Tablets, laptops and drones: Amazon gifts Arizona schools free technology
Alexis Egeland, The Republic | azcentral.com
To honor Arizona's 106th birthday on Wednesday, Amazon gave schools in Maricopa County new technology for their STEM programs.
STEM programs emphasize science, technology, engineering and math. The gifts included tablets, laptops, drones, smart watches, headphones and speakers.
The Maricopa County Education Service Agency, with the help of some students from Bioscience High School in Phoenix, sorted all of the donated items into categories that would pertain to various programs at different schools.
The agency will determine what items will go to which schools in the next few days.
In a warehouse surrounded by smiley Amazon boxes, Maricopa County School Superintendent Steve Watson called the event "serendipitous" and thanked Amazon for their willingness to help students.
Watson said the event extended from a partnership Maricopa County had with Amazon for a program called STEM Pro Live! that broadcasts live tours of various businesses and programs for students.
"We were getting ready to plan one with Amazon and while we were sitting at the table they said, 'Hey, do you know any way we can get some of these resources, these extra things we have, into the schools?' " he said. "And we said, 'Absolutely.'"
The original plan was for Amazon to donate one pallet of items. By Wednesday, there were eight pallets.
The pallets were loaded with boxes full of items that Amazon couldn't ship to customers. There was nothing wrong with the items themselves, but issues like stains or rips on the packaging deemed them unworthy of being shipped to customers.
Matthew High, general manager of Phoenix's Amazon Fulfillment Center, said the company makes an effort to give back to the community in any way it can. On Wednesday, he said, their focus was on the kids.
"Amazon is focused on how we can inspire the younger generation to get involved and explore the science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines," he said.
High said the company donated more than 4,000 items.
More than just technology
For the kids from Bioscience High School, the free technology wasn't the best part -- they were excited about the children's toys they unloadedfrom the pallets.
Bioscence High School partners with ACCEL, the Arizona Centers for Comprehensive Education and Life Skills, a school for children with special needs.
Natalie Hernandez, a junior engineering student at Bioscience, said Bioscience students adapt toys so that they can be used by kids who have difficulty with motor skills.
Hernandez recently adapted a dancing turtle toy. She said the toy is designed to dance, but it only does so if it is squeezed.
"We had to open it. We cut wires and adapted it and put a button to it," she said. "Now, it does the same motion as if you were to squeeze it."
She said the toys donated by Amazon will be helpful to their program because they will give the Bioscience High students hands-on experience and help the kids at ACCEL.
Cory Waxman, an engineering design and physics teacher from Bioscience High School, said the toys will be useful for the ACCEL program and the cutting-edge electronics will help give Bioscience Highkids the hands-on experience they need.
"It's going to be very exciting for my students to figure out how to adapt and how these things work and how to integrate them into the things that they're building," he said. "It's essential -- it's the only way to learn, and it's fun."
This piece was originally published on azcentral.com.