Courtesy of Danbury Public Schools
On November 5th, longtime Danbury High School technology education teacher Eric Savoyski won the Harrison H. Baker award. This award is given annually by the Connecticut Technology Engineering Education Association (CTEEA) and is the association’s highest honor.
The Seymour, Connecticut native attended Central Connecticut State University, where he started off in Industrial Arts, and later received a degree in Technical Education and Teaching.
After graduating, Savoyski worked a high end cabinet making shop. “[Working at the cabinet shop] is what really got the bug in me. I thought, “Gee, I’ll be a woodshop teacher.”
As his stint as a cabinet maker came to an end, Savoyski began student teaching at various schools in Connecticut. He was interviewed and offered a position at two schools.
Savoyski struggled deciding between working for Bristol High School and Danbury High School. “I contacted my coordinating teacher from Central, who was basically my mentor at the time, and he told me,” Those are two even places to go. But, I think your personality, and the way you do things would be better suited for Danbury.” He was then hired in 1993 and has remained at DHS ever since.
In the late 90’s, Savoyski was prompted by the principal at the time, John Getz, to form a robotics class within Danbury High School. “At the time, I was dating another teacher from the building and we had just gotten married. My mind was definitely not on robotics”.
Much to his surprise, Savoyski was informed that he would be the teacher held responsible for teaching the class. “I was like, are you kidding me? I don’t know anything about robots, other than, you know, Star Wars.”
Despite the initial surprise, Savoyski persisted. “What worked for me is that I had a really good group of juniors and seniors that were really into it.” Savoyski recalled.
The team has enjoyed many successes since its inception in 2010. Savoyski was persuaded by a student to enter the VEX Robotics Competition, and it was there where the Hatters robotics team received the Excellence Award by the judges. Along with the award, the team also qualified for the VEX Robotics World Championships, held in Orlando, Florida. “At the time I thought, “Oh, that’s wonderful.” We went home and the next day I get six emails from six parents saying, we’re going to Florida. So we ended up going to Florida.”
Savoyski recounted the initial experience at the world championship exciting “. Oh my God, I’ve never seen so many geeks in my entire life, all in one place. And so the excitement and buzz and everything about it, it was like a drug, and from there it just grew.”
After the initial experience at the world championship, the team began to grow.
“So the following year, we had 13 kids, and then the next year we had 18, then we had 22, then 24, 30, and 33. Last year it was 41 and this year 51.” Savoyski, along with the members of the robotics club, often spend long hours after school in order get the robots working for competition. ” Last year I had a student who spent about 800 hours total working on these robots.”
Savoyski says it’s all worth it though. ” The purpose of this club is to get students to consider STEM as a career. These students come together and work from 2 to 11 at night and really show their passion. When you have a group of like minded people like that, it’s great to see.”