Tronix Team is a program of the non-profit Park Avenue Youth and Family Services (PAYFS). It was founded in 1995 by Steve Birth and originally called Inventor’s Corner, running its 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 include building wooden bridges 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 and, finally, with the new millennium, the program rebranded itself as Tronix Team.
The first ten years of our program were 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 Tronix Team on their schedules. An instructor was hired to lead the workshop sessions with volunteer help and, in 2007, 335 students completed a Tronix project.
In 2008 Tronix Team was fortunate to get an AmeriCorps VISTA (Volunteers In Service to America) position established for an Associate Program Director. The position was filled by Catalina Carbonell who 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 we saw an opportunity to expand our reach by partnering with middle-school science classrooms. At this time the Lunchbox Boombox was retooled into the "Ice Cream Bucket Boombox" which used a more economical one-gallon ice cream bucket to encase the electronics and speaker. We also re-engineered the circuit board to utilize a student's smart phone rather than an MP3 player for the audio input.
With the help of Carol Davitt, Sanford Middle School 6th Grade science teacher, Tronix Team brought their curriculum into alignment with Minnesota State Science Standards. Schools can now purchase our Boombox curriculum (instruction manual, parts and tools) and use it to satisfy many of the 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: Ice Cream Bucket Boombox, Art Lamp (using LED dimmable lights and velum panels) and Digit Counter.