Danbury principal chosen for STEM grant

Danbury principal one of 50 advocates chosen for STEM grant
Posted on 05/03/2018

Dr. Frank LaBanca, principal of Westside Middle School Academy, has been chosen as a Society for Science & The Public Advocate and will receive a grant to continue his promotion of STEM education.

The Society for Science & The Public, headquartered in Washington, D.C., is the publisher of Science News and sponsor of the International Science and Engineering Fair. This year the society selected 50 advocates from 28 states to work with underrepresented students and create opportunities to participate in science research competitions that engage them in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields.

For the past several years, students at Westside have excelled at the Connecticut Science Fair and Connecticut Invention Convention, cited at the science fair as one of the most successful middle schools in the state. This year, Westside sent seven students went to the CIC, one of whom was recently chosen to move on to the national competition in late May. 

According to the Society for Science & The Public website, each advocate will mentor a cohort of at least three underrepresented students and help them navigate the complicated process involved in entering science research competitions, supporting the students as they complete science research projects and apply to compete in science competitions.

Westside student, Khushi Parikh, is another example of how the school encourages students to explore STEM fields beyond the classroom. Khushi’s project, which involved a Lyme disease detection process that is 90 percent effective, received so many awards from the Connecticut Science Fair, including first place in physical sciences, mathematics and urban school challenge awards (to name a few), that she has been invited to participate in the International Genuis Olympiad to be held in New York this June. She will also be recognized by the Connecticut Academy of Science and Engineering at its annual meeting this month.

“Our STEM students have had incredible accomplishments under the direction of Dr. LaBanca and his dedicated faculty,” said Dr. Sal Pascarella. “Some of these students have been noticed by veteran scientists and researchers and it has given these students an opportunity to consider their projects as a stepping stone toward a future career. This award will only make it possible for more of our students to discover their passion and become part of a science community that has a positive impact for everyone.”