A FIRST: LigerBots Reach Quarter-Finals at FRC World Championship

For the first time in their history, the LigerBots made it to the quarter-final rounds of the FIRST Robotics Competition World Championship.  At the event this week in St. Louis, the team finished 8th in its division and led an alliance with teams from Wyndham, NH and Enfield, CT in the quarter-finals.  To learn more about the excellence behind the LigerBots’ success, be sure read the application that won them the Regional Chairman’s Award (PDF).  Congratulations to an accomplished — and exhausted — team for a terrific season!

‘Girls Who Code’ in Newton: Successful First Year and Future Expansion

The Newton Girls Who Code club is winding up a very successful first year in Newton and planning to expand next year.  Laurie Finkielsztein, a Newton resident and junior at Gann Academy, started the club, inspired by her experience at the 7-week Girls Who Code immersion program at Twitter/Cambridge last summer.  She contacted Liz Rowland, teen librarian at the Newton Free Library, who recruited Google software engineer David Miller as volunteer instructor for the Newton after-school sessions.  When 37 girls came to the third meeting last October, they divided into two sections, each meeting two hours a week to learn computer science and create projects using the Girls Who Code curriculum.

Throughout the school year, they created video games and computer-aided art; built apps for phones and mobile web browsers; and studied cryptography and artificial intelligence. Newton’s club has been featured in GigaOm, the Google Cloud Platform blog, and the Newton TAB.  This spring, they met for an afternoon with Harvard’s Women in Science club.  In May, their final projects will tackle real-world community problems, and this summer two students will attend the Girls Who Code summer immersion program.

GirlsWhoCodeLaurie says, “I’ve been so surprised at how excited these girls are.  They don’t feel that coding is nerdy.  We’re changing that stereotype by starting young.  They see that coding is one of the coolest things you’ll get to do.  It’s the closest thing to having super-powers.  It’s a skill that can be applied to anything.  It teaches you a new way to think.”

GirlsWhoCode-HarvardNewton GWC aims to expand its offerings next school year, with more sections and new technologies (3D printing, Raspberry Pi).  A family information session will be held at the Newton Free Library, Wednesday, September 16 at 7PM.  Club meetings will start in early October.  For more information, prospective students should contact Liz Rowland at lrowland@minlib.net.  Prospective volunteer instructors should contact David Miller at newtongwc@gmail.com.

Horace Mann Teacher, Lisa Mikus, Wins State Math Teaching Award

At Math Educators’ Night at Fenway Park two weeks ago, Lisa Mikus, Grade 4 teacher at Horace Mann Elementary School, received the Rev. Stanley J. Bezuszka, S.J. Achievement Award for Mathematics Teaching and Learning, which honors excellence in teaching mathematics.  It’s presented each year by the Association of Teachers of Mathematics in Massachusetts.  Congratulations to a Newton star!

Mass. State Science & Engineering Fair at MIT, May 2

On May 2, 12:30-3PM, the Massachusetts State Science and Engineering Fair will showcase more than more than 300 of the “best of the best” high-school science fair research and design projects from across the state, at the Johnson Athletics Center at MIT.  Topics include:  When Life Gives You Lemons:  Building a Better EpiPen,  LED to a New Light:  Tracking a Golf Ball Using Blue Tooth,  Artificial Pancreas Circuit Model:  Turn Milk Into Plastic, and Music Learning & Impact on Cognition.  $500,000 worth of scholarships and prizes will be awarded at a ceremony at 3:30PM.

Register for Clay Center ‘Family Night Under the Stars,’ May 9

The Clay Center and the Amateur Telescope Makers of Boston will host Family Night Under the Stars at Dexter Southfield School in Brookline on May 9, starting at 4:30PM.  The Observatory will be open 5-9PM.  Galileo will speak.  Amateur telescopes will be on display, along with a telescope clinic, R2D2, a Wookie, Segway rides, kite flying, model rockets, HAM radio demonstrations, NASA ambassadors, and other stuff.  Most events are free, but laser and planetarium shows will be $5 each.  Register online.

Mass. STEM Summit — Call for Sessions and Exhibits

The 2015 Massachusetts STEM Summit will be held on November 10 at DCU Center in Worcester.  Proposals for sessions or exhibits may be submitted until May 1 for any of these themes:  Career Awareness & Workforce Development, Digital Education, Early Education, K-12 Education, Higher Education (2-year or 4-year), Innovation & Entrepreneurship, Out-of-School Time, or Research and Practice.

Ingenious LigerBots Solve #FIRSTWorld[championship]Problem

Having qualified for the FIRST Robotics Competition’s World Championship in St. Louis just ten days before the event (April 22-25), the LigerBots confronted another problem:  How to get 47 award-winning teammates, coaches, and mentors — plus 1 robot and assorted equipment — to St. Louis, with absolutely no buses available from the companies approved by Newton Public Schools?  A week of meetings, brainstorming, lobbying, and collaboration with NPS led to a solution:  A caravan of five mini-vans, two cars, plus two trailers hauling 2000 lbs. of gear — driven by parents/coaches/mentors for the 2400-mile round-trip — while some others will make the trip by air.  Yet another example of the LigerBots’ gracious professionalism and coopertition:  The LigerBots are helping another Boston-area team by transporting some large equipment for them.  Here’s how you can participate:

Bring Your Kid to MassBio Day, April 23

Employees of organizations that are members of MassBio may register online to bring their children (8-12 years old) to Bring Your Kid to MassBio Day, an event coordinated with Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day, April 23.  This event, open only to employees of MassBio member organizations, will be held at MassBio headquarters, starting with breakfast and independent activities at 9AM, followed by a Jello experiment conducted by MassBioEd at 10AM, and ending at 10:30AM.

EcoTarium: Vacation Week Activities & Earth Day Celebration, Apr. 24

The EcoTarium (222 Harrington Way, Worcester) offers vacation-week activities, April 21-24, 10AM-5PM.  The museum shop features snap circuit kits, brainteasers, logic games, and Steve Spangler science kits.  For its Earth Day Celebration on Friday, April 24, 10AM-4PM, the EcoTarium offers special activities, planetarium shows, and half-price admission to the museum.

Einstein’s Workshop: Sci-Chess on Sundays for Grades 4-8

Einstein’s Workshop in Burlington is offering Sci-Chess — a six-week, interactive, high-energy program combining chess with STEM.  Players of all abilities in Grades 4-8 are welcome.  Classes are led by 1995 United States Women’s Chess Champion, Sharon Ellen Burtman, and meet Sundays at 3:45PM, May 3-June 14.  Cost is $171.25.  Register online.