Robotics in the news

Spoede Robotics

A Westminster student with Spoede Elementary students

Dozens of robotics teams from the St. Louis area came together recently to compete for a chance to not only win, but move to the next level of competition.

At the high school level, 11 high school teams competed in the FIRST® Tech Challenge. Teams of students are responsible for designing, building and programming their robots to compete in an alliance format against other teams.

The Mesons from Eureka High will advance to the Missouri State Championship, as they were part of the winning alliance in the final rounds.

Other teams from Eureka High took home awards for their efforts as well.

The Bosons were awarded the PTC Design Award – recognizing design elements of the robot that are both functional and aesthetic. The PTC Design Award is presented to teams that incorporate industrial design elements into their solution.

The Quarks were the Think Award winners. The Think Award is given to the team that best reflects the journey the team took as they experienced the engineering design process.

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The Cyborg Cats, Westminster Christian Academy’s FIRST® Robotics team, was recently awarded a $5,000 grant from The Monsanto Fund.

The funds, submitted directly to the FIRST organization on behalf of the Cyborg Cats, will help the team compete at 2016 FIRST Robotics Regional Competitions in St. Louis and Cincinnati.

The application included descriptions of the team’s mission and goals, the impact of FIRST Robotics on Westminster’s students, and the team’s dedication to serving a wider community. A clear explanation of the team’s history, organizational structure, season schedule, proven community impact, and details of how the team will utilize the financial support to achieve the mission of FIRST Robotics also were required as part of the application process.

Westminster was selected and specifically recognized for implementing a season timeline and work schedule that makes the FIRST Robotics experience accessible to a diverse group of their students. The scope of the team’s student leadership and the team’s emphasis on community outreach also were considered during the application evaluation.

“We are so thankful for this generous grant,” Lisa Harding, director of Westminster’s robotics program, said. “In our FIRST Robotics program, we are seeing our students discover their passions, be inspired to pursue careers in science and technology, and gain valuable insights into business disciplines. The Monsanto Fund’s investment in FIRST will have a genuine impact on the lives of our team members.”

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Westminster Christian Academy seniors serving at Spoede Elementary for Faith in Action, the school’s senior service program, recently spent a Saturday morning coaching Spoede students at Hazelwood East Middle for the FIRST® Robotics Lego League (FLL) qualifying competition.

This year’s FLL challenge, Trash Trek, has children ages 9 to 16 all around the world exploring the topic of trash – from collection to sorting to reuse. Teams include no more than 10 children supervised by two adult coaches. Everyone on the team works together to program a robot to solve a problem and score points during the game.

This school year marks the first time Spoede students competed in the FLL, aided by a group of Westminster seniors who met with the Spoede students each Thursday morning in preparation for the competition.

“The Westminster students initially taught the Spoede students to program the EV3 robots, and they led them all the way through the robotics portion of the First Lego League. The Westminster students were there every week to help them problem solve and work through any issues that came up,” said Kathie Dolan, gifted teacher at Spoede Elementary.

Mentorship during the competition can be difficult. The pressure and desire to succeed can supersede the more reserved approach of simply encouraging and supporting the younger teams. “It’s easy for mentors to become too crazy and competitive and end up doing all of the programming for the younger students,” said Dolan. “But the Westminster students never acted that way. They let the Spoede kids make decisions and simply supported them and encouraged their ideas. They offered the perfect amount of support, which I thought was very mature.”

For Westminster senior Matthew Rush, the mentorship aspect of his senior service at Spoede Elementary is his favorite part of the program. “It’s awesome to teach kids about something that you’re passionate about,” he said. “I can’t really think of a better fit for my senior service.”

Local teachers receive National Board Certification

In Rockwood, seven teachers have achieved their National Board Certification this fall.

The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards improves teaching and student learning. National Board Certified Teachers are highly accomplished educators who meet high and rigorous standards.

The following Rockwood teachers are now in the group of 126 National Board Certified Teachers in Rockwood, one of the largest in the state: Julie Adams, LaSalle Springs Middle; Emily Benner, Lafayette High; Bridget Brady, Kellison Elementary; Michele Doerhoff, Marquette High; Carrie Hall, Lafayette High; Tracie Summerville, Rockwood Summit High and Melissa Zemann, Marquette High.

Darlene Wagner, art teacher at Wren Hollow Elementary, also has National Board Certified teacher status.

A National Board Teaching Certificate is valid for 10 years with the opportunity to renew certification thereafter.

The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards is recognized as the source for the highest standards and practices that lead to improved teaching, leading and learning. The voluntary program is designed to develop, retain and recognize accomplished teachers, and to embed ongoing school improvement in schools nationwide.

National Board Certification is achieved through performance-based assessment and testing that can take three years to complete.

Holiday card contest winner hails from Eureka Elementary

Jillian Smith

Jillian Smith pictured with her winning card submission

The St. Louis District Dairy Council challenged Missouri and Illinois students to get into the holiday spirit and display their creativity in the 4th Annual Merry Dairy Holiday Card Contest.

More than 1,390 students rose to the challenge by submitting their dairy-themed drawings, with the hopes of their artwork being selected as the organization’s holiday card.

Eureka Elementary student Jillian Smith put a lot of planning into her design and was chosen as one of three winners.

Her design was featured on the 2015 St. Louis District Dairy Council holiday cards. Smith received a set of holiday cards to send to friends and family, along with a premium gift basket.

“It is really exciting that I won,” Smith said. “I like that I got to share the cards with my family.”

Westminster student awarded full four-year scholarship 

Rebecca Liu


Westminster Christian Academy senior, Rebecca Liu was recently awarded a full four-year academic scholarship to Rice University through the QuestBridge program. Liu was among the top 3 percent of QuestBridge student applicants to receive a full scholarship.

“Rebecca is an amazing and bright young woman who has taken advantage of so many opportunities at Westminster and in the St. Louis area,” said Kate Kindbom, Westminster college and career counselor. “She is so deserving, and I am thrilled that the QuestBridge program and Rice University have both recognized this.”

QuestBridge is an online service that provides a platform to connect the nation’s brightest youth with leading institutions of higher education. The program links students to scholarship providers, enrichment programs, employers and organizations to facilitate opportunities for students to excel despite obstacles.

This year’s competition for a four-year scholarship through QuestBridge was competitive. Nationwide, 13,264 students applied to the program. In November, Liu was selected as a QuestBridge finalist and matched with Rice University. She received a four-year academic scholarship, valued in excess of $250,000.

“It feels really unreal right now – having received this scholarship – just because the field was so competitive,” said Liu. “I feel honored to have received it though, and I’m very excited to attend Rice. It was my No. 1 choice.”

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