teacher at the high school, explained how he used new programs in the lab to update the way students build wood race cars for an engineering class. Using a program called Dragster, the students can access quizzes and worksheets relating to the physics of the cars, and can design them to meet required specifications.

“The beautiful part about the computer is … that generally, the fine motor skills that they need to draft the cars are not fully developed,” LaManna said. “Some of them are very good at it, others can’t design a concept at all, and by putting it on a computer, it really allows the lower-achieving students to design a nice car and the higher-achieving students to take it a step further. It really produces a product that I’ve never seen before.”

Another technology teacher, Adam Mills, passed around small plastic snowflakes, dreidels and dice to show how the students can use a new three-dimensional printer to design and create items, similar to the way products are mass-produced.

Technology teacher Gary Sliva demonstrated the myriad ways in which students can alter photographs, as well as how they can use a program called Yenka to test the creation of circuit boards.

“I think it’s great,” said Education Foundation President Ron Carman. “Brian [Zuar] and [Assistant Superintendent] Chris [Pellt-tieri], who were the architects of this lab, they’re visualizing the new type of learning that people as old as me don’t understand. Just coming here, you see the capabilities and the potentialities, and it’s fabulous.”