Knocking it out of the park: Milford teacher honored during Fenway Park ceremony
Vigorous too were the cheers for Frank Xydias, of Milford, a high school teacher for more than two decades, who was recognized at the game with the iRobot STEM-MVP Teacher of the Year award.
“I was honored and privileged considering there were so many wonderful teachers under consideration,” Xydias said. “These are the moments that gratify educators who go into teaching.”
The accolade came from iRobot Corporation, a Boston-based advanced technology firm founded in 1990 by Massachusetts Institute of Technology roboticists. The visionaries focused on designing robots useful for many practical purposes.
The STEM-MVP award is given to an extraordinary New Hampshire teacher, a professional selected annually by iRobot during a statewide contest. Xydias won in the high-school division.
The veteran educator at the Applied Technology Center within Milford High School, was seen smiling on a video screen nearly 40-feet high and 100-feet wide. A nationwide audience of around 9.3 million television viewers, as reported by Major League Baseball – mlb.com, – saw the ceremony on the park’s Jumbotron.
Xydias, nicknamed “Mr. X,” is reputed to be at ease in expressing principles of STEM – science, technology, engineering and math – in an easygoing manner. His aficionados are high schoolers intent on becoming scions of high tech, gurus of nuclear medicine, tomorrow’s physicists or other vital citizens.
Former student Jennifer Carson, now enrolled in the Mechanical Engineering Department of the University of Rochester, nominated Xydias in a letter to iRobot, whose affiliation with the Boston Red Sox is ongoing through events including STEM career fairs and other activities. Carson said it was his influence that led her to select mechanical engineering as her major at the university.
“I took his classes throughout high school and due to his engaging teaching style and unique courses I fell in love with engineering,” Carson said. “He ignited a passion for STEM that continued to grow, year after year.”
Carson contends that Xydias has bolstered the dreams of “countless” students. He founded Girls in STEM at the high school. The now-coed group draws up to 300 students each year. He also helped Carson create a STEM program for girls in grades 5-8.
“There are now STEM Fridays at our elementary school and a district-wide focus on STEM in grades K-12,” said Carson. “Due to the addition of his robotics course, my younger brother – an aspiring junior – expanded his passion for robotics.”
Xydias also hosts a robotics club comprised of Team Spartan and Team Sparti. Many members are masters at programming intricate gizmos and gadgets that move, lift, throw and manipulate tools, among other tasks.
The newest iRobot STEM-MVP Teacher of the Year was gifted at the ballpark with a costly prize, a Roomba Create 2 programmable robot. The unit is highfalutin’ kin to the popular disc-shaped Roomba vacuum sweeper whose sensors guide it around furniture and other obstacles that tend to impede a good cleanup.
Xydias took his prize to his classes of around 120 students per year at Milford High School’s Applied Technology Center. There, he encouraged the robotics team to autopsy the unit. They studied its computerized innards and promptly infused some customized programming.
“I feel that as a teacher, I have a legacy of education to pass along,” Xydias said. “I am so grateful to see the fruits of my labor and my passion come back full circle.”