Monday, November 11, 2013

Zoom zoom, y'all! Manatee students compete at F1 in Schools World Finals in Texas

Students from Southeast High School and Lakewood Ranch High School are gathering with other young engineering and racing enthusiasts from around the country and around the world for the 2013 F1 in Schools World Finals in Austin, Texas. 
Allegiance Racing, the team of five Manatee County high school students, have been in Texas since Nov. 8. Its members are Aly Paige Cote, Sean Martin, Sheel Patel, Joey Kamor and Merritt Kendzior.
The students are spending Veterans Day presenting their model cars and preparing to see how fast their car go in timed trials. The cars are C02-powered models made from lightweight balsa wood. They are capable of running a 60-foot track in a second.
The team finished the engineering interview portion of the event  Monday morning. Describing their car designs in intricate detail pumped them up for their timed trials. The students had been in interviews from around 8:45 a.m. to 11 a.m. 
Margi Nanney, a long-time volunteer for the Formula 1 races and the Technology Student Association, said professional engineers from around the world grill students on their designs, from conception of their cars to what equipment was used to build them. 
"It is very intense," Nanney said.  
As of Monday at 11:15 a.m., the Manatee County Allegiance Racing team stood in third place out of 38 teams, but Nanney said that is subject to change throughout the day. 
"The judges love them," Nanney said. "There has been real camaraderie between the teams." 
The competition concludes Wednesday, November 13 with an awards ceremony. 

Allegiance Racing team members Aly Paige Cote, Sean Martin, Sheel Patel, Joey Komor and Merritt Kendzior in uniform and ready for the F1 in Schools World Finals in Austin, Texas.   

Allegiance Racing team members Merritt Kendzior, Aly Paige Cote, Sheel Patel, Joey Komor and Sean Martin.

Allegiance Racing team members Merritt KendziorJoey Komor, Sheel Patel, Sean Martin and Aly Paige Cote pose with classic American cars before the F1 in Schools World Finals in Austin, Texas. 

Aly Paige Cote and the Allegiance Racing pit display at the F1 in Schools World Finals. 

Merritt Kendzior, Aly Paige Cote, Sheel Patel, Sean Martin and Joey Kamor pose for a picture in the Capitol building in Austin, Texas.

A rendering of a car designed by Allegiance Racing students. 

United Way kicks off its 'Live United Week' by helping local schools

It is still only July, but before Manatee County students know it, they will be heading back to school, and there is still much to be done in the meantime.
The United Way of Manatee County is beginning its "Live United Week" next week with  volunteer opportunities at Manatee County schools. The Giving "Back to School" Days is a three day volunteer blitz that focuses on school campus beautification projects,  including cleaning, landscaping and organizing.
United Way of Manatee County volunteers work on an outside project for the Fed Ex Volunteer Day at the Community Haven for Adults and Children with disabilities. Photo Provided.   
 Manatee District schools targeted for volunteer help include Mills Elementary, Rowlett Elementary, Able Elementary, Palma Sola Elementary, Wakeland Elementary, Blackburn Elementary, Bayshore Elementary and Rogers Garden Elementary. These schools were chosen because they responded to the United Way with specific campus project needs. This is the first time the United Way is on-site doing labor-type volunteering at local schools during their give "Back to Schools" Days. 

United Way Reading Pals volunteer Michelle Detweiler helps a student at Daughtrey Elementary. Photo Provided.
"We are working to strengthen our relationship with schools in Manatee," said Angela Moore, the vice president of resource development at the United Way of Manatee County. "This benefits the schools at a time of need. It is our opportunity to give additional resources."
The Giving "Back to School" Days are in preparation for the schools' new year beginnings in August. The volunteer effort is scheduled for Monday, July 22, Tuesday, July 23 and Wednesday July 24. 
The United Way will also  launch its annual fundraising campaign with a kick-off breakfast on Thursday, July 25, at 7:30 a.m. at the Renaissance on 9th.
The free breakfast is in partnership with the Manatee Chamber of Commerce Coffee Club.

Main fundraising efforts of the United Way campaign is through the workplace campaign, giving employees opportunities to talk to representatives and make donation commitments through payroll deductions, and the residential campaign, which seeks individual contributions. 
The United Way of Manatee County is currently looking for volunteers for "Live United Week" as well as volunteers to read to students during the school year through the Reading Pals Program.
For more information about volunteering, call the United Way of Manatee County at 941-748-1313. 

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Manatee County schools sweep 2 major national technology competitions

Braden River High School students celebrate their victories with teacher and state Technology Student Association chairman Gil Burlew. 

Manatee County students may be on vacation from school, but they have not let the temptations of summer keep them from working hard.

This week, 171 students from schools in Manatee County competed in the 2013 Technology Student Association National Conference.

And they represented local schools well, taking home 66 first-, second- and third-place trophies and 194 Top 10 titles.

Technology Student Association teams from Bayshore High School, Braden River High School, Lakewood Ranch High School, Southeast High School, Manatee High School, Nolan Middle School, Harllee Middle School, Haile Middle School, Sugg Middle School and Johnson Middle School represented Manatee County in one of the biggest competitive technology events for students.

The students competed in events such as animatronics, fashion design, dragster design, robotics, music production, video game design and more. They competed against students from across the United States as well as a high school team from Turkey and a high school team from Germany.

Doug Wagner, director of adult career and technical education, said this is the seventh year in a row that Manatee County schools have taken home a greater combined total of trophies and Top 10 scores than any other school district in the nation.

"The most significant thing is that this is the seventh time we have come home with the most top placing students," Wagner said. "The community should be cheering. It shows the hard work of the students, teachers and schools."

While the school district as a whole shined at the conference, students had their own individual moments of pride and accomplishment.

Eighth grader Hayden Kennelly proudly shows off his trophies that he won at the 2013 Technology Student Association National Conference. The larger trophy is for first place in dragster design.

Eighth-grader Hayden Kennelly won first place for dragster design at the middle school level.
Kennelly showed off pictures of his  dragster with a huge smile.
"I designed it on the computer first and then a machine cut out my design," Kennelly said.

Bayshore High School graduate Austin Keenan with his second place trophy for problem solving.

Austin Keenan, who just completed his senior year at Bayshore High School, has been competing in the Technology Student Association National Conference every year of middle school and high school. This was the first year Keenan  won a trophy at the national level. Keenan said the best feeling was getting to walk across the stage at nationals for the first time.

 Keenan and his teammates earned second place in the problem solving event, where teams must create a solution to everyday needs out of limited supplies in a limited amount of time.
"We made a filter out of styrofoam," Keenan said proudly. "It was a challenge, but it felt great to complete it well."

The technology students must not only display high levels of math, science and critical thinking skills, but they must also have creativity for all events, particularly in the areas of design.

Braden River High School students Emily Malcom, Katherine Zimmerman and Mario Palmer receive the third place trophy for music production at the 2013 Technology Student Association National Conference.  
Braden River High School students Emily Malcom, Katherine Zimmerman and Mario Palmer won the first-place trophy for fashion design.  The challenge was to design a uniform for an emergency first responder. The team had to conceptualize the outfit, sketch their design, make the outfit and then showcase it on the catwalk. Malcom, Zimmerman and Palmer interviewed certified first responders to get ideas for their winning design, which included working LED lights. The trio also won third place in music production.

'We are very proud of our students and how hard they work to continue to come out on top year after year," said Gil Burlew, the Florida Technology Student Association chairman and engineering teacher at Braden River High School.

Around 5,000 students competed in the 2013 Technology Student Association National Conference. the conference was held June 28 through July 2 at the Rosen Shingle Creek Resort in Orlando.

These students were not the only ones to make a namesake for Manatee County last weekend.

For a decade now, the Manatee Technical Institute has taken home armfuls of medals at the SkillsUSA Championships, and the career and technical students continued this tradition for the 2013 event.

The Manatee Technical Institute took home 61 medals in 22 contests at the 49th Annual SkillsUSA Championships in Kansas City last week. Their sweep included 18 gold, 25 silver and 18 bronze medals. 

The competition tests career and technical students around the country in occupational areas like business management and technology, engineering technology/design, firefighting, nail care, and web design.
The competition is often referred to as the Olympics for career and technical education.

The SkillsUSA Championships has been igniting a passion in students for their future career fields since 1967.

Students from every state and Puerto Rico compete.

"MTI aims to produce graduates who are able to earn national industry-recognized credentials,” said Manatee Technical Institute director Mary Cantrell. “When they win against students from other schools and states, it’s a good indication that MTI is doing a lot right.”

Braden River High School students Emily Malcom, hannah Figueras and Mario Palmer eagerly  await the results of their  events at the 2013 Technology Student Association National Conference

Thursday, June 27, 2013

MTI students hold special ceremony for hospitalized classmate

Traci Adams, a Manatee Technical Institute student studying medical assisting, is used to learning how to take care of others. But over the past few weeks, Adams has had to accept care as a patient during a health ordeal that put her in the hospital. 

While Adams was suffering through an emergency surgery and recovery time in the ICU, the rest of her classmates were getting ready to attend the school's pinning ceremony to signify that they are now full-fledged medical assistants.  

Adams had spent the last 13 months preparing for that moment. However, Adams' classmates had a plan to make sure that she would not miss this special day. 

A couple weeks before Adams would celebrate her accomplishment of finishing her program, she started having stomach pains. She ignored them at first, but when they became more serious, she decided to go to the hospital.  Adams was admitted to Lakewood Ranch Medical Center for major abdominal surgery that kept her in the ICU for four days. 

 Program director Jane Arnoldi said the pinning ceremony is something that is very important to the medical assisting students.

"They work hard during their time here to achieve," Arnoldi said. "It's a very fast paced course."

Adams tried to talk the doctors into letting he go to the pinning ceremony, but they said there was no way they were letting her out of the hospital early. 

That is when Arnoldi and several students and faculty decided to bring the pinning ceremony to Adams. 

This Monday, they visited Adams and her family, including her husband and parents, in the hospital to celebrate with a private ceremony.

"We are together and become a family," Arnoldi said. "Traci has been in and out of doctor appointments, but her heart was set on this."

Adams said that it is a day she would always remember, and Arnoldi said that tears were shed at the special ceremony.  

"It's all about the students. If we can do it, we try," Arnoldi said. "This was a highlight for Traci and for us, too."
MTI medical assisting instructor Jane Arnoldi pinning hospitalized student Traci Adams. Photo Provided.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Graduation Party Ideas

Tonight kicks off high school commencements as Braden River High School bids farewell to their class of 2013. And with graduations come graduation parties. So to all of you juniors out there, here are some theme ideas for your graduation party!

1. Hollywood.
Cliché sounding as it is, Hollywood is a simple and easy theme and can easily get the creative juices flowing. Keep snack items simple with movie theater inspired treats. Have a slideshow playing with your best high school memories mixed with screenshots from your favorite films. For a final touch, have guests at your party have a few moments of fame with either a photo booth or, for a more personal touch, an area where they can leave a video message for the graduate.

2. Jungle
It's a jungle out there! This theme can run with either a concrete or natural variety as you celebrate being "released into the wild." Have big plans after school? Have someone pound a drum as you reveal your college and/or travel plans as your first adult decision in the real world. Then soak in the admiration. 

3. Childhood favorites

Are you begrudging growing up or stressed about the next step? Throw a party that bids a bittersweet farewell to childhood by embracing your inner 5-year-old. Serve up food that you typically snack on at an adolescent birthday party and whip out the Disney movies and classic board games. Feature a slip-n-slide, Twister and other old favorites that have no age limits. You can also opt to end the night by doing something more adult, such as a limo ride or a nice dinner.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

My time as a "teacher" in Tokyo

Japan-the land of dense population and a strong group culture. The land of 4 a.m. sunrises. The land of miniskirts and polka dotted hosiery.
This is where I spent two weeks in Tokyo's district of Noborito working with students at Senshu University, where most study business and economics.

I said before that I would be a  teaching assistant, but that term can be loosely interpreted. As with all things, I have learned to spend my days here with no expectations.
I actually spent lunch periods at the university with random students doing one very simple thing -- speaking to them in English.

In Japan, students are required to study two foreign languages, with English and Chinese deemed the most useful.
Most students at Senshu speak very limited English, but striking up a conversation was simple, as I was very well received as an American.
My "lessons," or basic conversation, with students involved finding common grounds, which usually consisted of popular culture. Favorite topics of the students include One Direction, Taylor Swift, Harry Potter and Disney World.

The Japanese students strive to impress and connect with Westerners. They are humble, and they made me feel as if every single thing I said was wildly important. I tried my best to reciprocate.
Students Daichi Kobayashi and Futaba Ikeya are some of the most advanced, and working with them had a way of making me think more about my native language, like when we found ourselves explaining to Kobayashi the difference between "planning" and "scheming" and discussing high-fives with Ikeya.

Although Tokyo is one of the most densely populated cities in the world, it is known for being a lonely culture. While the youth are surrounded by their friends, it turns out that they do not have many personal conversations. The way students interact culturally is a far cry from the self-obsessed talk from America.

Stay tuned for more stories about the cultural climate in Japan. So much more grounds to cover!

With students Yuki Kimura, Misaki Matsuda, Maki Abe, Futaba Ikeya and Maya Momose at Senshu Univeristy. Southeastern University volunteer Gabby Valentin is between me and Yuki.

With Ririka Ogawa at Senshu University

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Arriving in the Land of the Rising Sun

I arrived in Tokyo after a long flight and actually losing a day. I am a full 13 hours ahead of Bradenton and I have found that it is hard to sleep in the Land of the Rising Sun where the sun actually rises at 4:30 a.m.

I've been at Senshu University in Tokyo for the past two days talking with students and helping them with their English. Their English skills are minimal, but I have been able to talk to a couple of interesting people along the way.

So far my days have been really busy, and I am not back at the house I am sharing with other team members until about 10 p.m.

Stay with me as my body clock adjusts. I will have a lot to blog about.

(Toni Whitt posting on behalf of Erica Earl).