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By Trishna Buch
Robotics and the STEM (sometimes referred to as
STEAM) curriculum are quite an important aspect of a
child’s growth and education. For this reason, many
school districts are introducing STEM and Robotics
courses into their curriculum. One such school district
is the Texas City Independent School District, with their
middle and high-school students being able to take classes
in these subjects.
The STEM program at Blocker Middle School began
four years ago, under the supervision of then principal Julie
Southworth, with the Robotics program starting a year
later. Southworth now works as the Director of Secondary
Education for the district, but current principal—Tony
Furman—has also been very supportive of the program.
Other key players who have helped get the STEM and
Robotics program up and running include Deborah Laine,
President of the Foundation For The Future—which earns
grants and determines where to disburse the funds—as
well as Stacey Richardson, Robotics teacher for the
middle school, James Jobe, Robotics and Engineering
teacher for the high school and Harvey Cappel, mechanical
engineer who volunteers at the district.
I had the opportunity to talk to Cappel about himself
and the program. He told me that the old Robotics program
was sponsored by the Navy and, through this sponsorship,
the robotics classes were able to build underwater
robots. “These robots were built with PVC pipe with 50
foot tethers and switches that allowed them to go up and
down and back and forth,” Cappel told me. The problem
with this particular program, as Cappel told me, was that
the school did not receive enough money from the Navy
for it, the parts, switches and motors would break often,
there was no computer experience involved, and there
was not enough time to work with the robots, because the
classes had to travel by bus to the natatorium. Eventually
Cappel and Robinson decided that this program was not
working and went to Southworth for permission to start a
new program. This new program, as Cappel told me, has
good hardware, software and online help, has intense
program training in Graphical “C” and was similar to the
high school robotics program.
However, when the new program started, Cappel
told me that they needed all new equipment. “We needed
$8000 for kits, parts, software and license,” he said. So
what did Cappel do? He started asking around to different
companies and individuals and ended up receiving tools
from Saba Motors and funds from Marathon Galveston
Bay Refinery—who gave the majority—as well as Jack
and Margret Ploss and the budgets of Blocker Middle
School and the district’s Industrial Trade Center.
The Robotics program at Blocker Middle School is a
high-intensity elective, where students require recommendations
from their Science teachers to get in to. “Our
program has 18 students,” Cappel told me. “And eight of
those 18 also go to the high school two times a week to
work with James Jobe and their Robotics program.” The
Robotics program at the Texas City High School recently
qualified for Worlds for the third year in a row and the
program at La Marque High School recently qualified
for state in Robotics and Animation. Our eight Blocker
students were among the winners.
Cappel has been working with various school districts
for the past 37 years and came to TCISD when
their STEM program began. A mechanical engineer by
profession—he works as a semi-retired TDI Windstorm
Engineer—he was partner in a company called Chemic
Engineers, based out of Hitchcock. He told me that his
partner was contacted by the principal of La Porte Elementary
School, Martha Love, to see if he knew anyone
who would be interested in coming to talk to students for
Career Day. Cappel volunteered for the task and when
he received his schedule, he noticed that there were a lot
of Kindergarten and 1st grade classes on this schedule.
“I called Martha and told her that there must be something
wrong here, there is no career day in Kindergarten,”
Cappel told me. “And she just said ‘yes there is”. Thus
began Cappel’s journey working with schools. “I worked
for 14 years at La Porte ISD, working with children in Kindergarten
up to the fourth grade.” At one point, Cappel’s
daughter, Janice Rogers—who is a teacher at Kohfedlt
Elementary School—told people about his volunteering,
word got around, and he started being contacted by
TCISD, Friendswood ISD and, eventually, began making
his way to schools around the county. He soon made his
way to TCISD’s STEM and Robotics classes, where he
walks around the class stations and explains to the students
the engineering processes and why they are doing
these projects in that particular manner. “It’s important to
include these STEM and Robotics classes in school districts
because, when students from TCISD graduate, half
go to college and half have nowhere to go. But, through
these classes, they are able to develop a skill and may
become computer controlled machine apprentices.”
Not only is Cappel an engineer and a volunteer, but he
is also a writer. In the past he has written for weekly newspapers,
monthly newspapers, national magazines and for
Baytown Raceway Park. He also used to own and edit the
Bayou Vista News and, in his most recent stint as a writer,
has written a book entitled True Story, I Swear It – Maybe.
According to Cappel, this book is full of life stories, humor
and life lessons. So if you are curious in knowing how to
hypnotize a chicken or the answer to the age-old question
“which came first, the chicken or the egg,” head over
to,, or harveycappel.
com to purchase this book.
And Cappel is also involved in the Texas City Rotary
where he is co-chair with Peggy Davenport of the Scholarship
Committee that currently supports 19 Texas City
college students with $2,000 per year each. He also believes
many of our dangerous criminal problems result
from inadequate education of our (not going to college)
students. If we turn them out with no job skills their future
is bleak and their situation may become desperate. His
heroes are the teachers and he asks us to help a teacher
when we can. They just may be the best answer.
Through the STEM and Robotics classes at their district,
TCISD students are gaining the skills that will guide
them to success in the future. And it is thanks to Julie
Southworth, Tony Furman, Deborah Laine, Stacey Richardson,
James Jobe, Harvey Cappel and the many sponsors
and donors that this has been made possible.
By Trishna Buch
One act of kindness can go a long way. That is what Evoni
Williams, a Texas City High School graduate and current
Waffle House employee, learned recently.
According to information provided to The Post by the
City Of La Marque, Williams was going along her day
working at her full-time job at the Waffle House, which
she is working at to save up for business or management
school. An elderly gentleman, who was on oxygen,
came into the restaurant. According to a post uploaded
by another Waffle House customer, the gentleman told
Williams that his hands didn’t work well. Williams, after
speaking to the gentleman and seeing him on oxygen
and struggling to breathe, did what comes naturally and
started cutting up the gentleman’s ham for him. A customer
captured the moment, posted it online and Williams’
act of kindness went viral. According to the City Of La
Marque, the original post on Facebook received 75,000
reactions and 35,000 shares, it appeared on Reddit and
made national news.
And, on Thursday, La Marque mayor Bobby Hocking
met Williams at the Waffle House to show appreciation for
her actions. Furthermore, according to the City, “plans for
a proclamation are underway.”
All of us should strive to be like Williams. We should
always try to help those that are in need of it. One act
of kindness may seem small, but it could turn that person’s
entire day around. I, personally, am thrilled we have
a person like Evoni Williams in our community and I hope
we can all follow her lead and show kindness to everyone
around us.

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