School’s Out, Camp’s In with Mr. Steve Fortunato
Mr. Steve Fortunato, Seneca Valley Senior High School Applied Engineering & Technology Teacher
Steve Fortunato has been a public education teacher for eight years, starting his career as a full-time construction technology teacher at Pittsburgh Public Brashear in 2013. During his time at Brashear, Mr. Fortunato was apart of a small team who launched Startable, a non-profit summer camp for underprivileged high schoolers in East Liberty. Throughout this time, he developed his skills in community development, fundraising, cultural diversity, event organization and an over-all better understanding of non-profit organizations.
He accepted his position at Seneca Valley Senior High School in 2015. Although this was quite a change, he wanted the opportunity to expand his learning and passion for education. Mr. Fortunato followed that initiative by completing his master’s degree in Applied Engineering & Technology with an additional STEM credit, as well as his K-12 Principal Certification in December of 2019. Throughout his time at Seneca Valley, he has created three new robotic programs, special education summer camps and solidified strong relationships with local industry and community members.
IN THIS EPISODE, WE WILL REVIEW
Voices E60 Steve Fortunato
File Name: Voices E60 Steve Fortunato.mp3
File Length: 00:12:08
FULL TRANSCRIPT (with timecode)
00:00:02:27 - 00:00:10:05
Introduction: Welcome to Voices, a national award winning podcast brought to you by the Seneca Valley School District.
00:00:11:03 - 00:00:20:27
Jeff Krakoff: This is Jeff Krakoff. Today we have Steve Fortunato, applied engineering and technology teacher for grades 9-12. Thanks for talking with us today.
00:00:21:10 - 00:00:22:12
Steve Fortunato: Yeah, thanks for having me.
00:00:22:14 - 00:00:44:11
Jeff Krakoff: So as we get near the end of the school year, we're focusing on schools, out camps, in. And I know your area of expertise is more on robotics camp, space camp. Can you walk us through one at a time, I know there's Raiders Robotics Camp and Raiders Space Camp. What are they all about? What do they offer? How did they come to be?
00:00:45:08 - 00:01:15:15
Steve Fortunato: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. So they're definitely two different ends of the spectrum there. So Raider Robotics Camp is essentially a camp that gets students involved with some of the robotics teams that I coached during the school year. And then our Raiders Space Camp is actually a camp for our multiple support students. So these are students of autistic, blind, visually impaired, hard of hearing, life skills, multiple disabilities.
00:01:16:10 - 00:01:47:28
Steve Fortunato: So I, I also teach a course in that as well. So yeah, they're both, both my camps, but a little bit a little bit different. A little background on those, though. So Raider Space Camp was developed for Seneca Valley students within the multiple support program to kind of explore local experiences and things that they wouldn't normally get the chance to do. So our multiple support students are, as I mentioned, students with severe autism, blind, deaf and hard of hearing.
00:01:48:24 - 00:01:59:12
Steve Fortunato: And I started a class back in 2018 called Raider Space, and it was basically to give the opportunity for these students to have a more project-based class.
00:02:01:11 - 00:02:35:26
Steve Fortunato: With that, it's grown to the point where I now have all of our life skills students and I will have them twice a day in the 2022-23 school year. But summer is such a crucial time for all of our kids, right? So one of the things I recognized with our life skill students is in order for them to maintain that growth that was developed during their the school year, I wanted to offer them something in the summer. So last year was our first year with Raider Space and the idea behind Raider Space Camp was to offer experiences within the community.
00:02:36:03 - 00:03:07:10
Steve Fortunato: That again would be something not so much hyperfocus on academia, but just experiences that they wouldn't normally get the chance. So, you know, examples would be Studio Z in Zelienople did a yoga class with them and a mindfulness class with them. Last year we did take home projects, art projects with Curio Cool, which is a studio in Zelienople, Ice Box Creamery got ice cream for their for an ice cream social.
00:03:08:00 - 00:03:17:27
Steve Fortunato: We have even bigger things planned for this year you know carnival days planned with trips to Fun Fore All yeah so all kinds of stuff so yeah it's it's pretty awesome I'm really, really excited.
00:03:18:04 - 00:03:26:20
Jeff Krakoff: Well, that's a lot. Something for everybody there. So you mentioned this started it around 2018, the space camp for life skill students.
00:03:26:25 - 00:03:27:10
Steve Fortunato: Yes.
00:03:27:12 - 00:03:33:11
Jeff Krakoff: How about the robotics camp? How long is that been around? And can you give us a little bit more insight on on what that involves?
00:03:33:21 - 00:04:14:04
Steve Fortunato: Absolutely. Yeah. So the robotics initiative at Seneca Valley has shown incredible growth in the last three years through the support of district administration, community stakeholders, the students themselves. We've really built up our program to where not only do we have the resources, but we have the student interest. So I coach about five robotics teams throughout the school year, and as the popularity has grown, we got to the point similar with Rader Space Camp, where we didn't want to miss out on that valuable summer time to kind of get prepared for the upcoming school year season.
00:04:14:25 - 00:04:49:14
Steve Fortunato: So three years ago, we started a FIRST robotics FIRST Tech Challenge team. So this is a globally known organization that runs robotics competitions throughout the year, all across the world. So we started our FIRST Tech Challenge team and we started with about ten students. And I'll be running that that team next year with close to 42 students. So in relation to that, we thought, okay, now that we're opening this up, we opened it up for 9-12 graders.
00:04:50:14 - 00:05:21:25
Steve Fortunato: This summer is such a valuable time for us to get those students prepared and they feel more comfortable heading into that that build season of that competition season. So we've been doing Raider Space Camp, This will acutally be the first summer that its specific towards the FTC robotics team. We've done robotics camps in the summer in the past, but this camp in particular is strictly for up and coming students in grades 9-12 or I'm sorry, 7-12 to get the chance to work with the team and
00:05:23:17 - 00:05:28:15
Steve Fortunato: get their their foot in the door before potentially joining the competition teams in the school year.
00:05:29:06 - 00:05:42:03
Jeff Krakoff: Great. Now I'm sure like every other activity, COVID 19 has impacted in-person. Is this the first summer that were fully in-person for these camps?
00:05:42:13 - 00:06:14:16
Steve Fortunato: Yes, yes, absolutely. Which is it's really nice too. The kids really saw the effects, obviously, of COVID 19 for our competition season as well. We were able to compete that year that COVID started back in 2020. The competitions happened before March, but for the past two seasons, unfortunately, even their competitions were taken virtual. So I'm really excited to have the students in person this summer, and I'm really excited for them to hopefully be able to compete again in person come fall.
00:06:14:29 - 00:06:21:15
Jeff Krakoff: Okay, so I know these are summer camps, obviously. Roughly, when do they start? When do they end?
00:06:22:11 - 00:06:54:29
Steve Fortunato: Yeah. So the Raiders Space Camp is actually offered twice in the summer, June 20-23 and July 18-21. Any student who is in our multiple support program has the opportunity to be a part of Raiders Space Camp. But one of the things that we do, not only teaming up with community businesses and, you know, opportunities around town, I also bring in a lot of general education students to volunteer their time for those camps.
00:06:55:01 - 00:07:15:16
Steve Fortunato: So just as much as it's for our multiple support students, it's very much for our general education students and the Raider Robotics Camp that will be offered July 11-14 this summer. And students can register on the www.Svsd.Net website under the summer camp registration.
00:07:15:29 - 00:07:36:22
Jeff Krakoff: Okay, so go to the main page, look up summer camps and they can get all the information and register. So speaking of registration, who is eligible to attend and participate in either the robotics camp or the space camp? And once somebody registers and is there, what kinds of things can they expect?
00:07:37:06 - 00:08:08:10
Steve Fortunato: Sure. So the Raider Robotics Camp and I know it gets a little confusing because there's a they sound kind of similar. The Raider Robotics Camp is open to 7-12 graders. So students entering 7-12 registration, I believe, is $130 for those days. And things that they're going to be doing is really, really cool. So that camp is actually going to be student led as well. You know, one of the great opportunities of being a part of these robotics teams is it really gives ownership to the students.
00:08:08:22 - 00:08:41:01
Steve Fortunato: So the current 2021-22 FTC robotics team will be leading that camp. So they'll be working with the students who are currently on the robotics team. They'll get to in four days, they'll get to design, build, program and compete with each other for the robotics. The Raider Robotics camp. For the Raider Space Camp, that one's pretty awesome because like I said, we do some really, really cool things out in the community.
00:08:41:12 - 00:09:13:16
Steve Fortunato: So right now, I currently have about seven general education students who'll be volunteering their time. We have a carnival company coming in, so we're going to do a full, full carnival with bounce houses and all sorts of games and refreshments and cotton candy. That'll be one day. We have Steel City Gamers coming, which is a 80 foot video game trailer with all kinds of video games and laser tag. We take the kids to Zelienople Park.
00:09:13:18 - 00:09:33:28
Steve Fortunato: We go get ice cream at Icebox Creamery. We get lunch each day, a different restaurant or something within Zelienople or Harmony. We're going to take a trip to Fun Fore All. So, yeah, it's there's all kinds of things happening for the at the Raiders Space Camp. So it's really, really exciting.
00:09:34:00 - 00:09:43:04
Jeff Krakoff: Sounds great. So are there any limitations on number of students? Is there a cap or is it as many people that want to participate can fit?
00:09:43:27 - 00:10:18:04
Steve Fortunato: So we we offered up for Raider Space Camp. We offered up the opportunity to as many students as who as wanted to attend. Currently we are sitting at about 15 multiple support students for that, which I think is a pretty good number. I think we'll go up to 20 and the same. The same will be for the Raider Robotics Camp. I currently have, I think 17 students registered for that and I think our cap is about 20, maybe 25, depending on interest.
00:10:18:22 - 00:10:30:19
Jeff Krakoff: Okay. And then what happens after these great programs are completed? Can somebody continue with Raider Robotics activities once camp is done?
00:10:31:14 - 00:11:07:14
Steve Fortunato: Absolutely. Absolutely. I think that was our big our big push for why we wanted to run this camp the way we had planned it. You know, when we offered FIRST Tech Challenge robotics to 9-12, we want to keep those students in STEM, you know, and in that robot or on that robotics team throughout their high school experience, we found that if we can get them into the classroom with the kids, with the current team, kind of learning the basics of what's going to occur in the fall, then we'll have those students excited to sign up for the team.
00:11:07:16 - 00:11:13:11
Steve Fortunato: So it's not just being, you know, not just joining the camp, but then hopefully being a part of the Raider Robotics robotics team.
00:11:14:19 - 00:11:21:15
Jeff Krakoff: Awesome. Is there anything else you'd like people to know before before we finish? This is all great stuff, great information.
00:11:22:08 - 00:11:45:08
Steve Fortunato: Now, I think, you know, Seneca is nothing but supportive with all of these programs and that, like I said, the community stakeholders, the community businesses have been awesome and it wouldn't happen without any of them and the parental support and our student's support. So I'm just excited. I'm excited to have an in-person summer camp year and hopefully we can just keep doing it bigger and better every summer.
00:11:45:18 - 00:11:57:11
Jeff Krakoff: So again, Steve Fortunato, Applied Engineering and Technology Teacher, thanks for going through all the offering for schools, out camps in. and I hope it's a fantastic summer for everybody involved.
00:11:57:27 - 00:11:59:29
Steve Fortunato: Awesome. Thank you so much. I appreciate you having me on.
00:12:00:07 - 00:12:01:24
Introduction: All right. Take care. Thanks.