Rafael Robinson published a children’s book titled “STEM Club Trouble: Who’s up for problem-solving?” The book focuses on the trio called the Super Sprockets, who use problem-solving skills to find solutions to daily activities.
BY MARK PARKER, Staff Writer
ST. PETERSBURG — Rafael Robinson is a man of many talents – teacher, author, entrepreneur are just some of his titles, but his most important work may be what he is doing to instill the importance of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) education in children throughout the community.
At a recent city council meeting, Robinson was recognized for his efforts, all of which are self-funded. There, councilmember Deborah Figgs-Sanders was honored to present him and his team with the Sunshine Ambassador Award.
“We always hear about what is wrong, what is wrong, what is wrong. I’m so honored to share something that is right,” said Figgs-Sanders. “And the city provides the opportunity to do just that.”
Figgs-Sanders said that the education system has come up short in hiring Black male role models to help close the educational gap, and that is why the ongoing efforts of people like Robinson are so needed and valued. She added that less than two percent of the county’s teachers are Black males.
She recalled a shirt one of Robinson’s two daughters were wearing at a recent STEM Saturday event that he hosts. It read: “Forget being a princess; I want to be an engineer.” Figgs-Sanders said that mindset is exactly what needs to be instilled in children.
“Especially from areas that we call challenged,” said the councilwoman. “But we know those babies can learn. There’s nothing challenging about it other than them being afforded the resources.”
Figgs-Sanders then said that she would like to step out of her city council role and presented Robinson with a $500 donation from her and her husband.
Robinson said that he feels more comfortable talking in front of a room full of kids than adults, “but that’s OK because I’m going to speak from the heart.” He then went on to accept the award for the most important people in his life.
His mother, “who dedicated her life to educating our youth right here in Pinellas County,” and his father, “who kept the community safe with the St. Petersburg Police Department.”
Robinson gave a special thanks to councilmember Figgs-Sanders for nominating him and recognizing the effort he puts into bridging the education gap for the youth. He said that people like her remind him that his work is necessary and relevant in the community.
Robinson took the opportunity to explain the importance of his mission. He said that it had reached a point where kids are no longer engaged and are barely getting by, a problem that extends to the “youngest learners.” He added that it is now time to change the way educators approach these children, which is the focus of his ituey venture.
“With children dying in the streets every day, we have to do something about it,” said Robinson. “And this is what I’m doing.”
He explained that his team has been able to accomplish so much over the last three years on a personally funded, shoe-string budget, “but just imagine what we could do for our youth through true, authentic collaboration.”
His wife Amber Robinson and brother-in-law Calvin Robinson took to the podium to give impassioned speeches on the importance of STEM learning and how America has fallen behind other countries such as China. Calvin Robinson became visibly emotional when describing how proud he was of his brother-in-law, and his words seemed to touch everyone in attendance.
“I’ve watched Rafael see problems and create solutions. “I’ve seen him and my sister take money out of their home to help this,” said Calvin Robinson, his voice cracking. “I’m just really proud of them, and I hope our city can get behind them to help make changes. They continue on as teachers and give so much when educators get so little.”
Councilmember Darden Rice called it “a great way to start this meeting, especially when we’ve been gone for a while… This is so inspiring.” Rice also added that she would be willing to work on a partnership between the city and Raphael Robinson’s programs.
Councilmember Robert Blackmon commended Calvin on his speech, saying that it made him tear up as well – a sentiment that was surely shared by others in the audience.
“There is a huge need, as we know,” said Blackmon. “Especially, as you highlighted, in the African-American community where a lot of the kids don’t have access to STEM technologies and STEM resources.”
To learn more about ituey, LLC and the Super Sprockets program and children’s books, please visit thesupersprockets.com.
To reach Mark Parker, email firstname.lastname@example.org