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Annual Conference Shares Innovative IdeasValentina Minow-Ess and Dr. Darlynda Miktuk of Erie 1 BOCES stand near a NYSCATE sign after their workshop.

Like any well-manned ship, the New York State Association for Computers and Technologies in Education (NYSCATE) Annual Conference takes many hands to make it a successful operation.

One of those people who has helped steer the ship for the past decade is Michelle Okal-Frink, Director of the Western New York Regional Information Center’s business continuity, research and innovation. Okal-Frink serves on the NYSCATE Board of Directors as vice president and conference committee member.

“The conference ties in to the ‘research and innovation’ part of my job at WNYRIC. I get to work with many different vendors and thought leaders from across the state and bring back ideas and services for our school districts in the Western New York region,” she explained.

One of her roles at WNYRIC, along with her team, is to research and pilot instructional technologies in the classroom. 

As vice president and committee conference member, she finds and schedules presiders and handles logistics before and on the days of the conference.

This year’s nautical “Navigating The Future” themed conference started with the new Student STEAM Fest on Friday, November 16 at the Joseph A. Floreano Riverside Convention Center in Rochester and continued with the Maker Faire Rochester (formerly Rochester Mini Maker Faire) on Saturday, November 17. Conference sessions also began Saturday and continued through Tuesday, November 20, with three keynote speakers, almost 200 session options, 18 hands-on workshops, a show floor featuring over 100 vendors and opportunities to meet and talk with other attendees.

“Also new this year was the first annual NYSCATE Open Ed Hackathon. We had two teams pitch an idea in one minute, develop that idea and give a formal presentation in front of our judges. I had the opportunity to be one of those judges this year and decide on a winner between a social media etiquette solution or a new STEAM Kit,” Okal-Frink said.

The STEAM Kit’s team was the winner and brought home professional development hours, as well as tickets to the International Society of Technology in Education Conference in June.

Over 1,600 people attended the NYSCATE annual conference to both be presenters and learn from others. From school district personnel to vendor’s certified educators to WNYRIC’s own staff, there was something for everyone to take back to their school districts.

“Our staff at WNYRIC have attended to present and learn about new and innovative technologies. I encourage everyone to attend and see for themselves the innovative ideas shared throughout the conference,” Okal-Frink added.

Next up for NYSCATE is the Digital Pathways Conference at Erie 1 BOCES on March 4. With a “STEAM Playground” theme for presiders, it is sure to impress. Registration is $40 and can be completed on the NYSCATE website. The conference is presented in partnership with Cattaraugus Allegany BOCES, Erie 1 BOCES, Erie 2 Chautauqua Cattaraugus BOCES and Orleans Niagara BOCES.  

Valentina Minow Ess, a WNYRIC staff member, makes a presentation at NYSCATE's Annual Conference.

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