Community Center Getting Much Needed New Playground

IMG_0759
The center’s iconic “bridge between the trees” structure, which will be renovated as a part of the new playground.

The Coddington Road Community Center is finally getting the new playground that they have been waiting for thanks to a collaboration with the Habitat for Humanity club at Ithaca College.

“It’s been on the project list for a while,” said Heather Mount, Executive Director of the center. “There’s not much going on right now out there. We’ve never had a permanent playground for the kids to play on.”

The new playground will provide a great place to play and have fun for the 250 children who are members of the center, said Mount, as well as the general public, to which the playground will be open.

The new playground will be completed in two phases. The first phase, which was put into place on April 24, involved installing smaller play structures, such as a small rock-climbing wall and balance beam.

The second phase will be finished sometime in May, before the end of the spring semester at Ithaca College, and will be focused on building and installing a large play house with slides, as well as restoring the center’s iconic “bridge between the trees” structure.

This project is a departure from the norm for the Habitat for Humanity club, which usually focuses on affordable housing, and whose projects are usually outside of the Ithaca area.

IMG_0763
The current play area at the center lacks a large permanent play structure.

“It’s nice to go right down the road and contribute something,” said Brendan Davis, the president of Ithaca College’s Habitat for Humanity club.

According to Davis, a member of the club who had volunteered at the center came up with the idea to help them build a new playground, and the center jumped at the idea.

“It’s great, they’re really excited to help us out,” Mount said about working with the club members. “It’s been a lot more work than they thought, but they’ve rolled with it and have been flexible.”

Davis also added that the center has been very accommodating to the busy schedules of college students, and that the effort to build the playground has “been a true collaboration.”

A new playground has been on the minds of people at the center for a long time, but they have been unable to put a plan into action due to various funding issues. Mount said that the center had raised the necessary money to build a new playground fifteen years ago, but then the septic system at the center broke, so all that money had to go to installing a new system.

This time around, the funding has come from a GoFundMe campaign that is currently about $6,000 short of its goal, as well as a $5,000 donation from the Habitat for Humanity club. This shortage has caused some delays in the project, but they still have been able to get something done.

The delays have caused the volunteers to have some difficulty finding time in their busy schedules to work on the project. Davis said that he wishes that they had more time, but both the club and the center have done a good job being flexible with what time they do have.

“I’m excited to see what we’re going to be able to accomplish,” said Davis.

DeWitt Middle School Technology Team Heads to National Competition

DeWitt TSA Catapult.jpg
Team members Katrina Jander (left) and Isabelle Zanen with their first place catapult design

Months of hard work paid off for the members of the Technology Student Association at DeWitt Middle School when they finished first in nine out of twelve events at the New York State Conference on March 11, qualifying them for the national conference in Nashville this summer.

During the conferences, the DeWitt team, which is made up of 26 students who had to apply to become members, competes in a variety of events, such as building a catapult, working on construction challenges, and designing their own video game. The team’s entries are scored based on the performance of their design in the competition and their written portfolio that they create throughout the design process.

Each student on the team competes in multiple events, and, in many cases, there are multiple groups from the DeWitt team competing in the same competitions. This was the case for the catapult challenge at the state conference, where groups had to design a catapult that launched as many golf balls at a target as accurately and quickly as possible, and in which groups from the DeWitt team took home first, second, and third place.

According to eighth graders Isabelle Zanen and Katrina Jander, who both were a part of the group who finished in first place, the catapult took two or three sessions of two hours each to design, and another two six hour-long sessions to build using PVC piping.

Despite their first place finish, the group is not satisfied with the design, and will look to improve the accuracy and reload time of their catapult for the national conference.

For most of the challenges, the design process is very lengthy, mainly due to the complexity of the rules that outline the requirements of the designs.

Aidan Foley, an eighth grade student, said it took him and his teammates about two months to program their entry into the video game design competition, which ultimately did not even qualify to win a prize due to a rule violation. This setback will not stop these students though, as they plan on improving their game and submitting it in the national conference in June.

David Buchner, a technology teacher at DeWitt and one of the faculty advisors for the team, loves letting the students work through the designs and improvements themselves.

“It’s great to see the kids struggle, then realize after months that they’ve not only solved the problem, but they have some level of expertise,” said Buchner.

One of the most attractive parts of being on the team for many students is the wide variety of events there are to compete in. “It’s fun how you can pick the events that you like,” said Rohil Khatkhate, an eighth grader on the team. “It gives you a lot of creative freedom.”

Then there are the conferences themselves; the culmination of months of hard work and problem solving. Although many of the students very much enjoy putting their designs to the test, nerves do tend to run high during the events.

“The competitions get so tense when you’re waiting for the results,” said Jacob Yoon, a seventh grader who is in his first year on the team.

The most important competition of them all, the national conference, takes place in Nashville from June 28 to July 2. The team relies on funds from corporate sponsors and the Ithaca School District, as well as donations to the Ithaca STEM Advocates, to afford the travel and accommodation costs for the trip. This year will mark the 17th time that the DeWitt team will go the national conference in the 25 years that Buchner has been the faculty advisor.

Although doing well at the conferences is the team’s ultimate goal, it is not the most important thing.

“The best part is developing relationships with the kids,” said Buchner. “Those last a long time.”