Category Archives: Accomplishments

Newton South’s DaVinci Program Launches for Sophomores

The Newton South HS Lion’s Roar has published an article on the launch of DaVinci, the school’s flexible, interdisciplinary STEAM program that started for a cohort of sophomores last week.  The students will study Biochemistry (over two years), Theory of Creativity, and a new Math 2 course — all in an open, project-based, collaborative environment.  Lab space, including movable furniture and whiteboards, was funded by the Newton Schools Foundation and the PTSO.  Each year, as students progress through the program, another cohort of sophomores will be added.

Chuck Hurwitz Retires from LigerBots, the FIRST Team He Founded

The Newton TAB reports that Chuck Hurwitz has retired from the his position as head coach of Newton’s award-winning Ligerbots, the FIRST FRC team he created in 2009, spanning both Newton high schools.  He continued to lead the team after he retired as head of the Newton South HS Science Department in 2012.  He now remains on the board of the Latino STEM Alliance and remains committed to helping underprivileged students create FIRST Robotics teams.  Congratulations and many thanks to Coach Hurwitz!

NNHS Wins 1st Place in State Envirothon — Again!

The Newton North HS Envirothon team has once again won first place among 37 teams in the 28th annual statewide Envirothon competition, held last week on the shores of Quabbin Reservoir.  Team members each focused on specific categories of the competition, answering written questions and participating in hands-on activities at four eco-stations, and making a 15-minute presentation at the Current Issue station:

  • Soils (1st Place):  Kavish Gandhi, Lucy Lu, Rudy Gelb-Bicknell
  • Forestry (1st Place):  Kavish Gandhi, Rudy Gelb-Bicknell, Lucy Lu,
  • Wildlife (1st Place):  Kaija Gahm, Iris Liao, Jessica Chen
  • Water (3rd Place):  Bowen He, Amy Huang, Kirby Broderick
  • Current Issue: Climate Change (3rd Place):  Kaija Gahm, Kavish Gandhi, Bowen He, Amy Huang, Iris Liao

Newton South HS fielded a team for this competition this year for the first time, winning 3rd place in Soils, 3rd place in the Current Issues presentation, and 5th place in Forestry.  Congratulations to both teams! Continue reading

NSHS and NNHS Math Teams: 3rd and 4th in New England

On May 1, the Newton South HS and Newton North HS Math Teams placed third and fourth, respectively, among all large high schools in the New England Association of Mathematics Leagues Annual Tournament, behind Acton-Boxborough and Lexington.   Teams were invited to this regional championship based on their performance in state competitions (in which Newton South HS tied for second).  Ethan Xu was recognized for his perfect individual-round score of 18, while Bahvik Nagda and Captain Jason Ma were recognized for their scores of 17 and 15, respectively.  Other team members participating were Captain Jae Seung Lee, Andrew Shaughnessy, Zhe Wu, Evan Zeng, and James Rao.

NSHS-Math-Team-May-2015Newton South HS Math Team

The Newton North Team included four seniors — Captains Anna Ellison and Kavish Gandhi, Julia Feinstein, and Bill Shen — who were part of the team that won the same NEAML meet in 2012, when these students were freshmen. This year, Kavish Gandhi was recognized for earning a perfect 18 on his individual rounds, and Julia Feinstein was recognized for her score of 14. Other members of the team were sophomores Christina Cong and Daniel Kleber and freshmen Alex Park and Tony Sun. The Newton North team is unusual among the top teams in the NEAML for having three or four girls on its team each time it competed in the last five years. The exceptional composition of this team was recognized in the Math Prize for Girls blog.

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  Prospective volunteer instructors should contact David Miller at

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.

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:

LigerBots Qualify for World Championships — and Need YOUR $upport to Get There

LigerBots-at-WPI-2015At the FIRST New England Championships this week, the Newton LigerBots qualified in two different ways to advance to the World Championships in St. Louis, April 22-25.

This is a big deal — and this is where YOU come in.  The LigerBots need your financial support to proceed to the World Championships.  It takes significant funding to get the team — and its 6-foot-tall robot — to St. Louis for the competition.  The LigerBots are a city-wide team (LigerBots = Newton South LIons + Newton North tiGERs + roBOTs) that does so much for STEM in Newton.  In fact, that’s exactly why they have won the coveted Chairman’s Award at both District and Regional levels:  The Chairman’s Award honors the team that best embodies the purpose and goals of FIRST, including promoting STEM in the community.  The LigerBots excel at this.  If you value STEM, please make a tax-deductible donation to help bring this team to the World Championships!

See these two short videos from this week’s New England Championships, showing why the LigerBots are winners:

Please honor their achievements with your contribution.