Southeast High School students combine high-tech skills with a big-heart mission

Southeast High School

January 18, 2018, MARK YOUNG, Bradenton Herald

Growing up as a child in the rugged mountains of Afghanistan often means the simplest joys of owning a toy either have been outlawed under Taliban control, or the scarcity of such minor luxuries simply doesn’t exist.

A group of Southeast High School students has a chance to change that and has partnered with the 101st Airborne Division to supply its soldiers with 1,000 wooden toy cars a month.

The soldiers will carry a few cars with them and hand them to Afghan children and other children wherever the Screaming Eagles are deployed.

Reaching that goal presented a problem, even with expensive equipment capable of making the toys inside Richard Platt’s technology lab classroom.

Instead of seeing a problem, Platt and his students saw a solution and a broader opportunity.

Their solution caught the attention of Vint Cerf, vice president of Google, who is recognized as one of the fathers of the Internet. Cerf spent 20 minutes with the students via Skype on Wednesday.

Cerf was impressed with the direction of Southeast’s new Student Engineering and Entrepreneurship Program (SIMP). He offered $16,000 to pay for a teacher’s assistant to free up Platt to dedicate more time to his SIMP students.

The meeting was arranged by Spark Growth founders Stan Schultes and Sara Hand of the Station 2 Innovation Center.