, Newburyport, MA

Local News

February 20, 2013

Dancing robots and more

Bank donation upgrades middle school Science Department

WEST NEWBURY — Who knew science and math could be so much fun?

Thanks to a $50,000 donation the Pentucket Education Foundation received from Newburyport’s Institution for Savings, Pentucket Regional middle-schoolers were able to create and program synchronized, dancing robots recently as part of the school’s popular Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) class.

The goal of the class is to teach students to innovate through solving authentic challenges. STEM teacher Shawn MacDonald also has his students build model windmills, solar panels and other environmentally friendly projects.

“This is the second-single-largest donation that the PEF has received from the Institution for Savings,” said the nonprofit education foundation’s president, Anna Marie Beech. The funds provided much needed upgrades to the middle school Science Department that are “already having a substantial positive impact on student engagement and learning,” she said.

With the money, Pentucket Principal Debra Lay was able to purchase iPads and applications for her science teacher team, Smartboard connectors, new desk and tables for science labs and STEM equipment designed to engage students using 21st century technology — such as was used for the robotics assignment.

“At a time when budget reductions are the norm, this generous gift allowed the purchase of exciting science equipment. It gives students the opportunity to use real-world tools to investigate and solve scientific problems,” Lay said.

Beech recently toured STEM classrooms at the middle school with bank officials President Mike Jones and Vice President Kim Rock to witness first hand all the exciting new avenues for learning now available to students. “These improvements would not be possible without the support of generous partners such as the Institution for Savings,” said Beech.

Jones said that by supporting learning at Pentucket, his bank is “helping not just today’s students but tomorrow’s entrepreneurs, scientists, leaders and the community as well.”

“It is a great use of our charitable dollars,” he said.

The mission of the Pentucket Education Foundation is to promote excellence in education within the six schools of the regional school district. To learn more about how PEF raises money through grants, events and donations to fund its educational initiatives, visit

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