Tronix Team was founded in 1995 by Steve Birth and is a program of the non-profit Park Avenue Youth and Family Services (PAYFS). It was originally called Inventor’s Corner and ran it's programming out of a church basement at 34th St and Park Ave S in Minneapolis. The original focus was on physical science and electricity. The highlights of those early years were building bridges out of white pine and constructing electric go-carts from erector sets. The culmination of the go-cart project was a race, girls vs. boys, around the workshop (the girls won). In 1997 the program began to focus more on electronics and the name was changed to Electronics Club. Finally, with the advent of the new millennium, the program rebranded itself as Tronix Team.
The first ten years of our program was spent providing after-school programming to neighborhood middle-school students. The kids typically built four projects during the school year and went on several field trips. It was a very intensive experience. Because of the program's growing success, in the summer of 2005, an advisory board was formed to help grow the program. What emerged was our iconic project, the Lunchbox Boombox.
The Lunchbox Boombox built on one of the programs earlier speaker projects. Those speakers were made of wood, were very heavy and had very expensive components. Something new was needed. Something light and portable and "cool". That something grew out of an old plastic lunchbox.
The Lunchbox Boombox quickly became our most popular project. It consisted of a vintage 1980s lunchbox with an MP3 player glued to the front and a large speaker mounted inside. Students built a circuit board from scratch with volume control and an amplifier. The sound quality of this system was surprisingly good.
In 2005-2006 we recruited University of Minnesota graduate student volunteers to help with our program. This resulted in a feature article in the University's alumni magazine. Tronix was on a roll!
The appeal of the Lunchbox Boombox allowed Tronix Team to partner with other youth programs all over the city of Minneapolis. Schools, park programs, libraries and churches began calling to get on the schedule. An instructor was hired to lead the workshop sessions with volunteer help. This led to 335 students completing a Tronix project in 2007.
Then in 2008 Tronix Team was fortunate to get a Vista Volunteer position established for an Associate Program Director. This position was filled by Catalina Carbonell, who soon shifted the program into high gear. More partnerships were established, three additional instructors were hired and two new projects were started. Vista Volunteers continued directing the Tronix Team program through 2013 when the program shifted its primary focus to the public school science classroom and updated the Lunchbox Boombox to an "Ice Cream Bucket Boombox" that uses a students cell/smart phone as an audio source, rather than an MP3 player.
With the help of Carol Davitt, Sanford Middle School 6th Grade science teacher, Tronix Team has brought their curriculum into alignment with Minnesota State Science Standards. What this means is that schools can purchase our Boombox curriculum (includes instruction manual, parts and tools) and teach it as part of their regular classes while satisfying MN State science standards. In addition to Sanford Middle School, our project has been taught at The Mastery School, Andersen Community School, and Trinity First Lutheran.
Currently, Tronix Team offers three different projects: the Ice Cream Bucket Boombox, a Japanese Lantern (using LED dimmable lights and velum panels) and a Digit Counter.