Category Archives: Accomplishments

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!

Newton South Wins West Suburban Science League Tournament

The West Suburban Science League hosts an annual tournament of five monthly events for 20 high-school teams in the Metro-West Boston area.  This year, Newton South HS’s Science Team came in first place (with 51 points), with Acton-Boxborough (81 points) in second place and Belmont (97 points) in third place. Next up:  the Massachusetts Science Olympiad on March 18.

HMS MEDscience Comes to Newton — and Summer Applications Open Feb. 1

HMS MEDscience is a nonprofit that educates and inspires high-school students of all backgrounds in STEM fields. The main mission of MEDscience is under-served populations, but it also runs in several suburban and private schools. Started in 2008 at Harvard Medical School, it now reaches over 1,000 students a year in semester-long courses in 15 area high schools as well as in nine one-week summer immersion sessions. MEDscience incorporates hands-on, real-life, field-based experiences with intensive instruction. Its Executive Director is Newton resident Julie Joyal, a nurse with a Master’s in Education who developed MEDscience’s semester-long course and has taught it for several years at Brookline HS.

Applications will be open February 1 – March 31 for students currently in Grades 9-12 in public, private, and suburban schools to attend one of nine one-week summer sessions (June 12 – August 25, except August 1-5). It’s a non-residential program (9AM-4PM) on the Harvard Medical School campus, and tuition is on a sliding scale.

Suzy Drurey, Justin Owumi, and Maya Dennis

Inspired by her own experience in the summer program last year, Newton South HS student Maya Dennis invited HMS MEDscience to present an interactive training session to over 35 students in Aspirations in Medicine, an after-school club that Maya and Senait Efrem started with faculty advisor Suzy Drurey.  The session included diagnosis of simulated problems via Q&A with an emergency-room “patient” as well as practicing endotracheal intubation on medical-simulation mannequins. The meeting concluded with Justin Owumi relating his path in health care and his experience in medical school. Justin was a student of Ms. Drurey at the O’Bryant High School in Boston, where she taught at the time. He attended the summer HMS MEDscience program six years ago and is now a student at Tufts Medical School.

Maya’s review of the summer program:  “Life-changing, absolutely amazing, never a dull moment. Learned something new every day. Diverse student backgrounds, career-wise and culturally. So many passionate experts to teach us.”

The semester-long MEDscience program offers an engaging way to teach human-body biology and is easily integrated into classes in Anatomy, Physiology, AP Biology, Biology, or Health.  There’s a possibility that Newton South may offer this curriculum as a regular class in the future.

And MEDscience is now talking with Newton North HS teacher Jodie Cohen about scheduling a visit for Newton North students to visit MEDscience’s simulation laboratory on the Harvard Medical School campus.  Newton North students who have participated in the summer program include Despite Georgiadis, Jake Fallon, and Matt Davis Morin.

LigerBots Excel at Hosting Eastern Mass. FLL Championship

The LigerBots did an amazing job hosting the FIRST Lego League (FLL) Eastern Massachusetts Championship on December 17 at Newton North HS.  Forty-seven FLL teams that qualified for the event braved the snowy weather for a day of robotics challenges, research presentations, Gracious Professionalism, and Coopertition.  Four FLL teams from Newton competed:  Block Party, the ‘Botanists, the Day Dragons, and the Snowy Owls.  The ‘Botanists achieved 2nd place in Robot Strategy and Innovation, and Block Party won 2nd place for Gracious Professionalism.  Coaches, students, and parents from across the region reported that this was the best-run FLL event they had attended.  It takes a lot of careful planning and dedicated effort by all on the high-school LigerBots, before and during the championship, to make a successful and memorable STEM event for hundreds of middle-school students.  Congratulations and thanks!

MassBay Students Place 4th in National Cyber League Competition

The MassBay Community College student cyber security team — Paul Buonopane (Medfield),  Andrew Liberatore (Franklin), David Dew (Wellesley), Chester Moses (Framingham), Timothy Ferguson (Marlboro), Corey Skinner (Clinton), and Fred Dolan (Newton) — placed 4th out of 144 teams nationwide in the 2016 National Cyber League Competition.  MassBay now offers both Association of Science degrees and Certificates in Cyber Security.

Local High-School Students Organize MAHacks Hackathon at MIT

mahacks2016Yesterday MAHacks sponsored a Local Hack Day at MIT’s Stata Center, organized by five high-school students — Aman of Needham and Anisha of Weston (in photo) along with Midori of Newton, Izzy of Weston, and Justin from Winchester — coached by Danielle Rusn of MIT’s CSAIL.  High school students from Andover, Quincy, Revere, Waltham, and other communities participated in the day that started early in the morning and ran until 10PM. Greer Swiston reports that as early as 9AM on a Saturday morning, the lecture hall was nearly full of high-school students listening to kickoff presentations about technology innovators who began their signature technology work when they were teenagers.  “The message was clear: You are never too young to change the world.  It just requires opportunity, time, and a lot of hard work.” What these high-school students — the organizers and all participants in the event — have accomplished is quite impressive. A larger hackathon is being planned for the spring.