Friday, February 26, 2016

Life According to Joe

Viper Custodian Delivers a Clean Attitude along with a Clean Atmosphere

Space Coast Jr./Sr. High School custodian Joe Armet approaches cleaning the same as he approaches living: with purpose, enthusiasm, and a signature smile.

"I like working with the teachers and making sure they are satisfied," said Joe, who is charged with keeping 14 rooms in the 600 building clean and comfortable for teachers and students. "My goal is to try to keep the rooms clean. The desks, the floors, the blackboards. I also pay attention to shelves and anything else that needs cleaning."

A Brevard resident for over 45 years, Joe moved from New York to Florida when he was 18 years old. "That was 1971," he said. "Port St. John was nothing but clear land. The streets were paved but that was pretty much it. The rest of it was just trees and land. No houses. No buildings. Nobody lived around here."

Now the area is thriving with families, businesses, schools, and churches among a hardworking, tight-knit community. Joe's contribution to the area is something that comes natural to him. "Pretty much all of my life, I've been cleaning," he said. "I worked for a cleaning business for 18 years. I also worked for Publix for nearly 25 years and did a lot of cleaning in that job."

Other work experiences include driving limousines and charter buses, as well as working at Disney's Animal Kingdom. "I drove a lot of kids on prom nights in the limo, and took kids to field trips in the charter buses," he said. "I also loved working for Disney, but the drive from Brevard was just too much to keep up with it."

Space Coast Jr./Sr. High School custodian Joe Armet is known around campus for his positive attitude and ever-present smile. "I like the people I work with, and try hard to help others," Joe said.

Joe holds close the memories he has of being a high school student. "In Long Island, I attended a vocational school called Lawrence High. It was the same high school where Peggy Lipton went. She was a famous actress of a popular show at the time called The Mod Squad. The school was close to Jones Beach, where we loved to go to hang out."

Part of why he now enjoys working in a school is his passionate understanding of the connection between a quality education and a satisfying life. "In high school, I wanted to be a football player. I thought I'd be good at it because I was a big guy, a real big guy." Shaking his head, Joe added, "But it didn't work out."

As many adults like Joe can relate, not all of the big dreams, hopes, and goals one has in youth come to fruition. "That's exactly why kids need to stay in school," he said. "No matter what, getting an education is going to help."

Encouraging students to stay in school is at the heart of Joe's advice. "These days more than ever, kids really need to stay in school and get that diploma. I don't want to see anybody dropping out. There's not too many full-time, good-paying jobs out there without getting an education."

"Education is so important," he continued. "I know it was for my daughters. Both of them got a Master's degree from UCF. One of them does cancer research. My other daughter is an event planner for major companies. They make good money and live comfortably, and a lot of that has to do with the quality education they got. They have both done very well."

These days, one of Joe's favorite pastimes is baking. "I love making cupcakes. I do Easter cupcakes and Christmas cupcakes. I also make them for people's birthdays. Strawberry is my famous cupcakeI put real strawberries in them!"

When he's not baking, Joe enjoys gardening, yardwork, and swimming.

But life hasn't always been smooth sailing.

In the prime of his career with Publix, Joe was diagnosed with cancer, a struggle which knocked him out of work. "I was near death twice but I survived it. It was difficult for me and my family, but it taught me a lot. Now I strive to make the most out of each day, and I always try to make everybody smile."

"Publix helped me out a lot during that time. Both my manager and my assistant manager at the time gave me money out of their own pocket to help me survive and support my family. It meant the world to me that they cared so much."

Eventually, Joe beat cancer but the battle came at a great cost, including the loss of his family's home.

"At that point, my wife helped me looking for a job. I wound up getting a job as a security guard at Clearlake Middle School (which since closed and then reopened as an Adult Education Center) for 10 years.  My job was to make sure the school was safe, all the doors were locked, and no break-ins occurred."

"Around that time we moved to Palm Bay," said Joe. "Now, working here, it's a long drive to Space Coast from Palm Bay but it's absolutely worth it. I wouldn't want to be anywhere else. When you're happy where you are, you stay where you are."

Joe had a flair for life long before he battled cancer, but he has savored every day even more ever since.

"I believe people should be happy and be kind to one another. That's what I try to do day by day."

With the purposeful, enthusiastic way he approaches his work, it is no wonder why Joe brings such big smiles to the faces of so many people.

Stay current with Space Coast Jr./Sr. High at Space Coast Edline.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Learning Backwards Inspires Progress

FIT Visit Inspires Students to Start at the End in Order to Create a New Beginning

Sometimes working backwards from the finish line provides unique opportunities for identifying how to improve performance from the start.

A talented group of students from the Florida Institute of Technology (FIT) chapter of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) recently presented a highly engaging, interactive lesson to Space Coast Jr./Sr. High School Science Technology Engineering Aerospace and Manufacturing (STEAM) students on a process referred to as reverse engineering.

Equipped with tools and typical home appliances such as Crock-Pots, coffeemakers, and hair dryers, the FIT students guided Viper students through the process of disassembling the machines to analyze their original design, discussing why particular parts were strategically used instead of others, and making suggestions for design improvements.

During a culminating presentation, students then shared with their peers what changes they would make to improve the functionality of their assigned appliance, and how such changes would yield positive outcomes to the appliance's productivity and/or efficiency.

"Reverse engineering is basically taking something apart, figuring out how it works, and figuring out how you can improve it," said Isaiah Ciarlanti, a senior.

"You have the appliance itself and how it already works," said Wyatt Christian, a senior. "They wanted us to find a way to make it work even better, to improve its function."

Reverse engineering, also referred to as backwards design, was the focus of FIT's recent visit to Space Coast Jr./Sr. High School's STEAM Academy. By disassembling various household appliances, students were able to explore how each machine was designed, as well as investigate potential changes to improve its performance.

"My group took apart a Walmart version of a George Foreman grill," said Wyatt. "When we opened it up, we saw the heating element, which was only a small strip. To improve that, we figured we would expand the strip to cover more surface area of the hot plate, which lead to better heat distribution and faster cooking."

For Wyatt, hands-on experiences like these parallel the work he will do upon graduation. Enlisted into the Air Force, Wyatt will be a crew chief working on fighter jets. "My favorite part of the activity was having everyone working together for a common goal," he said.

"My group had an electric razor," said Isaiah. "When we took it apart, the switch where the wires went in came out easily. If the switch was in the Off position, we could just pull the wires out. We figured the only way to make it better was to fix the battery housing so that the wires would be safer and more secure."

"When we were taking the appliances apart and figuring it out how it worked, the people from FIT came around and asked us questions and were really engaged with the process. They weren't just sitting in the front of the room telling us what to do. That makes it more exciting as a student. Even if it is hands-on, if no one is moving around and participating, it is not as fun. When everyone is learning together, it makes the experience a lot more fun."

"They would walk around and each person would give different inputs," said Isaiah. "Each person had a different way of looking things, which helped us."

"The FIT students were cool and helpful," said Wyatt. "They gave us a lot of good ideas."

One of the FIT students, Leyane Mohammed, is no stranger to Space Coast. A Viper graduate, she successfully completed the STEAM program and is currently in her senior year at FIT.

"I talked to Leyane," said Isaiah. "She walked around, asked us about what we were doing, and offered assistance. She helped us make sure we listed everything accurately."

The field trip idea was spearheaded by Dr. Beshoy Morkos, an Assistant Professor for FIT's Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering.  He oversees the Systems Research on Intelligent Design and Engineering (STRIDE) Research Lab.

"Dr. Morkos was very energetic," said Isaiah. "He definitely brought life to each of the projects. For the electric razor we took apart, he got so into what we were doing. It was really cool to see someone who has been doing it so long get so interested in the project. That kind of enthusiasm helps get students more excited about learning."

During his visit to Space Coast, Dr. Beshoy Morkos worked closely with students in teaching how the reverse engineering process can lead to improvements to the design of various household appliances.

Overall, the benefits of the reverse engineering process were apparent to participating students.

"It is interesting to know how things work," said Isaiah. "It helps with creativity. Obviously, the person who made it has succeeded with coming up with an idea. It helps you think outside of the box about what can be done to make it even better."

As FIT's visit to Space Coast proved, when it comes to building knowledge and expanding critical thinking skills, nothing beats working backwards from the finish line to help improve performance from the start.

Stay current with Space Coast Jr./Sr. High at Space Coast Edline.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Service Project Transforms Lives

Basketball Team's Community Service 
Project Paints a New Off-Court Perspective

A fresh coat of paint can score many positive outcomes: brightening the look of a bedroom, changing the feel of a living room, and reviving the appeal of a house.

But sometimes the value of a new paint job runs much deeper than one can see on the surface.

What began with a family's pleas for assistance at a Titusville City Council meeting ended with a community service project a caring group of Viper student athletes will not soon forget.

In addition to being a Space Coast social students teacher, Mr. Matt Barringer is a business owner and a Titusville City Councilman. During a recent city council meeting, his heart went out to a homeowner of 45 years, Mr. Walker, who asked the council for assistance with painting his house. On an already stretched budget, the city council was unable to spare the funds to fulfill the request.

Mr. Walker has lived in his Brevard home for nearly five decades. He recently reached out to the Titusville City Council to request assistance in getting his house painted. Although his request was denied at a formal council meeting, City Councilman Matt Barringer would not allow Mr. Walker's pleas for assistance to go unheard.

However, Mr. Barringer was determined to find a way to fulfill the family's request for help. "It was a team effort. We linked up with Aging Matters, which helps seniors in Brevard county. They came out and pressure washed the house to prep for the project. My office paid for the paint. Then Coach (Michael) Pommier's team came to do the painting."

Austin Rodeghier, a senior, is the Captain of the varsity boys basketball team. "Coach Pommier told us doing this would help change someone's life. He was right."

"I kept stressing how important it is to think outside of your own life, and to think about how you can help others," said Coach Pommier. "I tell them our basketball program is about being a part of something bigger than yourself. The team seemed to buy into that concept."

The players arrived early in the morning prepared to do what it takes to see the project through. The project required six hours of difficult labor on a Saturday but the players fit in plenty of laughs along the way—the house wasn't the only thing that got painted. "It was a really funny day," said Austin. "We ended up painting each other and having a good ol' time."

Painting a house is a formidable task, but when the Space Coast boys basketball team had an opportunity to help a family in need, they did not hesitate to pull together and put forth the team effort required to complete the job.

When the painting was done, Austin presented the homeowner, Mr. Walker, with a picture of the team and a Vipers Basketball T-shirt. "Even if Mr. Walker hadn't said anything, you could just tell by his expression how much he appreciated having us come here and help out."

"Mr. Walker said he used to love to play basketball when he was as kid," said Austin. "He played point guard, which is the same position I play, so it was pretty cool we had something in common. He also said he could relate to what we were doing because when he played on a team, they used to do things outside of basketball to bond as a team."

"Mr. Walker's family came up at the end and they were all up in tears and really grateful for everything," said Coach Pommier.

Austin said, "I thanked Mr. Walker for letting us come here and help paint his house and he said, 'Thank you much!' and asked if he could get a photo of all of us together in front of the house. So we took the picture."

With their paint brushes and positive attitudes, members of the Space Coast Jr./Sr. High School varsity/JV boys basketball teams lifted up a family in need. The homeowner, Mr. Walker (blue hat in center of photo), expressed heartfelt gratitude for the team's selfless act.

"Our team has a group text," said Austin. "We were all talking about how cool it was to do something off the basketball court to help someone in need."

"It's always nice to help people," said Briggs Kline, a sophomore. "In my church, there is a big focus on giving back to others. It's great to give back and not to get anything back in return. It gives you a great feeling in your heart."

"It felt awesome," said Darryl Davis, a junior. "We worked together as a unit to complete a project and to help out a family."

The two Space Coast employees responsible for bringing the painting project to fruition deflected credit to each other.

"Mr. Barringer is the one who spearheaded it," said Coach Pommier.

"Coach Pommier was the driving force on this one," said Mr. Barringer. "He was committed to doing a community service project with the students."

Clearly, what mattered was not who got the credit but that the family in need got the help it deserved.

"The best part was helping a family in need," said Coach Pommier.

"It was one of those where you take something that didn't work out and it worked out beautifully," said Mr. Barringer.

With acts of kindness, the givers often walk away with as much benefit as the receivers. "I think this experience has changed us," said Austin. "It helped us put aside our differences. It changes how we look at things outside of basketball, and makes us think about what we can do off the court to help other people."

"It puts things into perspective," said Coach Pommier. "You get to see kids coming out of their shell and being a different kind of leader than they are on the court."

Slam dunking a lesson on the value of helping otherslong before the paint driedmembers of the Vipers boys basketball team had already gained a fresh new perspective on life.

Stay current with Space Coast Jr./Sr. High at Space Coast Edline.