“I saw that students were learning about science and reading about science, but they didn’t do actual science through experiments because they didn't have equipment like microscopes and slides,” he said. Inspired to make a difference, Tucker contacted two of his colleagues when he returned to the U.S. and arranged to ship 14 boxes of used science equipment to Ghana.
During that time, Tucker realized the equipment also could be sent to schools within the Chicago region that did not have the resources to purchase new microscopes or textbooks.
“Schools will sometimes get rid of equipment because everything has a useful lifespan. To fix a broken piece of equipment might be more expensive than replacing it,” Tucker said. On the other hand, there were schools needed that equipment, but there wasn’t a way to connect the schools to make a donation.
Enter Connexion, a Buffalo Grove-based electrical and energy business solutions provider.
“Brandon is my son, so I was aware of what he was doing with the used equipment,” said Dan Dobski, Connexion’s director of marketing. “He was capturing as much as he could before it hit the Dumpsters, but it wasn’t a sustainable way of obtaining equipment. We discussed ways to do this more efficiently.
“At the same time, Connexion’s president, David Rosenstein, was looking for ways for Connexion to give back to the community,” Dobski said. “It was decided that Connexion would provide pickup from the donor schools and deliver equipment to recipient schools, as they were all in our territory.”
Science Connexion Created
To pick up and deliver equipment, Connexion created Science Connexion, a nonprofit subsidiary that facilitates donations and equipment between donor schools and recipient schools.
“Our website is a portal to allow teachers to request or donate equipment,” Dobski said. “Connexion's fleet of trucks picks up and delivers equipment, all at no charge to the donors or recipients.
“Connexion focuses on energy savings and sustainability, so Science Connexion is a logical extension of the company,” he said.
Mark Rosenstein, a marketing assistant with Connexion and a student at the University of Illinois, said that donations are targeted to be shipped to recipients within seven days. If the requested equipment is not available, Science Connexion will retain the request until a delivery can be made. “We’re sending older equipment that could have cost thousands of dollars to schools who need it,” he said.
“We’re doing what we can to ease budget crunches at schools,” Dobski said.
Science Connexion accepts equipment such as microscopes, test tubes and textbooks for donation. It will not accept donations of chemicals, organic specimens, or any material deemed to be hazardous or requiring special safety handling. Equipment from science companies typically is not accepted.
Working With Golden Apple Foundation
Science Connexion works in conjunction with The Golden Apple Foundation to repurpose used equipment and distribute it to less-advantaged schools.
In the first few months after its launch in February, Science Connexion facilitated donations to 20 schools in the Chicago region. Tucker inspects equipment upon arrival to ensure it is functional and appropriate for classroom use.
“We kicked off the program in collaboration with The Golden Apple and have focused on those schools,” Dobski said. “We haven’t given donations to private schools at this time, as private schools typically have better funding. Everything we receive is purchased through the state of Illinois, so public schools can use assets from the state of Illinois.
“We had a list of available equipment on our blog, and in a matter of days, schools had requested a good portion of it,” Dobski said.
In a statement on Science Connexion’s website, David Rosenstein said, “I am very proud of our Science Connexion project. Caring about the environment and our communities is one of the core values of Connexion. This important initiative is a way that we can give back while utilizing our existing resources.”
Recipient schools in Chicago include Charles Allen Prosser Career Academy, Tonti Elementary School, Bright Elementary School, and Michael M. Byrne Elementary School. West Aurora High School is another recipient.
“It’s rewarding to know kids are using the microscopes and slides because of the program,” Tucker said.
In an email sent to Science Connexion, Allan Fluharty, a science teacher at Charles Allen Prosser Career Academy, wrote, “At my high school, we sometimes have a hard time getting funding for science equipment. It is hard to justify purchase of certain apparatus when not used for general lab tasks. Science Connexion was able to get me two triple-beam balances, a desiccating chamber, and an autoclave along with some general purpose glassware. This will enhance the types of experiments students can do in chemistry and biology (...) Again, thanks!”
“Donating equipment is a great opportunity to create a legacy for donor schools,” Mark Rosenstein said.
"The big goal of Science Connexion is to help kids learn science. Schools will always order more science equipment, and other schools can use the older equipment," Tucker said.