Registration Now Open for Community Education’s Winter Cheer Camp

Registration is now open for Winter Cheer Camp for boys and girls in grades K-6.  Disney-themed performances will be led by the RHS cheerleaders, Coach Alyssa Tomillo, and Assistant Coach Anja Felton.  Practices are January 14th and 15th at Sunset Ridge Intermediate gym, and the performance is on January 16th during halftime at the RHS Boys Basketball game.  Registration deadline is 12:00 Noon on January 13th at https://ridge.revtrak.net.  Presented by Ridgefield Community Education.

Annual Superintendent’s Spudder Alumni Luncheon Set for January 24th

Attention all Ridgefield High School alumni!  You are cordially invited to the annual Superintendent’s Spudder Alumni Luncheon on Friday, January 24th at 12pm at the Ridgefield Administrative & Civic Center (RACC).  Please RSVP to Dani Taylor at danielle.taylor@ridgefieldsd.org.  We hope you will attend!

“Right Before Your Eyes” Interactive Exhibit Raises Vaping Awareness for Parents

A special interactive event is coming to Ridgefield to help raise awareness about youth vaping and other substance abuse.  Adults and parents will have the opportunity to walk through a mock adolescent bedroom to see if they can detect signs of vaping and substance abuse activity.

“Vape 101:  What Every Parent Should Know” will equip parents and guardians with critical information about the rising incidence of vaping in young adults.  The event is scheduled for Tuesday, January 14th from 6:00 pm – 7:30 pm at the RHS Performing Arts Center.  It opens with the exhibit, followed by a presentation, panel discussion and Question & Answer session.

The event is presented by Prevent Together: Battle Ground Prevention Alliance, in partnership with Ridgefield School District.

Clark County Green Schools Teaches Kids About Sustainability

It’s not often that a presentation starts with a story about a one-eyed, one-winged, one-legged chicken.  But Will Hornyak, a professional storyteller, grabbed the attention of every kid in the room as he hopped, flapped, and crowed on stage.  The story about the Adventures of Medio Pollito (half chicken) helped him teach Union Ridge Elementary students to be more aware of the environment.

The program was part of a Clark County Green Schools program educating students on sustainability.  But instead of stern warnings, Hornyak’s environmental messages came wrapped in a fun package.  It was easy to remember the things Medio Pollito taught them.  The interactive story had costumes, audience participation, call and response, and so much entertainment that the students may not have even realized they were learning new ways to care better for the environment.  Even small changes add up to a big difference, Hornyak told them—like the food composting and recycling students were already doing.

Ridgefield schools have food waste composting and recycling available in all school cafeterias.  Rather than throwing everything away at the end of a meal, students divide waste into compostable food, recyclable products, and trash.  It’s second nature now for students to sort the items on their lunch trays.  And statistics show that the program is making a difference.  Across Clark County, schools recycle 2,000,000 pounds of material each year, and 1,600,000 pounds of food waste is sent to compost.

Storyteller Will Hornyak gets audience members to help tell the story of Medio Pollito.

 

The whole room participated, making a forest of trees with limbs swaying in the breeze.

The story of Medio Pollito gave even more ways for students to help.  As the little chicken hopped across the kingdom to meet the king, he planted trees to shelter the stream, keeping it clean and cool for the fish and other animals.  When he got to the river, it was too dirty from candy wrappers discarded on the playground, soap suds from cars being washed on driveways, and even dog poop (saying “dog poop” to a room full of elementary school students is a guaranteed big laugh).  The chicken told the people to keep the river cleaner.

When the chicken was captured by the king’s cook, he was able to escape with the help of his new friends:  the stream, the river, and the animals.  Then the wind came to carry him up to where he couldn’t be reached, atop a weather vane, where he served the whole kingdom, keeping a watchful eye on the people and telling them all the good things they were doing for the environment.

Hornyak told the students how they could help the environment like Medio Pollito:  planting trees, throwing away trash, recycling, composting, washing things with less soap, reusing items, and even picking up dog poop (another big laugh).  So what do elementary school students have in common with a one-eyed, one-winged, one-legged chicken?  Maybe more than you think.  These students are ready to teach the rest of us, just like Medio Pollito, to make the world a better place.

South Ridge Students Build Tiny (Gingerbread) Houses

The kindergarten students pressed their noses up against the classroom window.  When they saw how the room had changed while they were at recess, their mouths dropped open.  The tables were covered with dozens of bowls of candy, and tiny graham cracker houses were everywhere.  “Can we come in now?” they pleaded.

The kindergarteners filed in first, and there were gasps of excitement when they saw candy everywhere.  “Do not go to your tables yet!  Don’t touch anything yet,” teacher Holly Gasca said, leading the distracted kids into a single file line.

The third-grade buddies entered the classroom next.  They went to sit on the carpet.  There were a few waves and smiles as students recognized each other across the room.  Then there was an agonizingly long wait (a couple of minutes) while their teachers talked.

Third-grade teacher Kristen Paradis gave them the rules:  No eating candy while you are here.  When you get home, you can ask your parents if you can have some.  Don’t eat the house part though, because it is made from graham crackers glued to milk cartons.  Share the bowls of candy and frosting with everyone at your table.  No playing with the frosting, because it’s sticky.  And try not to lick your fingers.  The students nodded quickly, excited to start the project.

There were only a couple of questions before they started.  One student asked, “How does the candy stay on?”  Their teacher explained it’s not like normal frosting, it’s more like cement, so it hardens and holds the candy in place.

Another hand went up.  “Is there enough for everyone to do one?”  Yes, they each got to make their own candy houses.  But third graders still needed to help their kindergarten buddies.  A kindergartener happily said, “They always help us with projects!”

It was finally time to start.  Gasca and Paradis passed out bowls of frosting and craft sticks, as the students worked together to build the candy houses.  Their classroom buddy program was going well—and it all started because Gasca and Paradis were buddies first.

South Ridge Elementary kindergarten and third grade buddies listen to the rules before starting.

The kindergarten and third grade buddies get ready to make gingerbread houses together.

Students used bowls of sticky icing to glue the candies to the houses.

Gasca and Paradis both started out as kindergarten teachers at South Ridge Elementary School.   “We really bonded,” Gasca said.  “When Kristen moved to third grade, we said, ‘We should do kinderbuddies!’”  Now the classes have worked together on projects that include STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) concepts, reading, and even kindness.

The students love the program.  They meet one or two times a month.  “Almost every Friday, they ask if we have buddies today,” Paradis laughed.  “And if I say yes, they peek out the door to see if they’re coming.”

The third graders and kindergarteners loaded their colorful houses with more and more candy, until they verged on being structurally unsound.  “One more on top!” a kindergartener sang.  And his third-grade buddy helped him balance the candy on the last empty bit of roof.  “Thanks!  You’re a great buddy!” the kindergartener said.  And they shared a very sticky high-five.

Ridgefield School District Schedules Patron Tour on January 9th

Ridgefield School District is scheduling a Patron Tour on Thursday, January 9 from 8:30 am to 11:30 am.  Bus transportation to the schools will be provided.

District and school administrators will lead participants on a tour of all Ridgefield schools.  Stops will include Ridgefield High School, View Ridge Middle School, Sunset Ridge Intermediate School, South Ridge Elementary School, and Union Ridge Elementary School.

“This tour will give citizens an opportunity to visit each of our schools and discuss topics of interest and how they relate to the growth in our district,” said Superintendent Nathan McCann.

Patron Tour participants will meet at the Ridgefield Administrative and Civic Center (RACC) at 510 Pioneer Street in downtown Ridgefield.  Check-in starts at 8:15 am, and a continental breakfast will be provided before the tour.

To register, please send an email to communications@ridgefieldsd.org with your name, contact phone number and the number of participants in your group.

“Ghosted” Opens the Door for Mental Health Awareness

Imagine you are friends with someone, and everything is fine.  Then suddenly, they stop talking to you, calling you, texting you, with no explanation at all—it’s like your relationship never even existed.  That’s ghosting.  And it’s one of the many challenging topics addressed in the play Ghosted.

Kaiser Permanente Educational Theatre Program and the Northwest Children’s Theater presented the one-hour assembly to all Ridgefield High School students.  According to the National Institute of Mental Health, one in every five teenagers lives with a mental health condition, and less than half are receiving the support they need.  Kaiser Permanente’s Educational Theatre Program hopes to reduce the stigma of mental health challenges, to teach healthy coping strategies, and to let students know that it’s okay to ask for help.  The goal is for students to feel that they are not alone.

The play follows four students who are dealing with mental health challenges.  Syd is clinically diagnosed with anxiety.  Andre is dealing with depression.  Liam has anger management issues.  And Kayla is trying to manage stress.  They meet unexpectedly at the school counselor’s office, where they go from being strangers to eventually discussing their issues.  Then they try to determine how to move forward, using coping skills and leaning on each other for support.

“Ghosted” characters Andre, Kayla, Syd and Liam talk in the safe space of an art classroom.

A post-performance question and answer session with the cast and a moderator gave students the chance to discuss the play’s themes.  They offered a range of coping strategies, like breathing exercises, sharing with a trusted adult, immersing yourself in an activity you enjoy, getting exercise, finding a counselor or therapist, removing yourself from stressful situations, and texting the crisis line.

Ridgefield High School students always have access to information about counseling and other resources on the back of their student ID cards.  Counselors, teachers, and administrators also received training guides about Ghosted and are able to provide students with additional support around mental and emotional health.

In addition to in-school resources, Ghosted mentioned two key national resources for additional help, available 24 hours a day/7 days a week:  the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (suicidepreventionlifeline.org) or the Crisis Text line by texting HELLO to 741741 (crisistextline.org).

By modeling strong, positive responses to common mental health challenges, the school hopes to open an ongoing dialogue around mental health and provide multiple paths to help for teens in crisis.  Playwright Trista Baldwin explained, “There are all kinds of ways to ghost, to disconnect abruptly from each other or from life.  Despite the fear of being ghosted, in this play, the characters do the opposite, committing to stay connected.”

Ridgefield High School wants to provide a safe space for students to discuss teen issues.  “I know we talked about some big topics, some heavy topics, and some topics that many of us face,” principal Christen Palmer said after the show.  “We are a Spudder family.  So if you are going through something or if a friend or somebody you know is going through something, you don’t, at your age, need to know how to deal with it all by yourself.  We have our counselors and mental health professionals here on campus, adults who are ready to help.  Get help.  We’re there for each other.  Being part of the Spudder family, that’s what we do for each other.”

Giving Tree Makes Holidays Special for Ridgefield Students

For many families, the holidays are a challenging time of year.  Even small gifts can be out of reach on tight budgets.  The Giving Tree program has provided holiday cheer for hundreds of children in Ridgefield schools each year, matching donors with wish lists from family members.

Giving Trees were set up at every school in the Ridgefield School District School.  Counselors and the Ridgefield Family Resource Center identified families with school age children who could use some assistance in buying gifts.  The students submitted their wishes, and the wishes were written on tags, along with the student’s gender and age.  (Students are never identified by name or any other information; it is anonymous.)   Then donors selected a tag or tags from the Christmas tree at their school.

The Giving Tree at View Ridge Middle School.

The parent teacher organizations at each school offered many hours of volunteer service to collect, match, wrap, store, and distribute the presents.  Each family was able to pick up gifts or have them delivered in time for the holidays.

It was another successful year for the Giving Tree program; each school was able to fill dozens of gift requests.  Union Ridge Elementary School was unusually busy; they received gifts for 377 children.  “We had to refill the tree with new tags four different times,” school counselor Nicky Dunn said.  “The response was amazing.  And it’s all for Union Ridge originated families.  At least one of the kids in the family attends school here, and other tags are for their siblings, because we support all of the kids in the home.”

The Giving Tree is an easy way to make the holidays happier for families in need.  Many thanks to the Ridgefield community for its generosity and holiday spirit.

Giving Tree tags identify gift requests from children.

 

At Union Ridge Elementary, 377 gifts were donated for families in need.

School Safety to be Focus of Bond Workshop Set for January 6th

Ridgefield School District will hold its next School Board Bond Workshop with the community on Monday, January 6th, 5:00-6:30 pm in the Columbia Assembly Room at the Ridgefield Administrative & Civic Center (RACC).  Its primary focus will be on school safety.

The keynote speaker will be Alissa Parker, co-founder of Safe and Sound Schools, an organization founded by parents, educators, and community members of Sandy Hook Elementary School.  Inspired by the children and educators who perished in the December 2012 tragedy, members of Safe and Sound Schools are united in their mission to better protect our schools, provide safe and secure schools, and to help others do the same in their communities.

In memory of her daughter, Emilie, and the other 19 children and six teachers lost at Sandy Hook, Alissa was moved to engage parents in securing the safety of their children in school.  She became an active member of the Newtown Public Schools’ Safety Committee and is passionate about school security and safety, traveling, listening and learning in school communities across the country.  Alissa will share her perspective as a parent, providing unique insight and inspiration for parents, administrators, school staff, emergency responders, and community members who strive to make their schools safer.

Alissa Parker

Chief John Brooks from the Ridgefield Police Department and Chief John Nohr from Clark County Fire & Rescue will also be in attendance to speak to the importance of school safety and the bond.

Please join us for an evening that will provide important information and awareness regarding the safety of students and staff in our schools.  We encourage the entire community to attend.

For more information about Safe and Sound Schools, visit their website at https://www.safeandsoundschools.org.

 

Three Ridgefield Teachers Achieve National Board Certification

The number of teachers in the Ridgefield School District who have achieved National Board Certification is growing.  Earlier this month, the district received confirmation that three additional teachers successfully completed the board certification process.

The district is proud to congratulate the following teachers:

  • Sheila Davis, STEM teacher at View Ridge Middle School, Board-Certified in Career and Technical Education/Early Adolescence through Young Adulthood
  • Courtney Thompson, English Language Arts teacher at View Ridge Middle School, Board-Certified in English Language Arts/Early Adolescence
  • Chelsea Tipton, third grade teacher at South Ridge Elementary School, Board-Certified in Literacy: Reading-Language Arts/Early and Middle Childhood

Qualifying for National Board Certification is rigorous.  To earn the highly-respected designation, teachers are required to engage in a four-part application process that includes a skills test, a portfolio demonstrating an ability to build classroom lessons tailored for individual students, a video showing interactions with students, and self-reflection on their teaching.

Sheila Davis

 

Courtney Thompson

 

Chelsea Tipton

This year, Ridgefield School District was recognized by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards as one of 81 school districts across the country working hard to promote student learning through accomplished teaching.  These districts were named National Board Accomplished Districts for having 20% or more of their teachers who are National Board Certified.

“The focus of National Board certification is always on student learning,” said Deb Ortner, the district’s TOSA for Elementary Professional Development who also mentors a cohort of candidates for National Board certification.  “I’m proud to be a part of a district that holds the National Board Certification program in high regard and understands the impact that a National Board Certified teacher has on his/her students.”

 

Ridgefield Students First to Cross New Wildlife Refuge Bridge for Tree Planting Project

Since 1960, an old, single-lane wooden bridge has carried traffic to the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge.  But now a wide concrete span arcs high above the old bridge, ready to serve the Refuge for decades to come.  And the first vehicle to cross it was a school bus of students from South Ridge Elementary and Ridgefield High School.  The students were on their way to a tree planting project at the River S Unit—but they stopped to do a quick ribbon cutting on the way.

In the center of the new bridge, representatives from the Refuge, Ridgefield’s City Council, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Western Federal Lands Highway Division, construction contractor Ceccanti, the Sevier family (the original owners of the land), and other citizens stood for a short ceremony.  After eleven years of planning, the bridge was opening to traffic for the first time.  Kevin Forester, regional chief for the National Wildlife Refuge System, welcomed the students.  “That’s our future there behind us, the kids,” he said.  “They’re going down and planting trees today, so they’re going to be the first ones to officially cut the ribbon and come across the bridge.”

The students filed off the bus and lined up behind a double row of caution tape.  On cue, they cut the ribbon to open the bridge, and the crowd cheered.  Eric Anderson, the Refuge’s acting project leader, told them they could take a piece of ribbon home with them as a keepsake if they wanted.  “I’m not using it again,” he joked.  “So it’s all yours.”

 

South Ridge Elementary and Ridgefield HS students cut the ribbon for the new bridge.

 

New bridge to the River S Unit at the Wildlife Refuge arcs over the old, one-lane wooden bridge.

 

Then the students re-boarded the bus to head toward the Kiwa Trail.  Jackie Bergeron’s fourth grade class researched the yellow-billed cuckoo as part of their project-based learning.  The yellow-billed cuckoo population has declined significantly in the northwest, and the students wanted to see if they could help change it.  The tree planting would help restore the cuckoo’s preferred habitat.

Bergeron’s class was joined by the officers from a new environmental awareness organization from Ridgefield High School, International Teens Upholding Nature Association (iTuna).  Together, they learned from the park rangers how to plant the trees, gently separating the tree roots out, covering the area with weed cloth, staking the tree so it would stand straight, and caging the tree to protect it from hungry animals.  Soon the students were all working in teams, planting trees on their own.

Bergeron plans to make this an ongoing project.  “This is a project that we’re going to do for years.  This is the first class.  In the spring, they’re going to make new cuttings that we’re going to grow.  Then my next class will come and plant those.  So the idea is to truly be a part of helping restore this habitat back to what it natively should have been.”

The students got some close-up views of native wildlife as they worked, with a whitetail deer crashing through the blackberries nearby, birds chirping overhead in the tree canopy, and tiny green chorus frogs hopping near the tree plantings.  They hope that with the new trees, the yellow-billed cuckoo will one day rejoin the rest of the wildlife by the Kiwa trail.  In the meantime, they know the plantings will be there for the wildlife that lives at the Refuge—and that they had a part in helping protect it.

 

Students worked with park rangers to plant trees by the Kiwa Trail, restoring the native habitat.

 

Students worked in teams to plant trees.

Ridgefield School District Honors December Employee and Students of the Month

 

On December 10, Ridgefield School District officials recognized the December Employee and Students of the Month at the regular Board of Directors meeting.

Employee of the Month

Susan is a valued member of the View Ridge Middle School staff, especially in athletics.  She does not hesitate to do whatever staff, parents, or administrators ask of her at the drop of a hat.  Parents frequently commend her willingness to go the extra mile or even stay the extra hour to meet their needs when handling eligibility processes.  Susan effectively communicates with coaches, parents, and staff to coordinate schedules, key information and staffing for games and practices.  She patiently supervises students in the school suspension room and detention, giving students needed support even when they are reluctant to receive it.

Susan Arndt

On numerous occasions, Susan is on the front lines handling parent concerns regarding discipline and athletics, sometimes when they are in a frustrated state.  She maintains a calm and professional demeanor throughout, and if she does not solve a problem, finds someone who can.  She bounces from these interactions with a cheerful, level attitude.  Susan is a dedicated and loyal employee, having served the district for many years.  She regularly makes the personal choice to rise above her own circumstances to demonstrate the ownership necessary to meet the needs of our students and families.  The View Ridge Middle School staff is proud to recognize Susan Arndt as Employee of the Month for December.

Students of the Month

Phoenix Ramsey was selected as December’s Student of the Month for the Early Learning Center.  Phoenix uses the life skills of perseverance and flexibility in his new pre-kindergarten class.    He is always kind to his friends.  He is respectful of his teachers and looks for ways to be a helper.  Phoenix’s quiet nature lends itself to making others feel included and safe.  The Early Learning Center is so thankful for Phoenix and proud of his work this year!

Phoenix Ramsey

Chase Divine, a fourth grader, is December’s Student of the Month at South Ridge Elementary School.  Chase is a wonderful young man.  What we most appreciate about him is his willingness to try something new, even if it is daunting or uncomfortable.  He will give it his best shot every time.  Chase sets an inspiring example in the classroom.  The South Ridge Elementary School staff is proud of this young man and looks forward to the wonderful things we know he will accomplish.

Chase Divine

Kherington Hagen, a third grader, was selected at Union Ridge Elementary.  Kherington is a student who embodies the Ridgefield School District’s philosophy of “unlimited possibilities.”  In the first few weeks of the school year, Kherington transformed her approach to learning from lackadaisical to responsible and dedicated.  She did this by confronting her weaknesses and struggles and by accepting constructive feedback, examining her own actions and seizing the opportunity to strengthen her learning skills by actively changing her mindset and habits.  Kherington’s creative mind, positive demeanor and unshakeable perseverance is an uplifting and inspiring example that strengthens those around her.

Kherington Hagen

Jamison Barnette, a fifth grader, was selected at Sunset Ridge Intermediate School.  Jamison has a great sense of humor.  He is an athlete and aspires toward a career in acting.  He participates in lessons, works very hard in class and is helpful and empathetic.  Jamison is very inquisitive, always engaged, open to new ideas and excited to learn new things.  The staff at Sunset Ridge Intermediate is proud to select Jamison Barnette as their December Student of the Month.

Jamison Barnette

Tyler Crouch, an eighth grader, was chosen at View Ridge Middle School.  Tyler is a wonderful young man who values learning and give his best effort every single minute of every single day.  Other students will stop to chat, take a break, etc., but not Tyler!  He asks questions and doesn’t stop until he understands the materials.  Tyler is a STEM-minded individual.  He works diligently to solve problems, cooperates collaboratively with is peers and is always thinking of what he can do to make his projects the best they can be.  He is a joy to have in class and is a positive role model for everyone!

Tyler Crouch

Every once in a while, you meet a person who more than impresses you in terms of presence, voice, advocacy for others and stance for social justice.  Sophomore Charlie Fisher is such a person, and it is with great pleasure that Ridgefield High School has selected her as its December Student of the Month.  Charlie is a founding member of the newest club at RHS, Unite Ridgefield.  She is also a member of the district’s Equity and Engagement Committee and has started a Sister Circle to empower girls at RHS.  She serves on the Clark County Youth Commission working to create policies that positively impact the youth in Clark County.  In addition, she is a member of STASHA, a youth substance abuse organization and the Crew Team club in Vancouver.  Teachers describe Charlie as an exceptional leader, a dedicated and determined student, an extremely hard worker committed to learning and growing, and an agent of change.  Charlie takes advanced classes in science, social studies, and world languages and maintains a perfect 4.0 GPA.  She hopes to attend college on an ROTC scholarship.  After military service, she aspires to a career in teaching.

Charlie Fisher

Special thanks to the local office of James Schmeling at Allstate Insurance Company, the Ridgefield Public Schools Foundation and Ridgefield Boosters for sponsoring the district’s recognition program this school year.

 

Ridgefield School District Announces Winning Design in Holiday Greeting Card Art Contest

Madeline Bruguier, a sixth grader from Sunset Ridge Intermediate School, is the first-place winner in the Superintendent’s Holiday Greeting Card Art Contest for the Ridgefield School District.  Her artwork was selected by judges as the entry that best exemplifies “Winter Wishes,” this year’s contest theme.

Madeline’s winning design will decorate the cover of the district’s holiday greeting card this year, which will be mailed out to school districts, public entities and private businesses on Ridgefield School District’s holiday mailing list.  As the first-place winner, Madeline receives a $50 cash award.

Madeline Bruguier

Three artwork entries were also selected for Runner-Up honors.  These entries were submitted by Elina Caine, a seventh grader from View Ridge Middle School; Kelsey Heath, a first grader from Union Ridge Elementary; and Mae Jones, a kindergartner from South Ridge Elementary.  Each runner-up receives a $25 cash award for their winning design.

All four students will be recognized at the district’s regular school board meeting on Tuesday, December 10th.

The Superintendent’s Holiday Greeting Card Art Contest, now in its sixth year, got its start in 2014 by the Ridgefield School District in partnership with the Ridgefield Art Association to promote student creativity and encourage student appreciation of the arts.

 

Ridgefield Community Education Offers Winter Classes

Check out Ridgefield Community Education’s list of winter classes offered in December and January.  You can also find this schedule on the district website at www.ridgefieldsd.org.  Go to the Community Education page and click on the Happy Holidays button.

View Ridge STEM Class Builds and Races Dragsters

In Tylor Hankins’ eighth grade STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) class, students are troubleshooting their dragsters.  “It’s still going in circles.”  “I think it’s too heavy in the front.”  “This part keeps the wheel from moving.”  The big race is only a few days away, but there are lots of problems left to solve.

Hankins’ class worked in teams to design and build their own dragsters.  The challenge:  to be the fastest car to make it 20 feet down the hallway.  Bonus points if the team could get it to stop within one foot of the finish line.  The students built driverless cars using VEX robotics parts from dozens of bins:  metal brackets and bars, sprockets and gears, wheels, motors, and more.  Working in the programming language RobotC, they programmed the driverless cars to run the short course.

Because all the cars were unique designs, they all had different results—some intended, and some not intended.  Hankins moved from group to group, helping them pinpoint the issues and find the best solution.  As they tried different solutions—changing the programming, shortening the frame, reconfiguring the gears and wheels—they went back out to the hallway for test runs.  One went a short distance before crashing into the wall.  Another didn’t go at all.  And it was back to the drawing board.

“This project has a lot of problem solving, a lot of variables, and a lot of failure,” Hankins said.  “But when there are problems, they can figure it out.  This is the first real robot that they’ve built.  So it’s a learning process.”  Their next projects will be making BattleBots (robots that compete with each other) and a factory work cell (a mini-factory that can manufacture blocks with specific features).  The dragster project gives students the mechanical and programming skills they’ll need for future builds.

The diversity of dragster design means the students will have an interesting race day, with four wheeled cars vs. six wheeled cars, long dragsters vs. compact ones.  “It’s a fun project,” Hankins said.  He watched as another group’s dragster sped down the hallway and cruised just over a foot past the finish line.

The students checked the distance.  “Is it a foot?  It’s more than a foot.”  They look disappointed.

Hankins smiled.  “You’re close, guys, really close.  You’ve almost got it.”  The students picked up the racer and headed back into the Fabrication Lab, excitedly discussing ways to solve the problem, ready to try again.

Ally Ravelli, Carlie Madsen, and Quincy Woltersdorf show their dragster.

 

The Fabrication Lab is filled with bins of parts and tools for use in robotics projects.

 

Students test race their dragsters on the 20-foot hallway track.