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ISP partners with foundation to support makerspace kits in classrooms

When packing for college, most students take bed sheets, maybe a shower caddy and a laptop. Josh Seidel packed a tool box – an obvious choice for an aspiring engineer. Also, a fortuitous decision as it immediately came in handy on his first day at the University of Missouri.

“The first interaction I had with Josh was him helping me fix something in our fraternity dorm,” recalled Eric Fritsche. “We became fast friends.”

(from left) Robert Dillon, Victoria May and Josh Seidel’s mother Terri Seidel build makespace kits.

Seidel died in a work accident in 2013 but his spirit and legacy live on through the Josh Seidel Memorial Foundation, of which Fritsche is president. The foundation funds college scholarships, STEM programs and much more. It recently awarded the Institute for School Partnership at Washington University in St. Louis funds to support the creation of mobile makerspace kits to be used in classrooms in the School District of University City.

On a sunny Saturday, Seidel’s family, friends and board members gathered at the MySci Resource Center to personally put together the makerspace kits, each carrying a personalized message: Dream Big; Failure Is A New Opportunity; and Work Hard, Play Hard, Help Others – the foundation’s guiding principle which was Seidel’s life motto.

While emotional, Fritsche said the gathering was a meaningful way to advance Seidel’s legacy.

“For us, his friends and family, it’s important to get that tangible sensation of what Josh meant to us, and a day like today captures that,” Fritsche said.

In its three years, the foundation has successfully fundraised to support individual college scholarships as well as a robotics club and a makerspace at Christian Brothers College High School, Seidel’s alma mater. But board members were looking to make a larger impact. Fritsche contacted ISP executive director Victoria May after reading an article in the St. Louis Business Journal.

“We met and brainstormed ideas until we settled on the makerspace in a box concept. Our board rallied around it right away,” Fritsche said.

“We’re grateful for the gift and for their trust in us,” May said.

As the grownups built makerspace kits, Eric Fritsche’s son Max had a great time exploring the MySci Resource Center.

The basic kit carries simple materials that you might see in a craft store, such as Q-tips and straws. Other kits are more technologically advanced.

“Makerspace is an ideal way to get kids to design and learn, and do those 21st century skills of collaborating, critical thinking and creating,” May said.

“My job is really to say yes when Vicki tells me she has a project,” joked Robert Dillon, director of innovative learning, for the School District of University City. “My role is to get kids to create, make and design as much as possible and to love learning and have a sense of curiosity. This is a great opportunity to get that into the DNA of the school.”

Dillon says it’s special that the foundation wants to make a deep connection with U. City Schools.

“We want kids to be solution makers in their own community, to explore and be curious and be the next leaders in this zip code and beyond,” he said.

Fritsche says it’s wonderful that the kits will be in the classrooms of the places where their kids go to school. One board member lives in University City.

“I imagine one of the kids coming home from school and saying, ‘We did this cool thing in school today, it sparked my interest,’ and I can say we had some part in that.”

July 2017 | by, Myra Lopez

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