Category Archives: Accomplishments

Unruly Splats: More than Half-way to its Kickstarter Goal

In less than a week since Unruly Studios launched its Kickstarter campaign for Unruly Splats, the campaign is more than halfway to its goal.  Deadline is November 3.

LigerBots Announce Winners of Their 3D Printing Contest

The LigerBots — Newton’s FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) team spanning both high schools — hosted a 3D printing contest for other FRC teams worldwide.  It was open to anyone using 3D-printed parts for a robotics project but was aimed primarily at FRC teams that used 3D printing in building their robots for the 2017 FRC season.

1st Place:  FRC Team 2702 – the Rebels of Ontario, Canada for using 3D printing for nearly all the parts for their robot.

2nd Place:  FRC Team 2079 – 4H ALARM Robotics from Franklin, Massachusetts for creating a low-cost, light-weight ramp with extensions for adjusting its length.

3rd Place: FRC Team 207 – METALCRAFTERS from Hawthorne, California for using an iterative design process and 3D printing to create a climbing mechanism.

New Curriculum: Newton Middle-School Students Program in Scratch to Create Games for Teaching Earth Science

Eighth-grade Earth Science teachers at two Newton middle schools — F. A. Day and Brown — have been testing a new curriculum, Building Systems from Scratch, that empowers students to use the Scratch programming environment to create games that teach climate science. The curriculum, developed by researchers at TERC (Technical Education Research Centers), covers 20 hours of instruction and is aligned with both Massachusetts science education standards and CSTA standards for computer science. As shown in this video, students work in pairs on programming, do independent research on climate science, and engage in “design studio” critique sessions. Assessments are showing that this curriculum based on game design yields benefits in students’ understanding of both climate science and computational thinking.

Michelle Fox (8th Grade Science teacher at Brown) said, “The kids were really engaged with this project! They came out of it understanding the implications of climate change and our collective responsibility in mitigating its effects. The broader learning goal to the project — to help students understand systems thinking, with its balancing and reinforcing feedback loops — was very different from how I’d ever presented the material before. As a teacher and an adult learner, I really appreciated that shift in focus and will continue to use it. I also had a great time learning Scratch along with the kids!”

Newton’s other two middle schools, Bigelow and Oak Hill, will begin using the Building Systems from Scratch curriculum next year.

LigerBots Compete in ‘BattleCry’ and Get Ready for Beantown Blitz

This weekend the LigerBots participated in the two-day “Battlecry” post-season FIRST competition at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, ending the Qualifying Rounds ranked 8th of 59 teams with a 6-2-0 record. The team was also awarded the Distinguished Controls award, a Judge’s Award for inspired robot-operator interaction as demonstrated through interface and programming excellence.  The team plans to compete in one more post-season competition, Beantown Blitz, on June 24 at Revere High School.  It’s free and open to the public.

A Very Successful Bowen Elementary Science Day!

At Bowen Elementary School today, 200 students in Grades K-5, on 125 teams, presented amazing projects at their Science Day.  The PTO provided posterboard, online resources, encouragement in the weeks beforehand, and a low-stress, cooperative environment for exploration, inquiry, and presentation.  Parent scientists visited with each team to engage them in the results of their work, and each exhibit had comment forms for visitors. Also exhibiting were the LigerBots, Green Newton, Destination Imagination, Cambridge Science Festival, Bowen’s BASCP after-school program. Congratulations and thanks to the PTO organizers and school staff.  This is what STEM events can be.

Moody’s Mega Math Challenge: Both NSHS Teams in Top 8% Nationwide

In its second year participating Moody’s Mega Math Challenge, Newton South HS fielded two teams, each team earning an Honorable Mention (and $1000) and placing in the top 90 of 1,121 teams nationwide.  Congratulations to students…

  • Bhavik Nagda, James Rao, Erik Uhlmann, Jason Crowley, Varun Mann
  • Ayush Upnega, Yifan Xu, Evan Zeng, Anna Dietrich, Bhairavi Chandersekhar

In this nationwide competition, sponsored by The Moody’s Foundation and organized by The Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics, teams conduct research, analysis, and mathematical modeling to produce a 20-page research paper for grading by a panel of judges — all in a single 14-hour period.  This year’s challenge — “From Sea to Shining Sea: Looking Ahead with the National Park Service” — called for the building of three mathematical models of the impact of climate change on the national parks:

  • Gauge the risk of sea level change
  • Assign a vulnerability score to particular locations on the coast
  • Predict long-term changes in visitors to various coastal national parks

LigerBots Win Entrepreneurship and Coaching Awards at RI District Competition

The Newton LigerBots won the FIRST Entrepreneurship Award at the FIRST District Competition at Bryant University in Rhode Island this weekend. This award recognizes the team’s “comprehensive business plan … to define, manage and achieve the team’s objectives” and “entrepreneurial enthusiasm and the vital business skills to ensure a self-sustaining program.”

Also, long-time LigerBots coach John Fitzpatrick was selected to receive the RI District Competition’s prestigious Woodie Flowers Finalist Award, which “celebrates effective communication in the art and science of engineering and design.” (At the end of the season, the worldwide Woodie Flowers Award will be selected at the FIRST Championship from among the Finalist Award recipients from each Regional or District Competition.)

In this weekend’s competition, the LigerBots were able to win a spot in an alliance for the quarter-finals but did not advance to the semi-finals.

Mass. Science Olympiad Results: NSHS #2, NNHS #3 Statewide

Congratulations to the Newton South HS Science Team and the Newton North HS Science Team for placing second and third, respectively, among 54 high schools in the Massachusetts Science Olympiad held at Framingham State University on March 18.  Each team competed in 26 events throughout the all-day event. Acton-Boxborough placed first, as it has since 2009, when Newton North last came out on top.

Note: This post originally showed the places of NNHS and NSHS reversed, based on the report of preliminary scores. It has been corrected to reflect final scores. Hearty congratulations remain in place for both teams!

In the last ten years, a Newton high school has always placed in one of the top three positions in the Massachusetts Science Olympiad, and in five of those years, both Newton high schools have done so. Newton middle schools, however, have not (yet!) participated in the middle-school Science Olympiads. Middle schools interested in entering the competition next year should contact State Director Brian Niece at

10 Newton Teams Compete in Destination Imagination Regionals, 3 Progress to States

Destination Imagination is a creative problem-solving competition for K-12 students worldwide that is growing in Newton. Participants gain skills in arts, STEM, project management, risk taking, and critical thinking. Last week, ten DI teams from Newton competed against 60 other teams (500 students in all) in the Metrowest regional tournament at Natick Middle School.  Six of the Newton teams placed in the top 3 for one or more of the various challenges they faced, and three Newton teams placed well enough to compete in the State Tournament at Worcester Polytechnic Institute on April 1.

Over 350 Newton students, in 11 Newton schools, have participated in DI since it was started in Newton six years ago by Matthew Miller, who is now Regional Director of the Boston Metrowest region.  The Newton team show above won 8th place in the world last year! Learn more about participating — or volunteering — at the Massachusetts DI site or email

LigerBots Win “Gracious Professionalism” Award at FIRST District Qualifier

The Newton LigerBots competed this week in the FIRST District Qualifying Event at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, where they won the Gracious Professionalism Award for outstanding sportsmanship and continuous gracious professionalism, in the heat of competition, both on and off the field of play. Johnson & Johnson sponsors this award at each FIRST event to recognize the team best exemplifying the principles of FIRST – fairness, humility, sharing, and persevering – and a winning attitude. The judges at WPI noted that “Gracious Professionalism can be used in any aspect of life, not just at a FIRST competition.” Citing the op-ed column the LigerBots wrote last year on good sportsmanship and respect, the judges said, “This team is what FIRST is all about. No matter if they are on the playing field, or out in the community, ‘working together’ is the theme of this team.”

This was the LigerBots’ first competition of the 2017 season, and these early competitions provide an opportunity to test the robot ways that are simply impossible during the short schedule for designing and building. On Day One of this competition, the team identified design flaws, then worked overnight to pinpoint and correct those flaws. That resulted in the LigerBots’ first competitive climb up a Velcro rope for bonus points in the Steamworks game.

The LigerBots returned to Newton with a list of items that need work before they compete at Bryant University in Rhode Island March 25 and 26All are welcome to come watch and cheer!