Posts Tagged ‘technology’

SCW FIRST Robotics Team Competes at Regionals

November 14, 2013

On November 9, 2013, the FIRST Robotics team from St. Clare Walker Middle School attended the regional competition at Maggie L. Walker Governor’s School in Richmond. SCW Club members have been preparing for two months and developed an invention, prototype, and programmed a robot to perform specific tasks.

FIRST Robotics Club 2013- 1st Place Research Project

Standing from left to right – Jacob Winn, Jerry Lindsey, Chloe Hodges, Kenneth Beam, Tyler Radabaugh, Jack Graulich, Jack Ruark. Kneeling in front – Cole Ruark

This year, FIRST Robotics had a theme of “Nature’s Fury,” which includes all natural disasters. The team developed an invention that would help people prepare, survive, and recover from a hurricane. Students came up with the “Flash Wall,” a device that resembles a wall that pops up from the ground using hydraulics surrounding your home.  The Flash Wall should theoretically prevent water from reaching your home during flash floods resulting from hurricanes.

The SCW team researched damage to Middlesex County from Hurricane Isabel in 2003.  The students came up with an alternate resource to use to make the Flash Wall with cenocell, a material made from compressed coal ash.  Each year, 125 million pounds of waste can be recycled into cenocell.  This material is lighter, cheaper, stronger, and more environmentally friendly than concrete.  For additional guidance, the students interviewed Mark Nugent, Emergency Services Coordinator for Middlesex County, and he gave his opinion on different aspects of the Flash Wall prototype and presentation.

For the competition, students were required to build a LEGO Mindstorms robot that would perform tasks on an official FIRST Robotics mat.  The robot had to be programmed to complete tasks such as pushing a person from one place to another, pushing a lever that released an airplane, and capturing objects on the mat.  At the competition, the students were evaluated on the robot’s performance and robot design, the project solution, and a core values test.  FIRST Robotics insists each member much be respectful of each other and enjoy themselves at the competition.  The core values test graded each of the FIRST Robotics members on their teamwork and graciousness throughout the whole competition, as well as how they treated others.

The SCW team achieved highly in each category and received first place for their research project, which included scoring on the presentation to the judges.  Unfortunately, the SCW team did not qualify to advance to the state competition, but the students are very pleased with their win and learned a lot.  The students look forward to performing even better in all categories next year.

Students on the SCW FIRST Robotics team include  Kenneth Beam, Jack Graulich, Chloe Hodges, Jerry Lindsey, Tyler Radabaugh, Cole Ruark, Jack Ruark, and Jacob Winn.  Team member Brayden Miller was unable to attend.  The team was coached by Matthew Short, SCW Technology Teacher, and mentored by Kathy Ruark, technology coordinator for Middlesex County Public Schools.

Written by Jack Graulich and Tyler Radabaugh

SCW TSA Finalists at National Competition

July 22, 2013

The St. Clare Walker Middle School Technology Student Association competed at the 2013 National TSA Conference in Orlando, Florida. More than 5,500 people attended the annual conference, held from June 28th to July 2nd at the Rosen Shingle Creek Resort. Middle and high school student members competed in more than 60 competitive events based on principles and concepts learned through projects during the school year in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subjects. The conference celebrated the contributions of advancing technology in our society and TSA’s 35th anniversary with the theme “A Tradition of Excellence.”

Front row: Jack Ruark, Kenneth Beam, Jack Graulich   2nd row: Brooke Daniel, Tyler Radabaugh, Cole Radabaugh, Chloe Hodges   back row: Andrew Hudson, Jerry Lindsey, Advisor Mr. Matthew Short, Jeffery Jones, Kevin Horton

Row 1: Jack Ruark, Kenneth Beam, Jack Graulich
Row 2: Brooke Daniel, Tyler Radabaugh, Cole Radabaugh, Chloe Hodges
Row 3: Andrew Hudson, Jerry Lindsey, Advisor Mr. Matthew Short, Jeffery Jones, Kevin Horton

Students were also able to participate in leadership training sessions, career and education fairs, STEM educational products and services demonstrations, and a national service project for the American Cancer Society.

Participants from SCW TSA included: Kenneth Beam, Brooke Daniel, Jack Graulich, Chloe Hodges, Kevin Horton, Andrew Hudson, Jerry Lindsey, Jeffery Jones, Cole Radabaugh, Tyler Radabaugh, Jack Ruark, and SCW TSA Advisor, Matthew Short. The students competed in eighteen individual and team events, and exchanged ideas with fellow TSA students across 47 states and the countries of Germany and Turkey.

The following St. Clare Walker Middle School students ranked as Finalists (top ten placements) and were recognized and presented with 2013 National Finalist Pins at the awards ceremony: Brooke Daniel, Chloe Hodges, Cole Radabaugh, Tyler Radabaugh, and Jack Ruark received 4th place for the Nation in Website Design. Participants were required to design, build and launch a World Wide Web site that featured the team’s research about a science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM) related topic. Semifinalists participated in an on-site interview to demonstrate the knowledge and expertise gained during the development of the website. This year’s website theme was “Advancements in Law Enforcement.” The SCW TSA website entry can be viewed here.

Tyler Radabaugh received 5th place for the Nation in Transportation Systems. Participants worked individually to apply and document the engineering design process and mathematical principles and scientific concepts used in the research, design, construction, testing and evaluation of a rubber band-powered boat. Performance ratings of the boats were based on a combination of speed and payload capability measurements.

Jack Graulich received 9th place for the Nation in Communication Challenge. Participants designed and produced 1) a trifold brochure that promotes the chapter, 2) an effective sponsor support request on chapter letterhead, and 3) an 8 ½ x 11 inch glossy, two-sided postcard promoting TSA’s current national service project. Semifinalists were determined and were given the challenge at the competition to determine finalists. Semifinalists had to creatively design a solution to an on-site problem using their computers they brought.

Students will return to the community with experience competing against the best in the nation and having gained expertise and knowledge from peers from across the country. More information is available on the national TSA website.

The SCW TSA would like to sincerely thank the following individuals and businesses for financial contributions that helped get them to the National Conference event: Bob and Carolyn Boxley, C&F Bank, Dr. Ben Lennon, DDS, EVB Bank, Eric and Elizabeth Faudree, Thomas and Betty Lou Frazier, Gloucester Pharmacy, Bill McCarron, Middlesex Kiwanis Club, Kathy Osborne, Revere Gas, Rufus and Diane Ruark, Evan and Sandra Vanleeuwen, and Vernon and Bonnie Williams. Also, thank you to Cooks Corner Car Wash and Harrow’s Home Center for sponsoring the SCW TSA fundraiser and those who came out to support the event.

The SCW TSA would like to thank the following for assistance with specific student competitions: The Deltaville Maritime Museum Executive Board and Vice President, Bill Powell, and Park Director, Marvin Tiller, Student Resource Officer and Deputy Ben Langford, Dwayne Dunlevy of the Office of Virginia Department of Game & Inland Fisheries, Delegate Keith Hodges, Kelly Lowe of Lowe Tide, Kristee Norwood of Portraits by Kristee, Fred Hodges, and TSA Alumnus Stephen Blue.

The SCW TSA students are encouraged by all they have learned throughout the Regional, State, and National TSA Conferences and look forward to competing well in the 2013-2014 school year. SCW TSA Advisor, Matthew Short, is proud of the many accomplishments by the students and is excited for the future of the Middlesex TSA chapters. The 2014 National TSA Conference will take place in Washington, D.C. next summer.

Written by Lauren Radabaugh

View “Thank You” video.

School’s ALMOST Out for Summer

June 4, 2013


Although the end of SOL testing is near, school continues until June 14th. This presents a challenge to teachers because many students “check out” after testing is over, but each member of the innovative MCPS faculty is using his or her creative genius to keep the students engaged. Here are just a few of the activities planned for the last days of school:

Next week, Eileen O’Brien’s students will visit the second grade to read books they are creating in class. O’Brien asked her students what they would like to learn about that hadn’t been covered this year. Students researched their chosen topics to create shape books, which included at least three paragraphs of five sentences each. After they illustrate the books, O’Brien plans to laminate the covers and bind the books. The books will include an ‘About the Author’ page featuring the student’s picture.

In Robyn Stein’s Algebra I classes, students are designing games based around one topic they learned this year.  They are using familiar board games and card games, such as Monopoly and Go Fish, as examples. Students will create a game board or playing cards and write a rules manual. Players of the game must use algebra skills to compete. After the projects are graded, students will have a competition day in class to play the games.

Elizabeth Blackwell’s eighth grade art students are searching for pictures or phrases that describe their goals and dreams for the coming years. After collecting them, the students create and decorate a box in which to keep their pictures and phrases. Some students choose to seal their boxes until later in the future and some keep them open. The project encourages focus on goals for the future and emphasizes individual creativity.

box1  box2  box3

A variety of activities will keep students engaged in Kim Aliff’s second grade classroom. Her students will be learning stitchery, writing stories, and beginning to learn cursive writing. They are also participating in a math fact competition called Gumball Math.

Janice Parker’s high school English students will be busy with two activities. The “Around the Room Short Story” project involves multiple students writing one short story. Each student contributes one literary element, such as setting, characters, dialogue, conflict, or resolution. Each phase of the writing is timed, and then the story is passed to the next writer to complete their part. The story eventually returns to the original writer who develops a title and completes any revisions necessary for the finished story. Parker is also challenging her students to teach a 10-minute lesson. Students can teach a dance step, a magic trick, how to braid hair, how to make bird calls, or another school-appropriate topic of their choice.

Students in Annie Somerville’s civics classes will view the reality entrepreneurial show, Shark Tank¸ and design a good or service to enhance the economy. In teams, students will create a prototype of their good or service and explain their target group based on age and gender. Students will also determine in which types of economy they would sell their good or service, what business type they would organize with, and any kind of advertising or promotions they would utilize. Teams will earn incentives for creativity, organization, and resourcefulness.

Each middle school grade level in Matt Short’s technology classes will have a specific project. Sixth grade students will work with LEGO Robotics. Seventh grade students will create bottle rockets and have the opportunity to launch them outside, while eighth grade students design wood plaques and carve them using the CNC router.

photoStudents in Linden Barrick’s language arts classes are honoring those who inspire them by creating a booklet featuring ten people who inspire them the most. Each page in the booklet includes the name of the inspirational individual, a drawing of the person or of something that symbolizes him or her, and a short paragraph briefly explaining how the person influences the student’s life. Barrick’s students will also be researching fifteen idioms and creating a presentation. Each slide of the presentation will feature one idiom, a brief explanation of its origin, and an illustration depicting the figurative meaning of the phrase.

Staying engaged is difficult this time of year for students, but the dedicated teachers of MCPS are diligently working to make the last few days of school fun AND educational.  Encourage students to take advantage of the opportunity to learn in the stress-free atmosphere, and if you’re interested in educational summertime activities, please visit the Virginia Department of Education website at:

Steve Dunkel, the New Director of Assessment, Research, and Technology

May 17, 2013

sdunkelMCPS welcomes Steve Dunkel to his new position as Director of Assessment, Research, and Technology. In this new role, Dunkel will manage the technology department, organize the division’s testing component, and supervise the network/computer infrastructure.

Dunkel is excited about his new role in technology for the schools because it’s clear why the job is important. He explains, “Students and teachers need these systems in place for lessons, research, and assessments.  This field allows me to work with a medium I enjoy – technology –in a forum I find rewarding – the schools.”

Dunkel plans to provide a practical approach to improving the school division’s network and information systems. He believes his ideas for the future will make everyone’s job a bit easier. He states, “It’s important to stay proactive in the technology field. Systems need to be updated and replaced regularly.” Because new technology is developed every day, Dunkel plans to keep current on innovative tools for our education system and implement new ideas into our current system.

Dunkel has been involved in technology as a career for the last four years. Before coming to MCPS as a computer technician 2 years ago, Dunkel taught history in Staunton, Virginia, and in the Cayman Islands. Originally from Flint, Michigan, Dunkel now resides in Deltaville, where he enjoys outdoor activities and sports and spending time with friends.  His parents, as well as his favorite sports teams, remain in Michigan. Although he doesn’t live close to his family, he enjoys spending time with them when he can. His brother holds a managerial job in Alabama, and his sister is a marketing student at Michigan State University.

Dunkel expresses his gratitude for the opportunity to be in his new position where he will surely bring positive growth and change to Middlesex County Public Schools. His new position begins on July 1, 2013.

Teacher Feature – Judy Murray

April 23, 2013

As a 35-year veteran of Middlesex County Public Schools, Judy Murray has touched the lives of hundreds, maybe even a thousand children in our community. Currently the media center specialist at St. Clare Walker, Murray has also filled the roles of first grade teacher, technology specialist, and instructional technology resource teacher during her years as an educator.


As the media center specialist, Murray strives to help students learn to use the media center effectively because in today’s information-driven world, the use of technology is necessary for the future success of the students. Murray also collaborates with teachers to help reinforce skills the students are learning in the classroom to ensure their understanding of required concepts. In addition to the technology and information focus of her lessons, Murray also enjoys the traditional tasks of helping students find a book or genre that will increase their love of reading.

Murray believes the most important thing she can offer her students is “exposure to many uses of the library from research skills and exploring websites to media and how it is used.” She also openly shares her love of reading and thirst for knowledge with her students so they realize “you’re never too old to learn.”

When asked about her favorite lessons, Murray answered, “I like lessons that actively involve the students.” One such lesson for her sixth grade students includes learning the Dewey Decimal System through an activity in which students hunt the library shelves to fill in missing information from a story. Another lesson, one for her seventh grade students, requires online research and the creation of a display describing a reading series in the media center to pique the interest of other students.


Murray’s vast experience and knowledge in education have been recognized in many ways. She is a former Region 3 Technology Teacher of the Year, and she was also the first teacher to earn the “Making It Happen” award for integrating technology in the classroom. Murray has also earned the title of Master Teacher from Intel Education and has trained other educators in the use of Intel’s technology resources for the classroom.


When not at school, Murray plays clarinet in the Peninsula Concert Band and enjoys sewing, reading, knitting and crocheting, music, and computers. Murray lives in Gloucester with her husband, Bill, who retired from Middlesex County Public Schools last year after a distinguished teaching career. They have two daughters, one who is married and recently gave them a brand new grandson. The Murrays also have a dog and two cats.

Murray’s love of children, technology, and reading has helped many students discover interests and achieve success throughout her years of teaching. Middlesex County is fortunate to have educators such as Murray who dedicate their careers to our community.

Teacher Feature – Danielle Norris

March 20, 2013

Norris 1

Since 2008, Danielle Norris has taught at Middlesex High School and currently teaches English 9, Pre-AP English 10, and AP English 12. Prior to teaching, Norris studied at James Madison University and graduated with a Bachelor’s in English and a minor in Secondary Education. Originally from Gloucester, Norris now resides in Wake with her husband, Brad, and is expecting their first child in early April. In June, they welcomed their first nephew. When not teaching, Norris spends most of her free time with family and friends and enjoys arts and crafts, decorating, writing, and spending time on the water during the summer months.

As a teacher, Norris is dedicated to the success of her students. “My goal every year is to challenge my students and teach them as much as possible. Ultimately, growth is always the end goal.” In addition to information, Norris also strives to teach her students skills that will help them succeed beyond high school. She believes whether students continue their education in college or not, they all deserve the opportunity to grow as a student and as a young adult.

Flexibility is the most important thing Norris feels she offers her students. “Not in my expectations, but in my lesson planning. Each semester, I have to adapt and adjust my plans to best fit the needs of my students.” Norris also feels building relationships is essential for her students to have the most opportunities to learn. “Learning is only enhanced by trust and that is something I strive to build in my classroom each year.”

When planning lessons, one of Norris’s main goals is to make literature accessible and interesting to her students. One example of this is her Julius Caesar lesson plan for 10th grade. While reading, the students focus not only on content but also on rhetorical devices used in the speeches of Brutus and Antony. The students then use the rhetorical devices as they develop their own speech based on a topic of interest. Students utilize technology to record their delivery of their speech and ultimately play their recording to the class. This gives students the opportunities to use technology to enhance a “traditional” speech. In the final aspect of the unit, they take the rhetorical devices to a new level and with a focus on media bias create their own public announcements.

norris 2

Norris’s importance to MCPS and the students is evident in her belief that “every student can be successful. It is my job as a teacher to make sure every student feels that way and is encouraged to discover and utilize their true abilities.”  One quote Norris values is from Albert Einstein. He stated, “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”  She feels that it is imperative for teachers to remember the quote as a reason why they do their job every day…to make sure students find and achieve success.

SCW Hosts the 2013 TSA Tidewater Regional Fair

March 13, 2013

TSA Regional Fair 1

The Technology Student Association (TSA) gives student members opportunities for leadership and personal growth in all areas of technology, innovation, design, and engineering. 

Through TSA’s regional, state, and national competitions, members can challenge themselves in over 60 different middle and high school events. These competitions stress the importance of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) concepts, leadership, and presentation skills.

Virginia Regional fairs are hosted every spring by each of the six TSA regions in Virginia. On Saturday, March 02, 2013, TSA held its Tidewater Regional Fair competition at St. Clare Walker Middle School. Middle school and high school students from all over the region visited Middlesex for this well-attended event. Volunteers from near and far showed their support for these young leaders as judges, coordinators, and/or student supervisors.

TSA Regional Fair 2

TSA members assembled in the auditorium where regional TSA president, Brett Fochtmann of Middlesex High School, called the meeting to order.  Middlesex County superintendent Dr. Taylor welcomed guests to Middlesex County and congratulated the students for being a part of TSA.

Guest speaker Mr. James Wright, resident of Deltaville Va. and a graduate of Princeton University with a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering, shared five points for students to keep in mind as they go through life. He was sure to advocate for the importance of technology in today’s society as well as the future. However, he cautioned students to understand that technology “has no emotion, and it can do a lot of good or a lot of harm. It is the people behind the technology who determine the intent of the constantly advancing technology.”

The competition began promptly after the general meeting. Students presented projects that they have been working on throughout the school year. Some of the most popular events were middle and high school Dragster Design, Essays on Technology, and Flight Endurance.

The competition concluded with the presentation of awards. The following St. Clare Walker Middle School students ranked in the top 10 and were recognized at the Tidewater Region awards ceremony:


Chloe Hodges and Jeffrey Jones received 1st place, Kevin Horton and Andrew Hudson received 2nd place, and Brooke Daniel and Cole Radabaugh received 4th place in the Tidewater Region for Challenging Technology Issues.  Participants worked in teams of two individuals to prepare and deliver an extemporaneous, debate style presentation on a spontaneously assigned technological issue.

Kevin Horton received 3rd place in the Tidewater Region for Digital Photography.  Participants produced an album consisting of color or black and white digital photographs that represent or relate to a chosen theme.  The theme for 2013 was “TSA, Organized Chaos.”

Cole Radabaugh received 1st place, Jerry Lindsey received 2nd place, and Kenneth Beam received 6th place in the Tidewater Region for Dragster Design.  Participants designed and produced a fast CO2 powered dragster according to state specifications and used only certain materials.

Kevin Horton received 5th place in the Tidewater Region for Essays on Technology.  Participants conducted research in specified subtopics of a broader technological area and, using the knowledge and resources gained through that research, wrote a comprehensive essay in thirty minutes on the one subtopic that was designated on site.  The topic for 2013 was “The Positive and Negative Effects of Technology on Today’s Youth.”

Tyler Radabaugh received 1st place, Jack Ruark received 2nd place, Chloe Hodges received 7th place, Andrew Hudson received 8th place, and Cole Radabaugh received 10th place in the Tidewater Region for Flight.  Participants designed and built a glider that stayed in flight for the greatest elapsed time.  Students created a documentation notebook with all components, sketches of test gliders, and assembled glider to be tested at the competition.

Tyler Radabaugh received 2nd place and Jack Ruark received 6th place in the Tidewater Region for Promotional Design.  Participants created and produced a color pin design that would be appropriate for trading at the national TSA conference.

Tyler Radabaugh received 1st place, Jack Ruark received 3rd place, Jerry Lindsey received 5th place, and Jack Graulich received 6th place in the Tidewater Region for Transportation System.  Participants applied and documented the engineering design process, mathematical principals and scientific concepts used in the research, design, construction, testing and evaluation of a rubber band-powered boat.  Performance ratings of the boat were based on a combination of speed and payload capability measurements.

Students who placed in the top three at the regional fair will compete against other regional finalists from around the state in those events at the state level competition, Technosphere, held May 3- 5. TSA members will also get to compete in new events that are not available at the regional fair. If they place at Technosphere, they need to pack their bags because they’ll be traveling to Orlando Florida to compete at TSA National Conference.

Mr. Odom and Mr. Short, Middlesex HS and SCW TSA advisors, are very much appreciative of the many volunteers and judges that supported the event.

Article written by Matt Short

Teacher Feature – Matt Short

March 7, 2013

Matt Short, who teaches Middle School Technology Education at SCW, claims his main goal every year is to reach as many students as possible. To do this, he instructs students using innovative and exciting hands-on activities.


One favorite activity involves CNC manufacturing. Students choose a sport or another area of interest and design plaques. The CNC machine cuts the plaque design to depict an aspect of the interest area.

Residential house construction is another lesson the students enjoy. Students use computer design to create different parts of a house for construction. They must calculate needs for floor and wall framing and then build models of different sections of the houses.

Students thrive on competition, and Short allows them the chance to compete during Team Problem Solving. This unit of study consists of teams of students constructing solutions to given problems. Each team is not only trying to solve their problem, but they are also attempting to do so in a more efficient and effective way than the other teams.

Short feels these hands-on activities help expand future interests. He explains, “What we do in my class may spark an interest in a future education or career.”

Short, a 2000 graduate of Virginia Tech, is originally from New York but now resides in Middlesex with his wife Amy. When Short isn’t at SCW, he spends time boating, woodworking, drafting, doing construction, restoring automobiles and boats, and playing tennis.


Somehow, Short also finds time to serve as the TSA advisor and the Lego Robotics coach for SCW. He regularly spends many extra hours for the technological development of the students of MCPS. His dedication truly benefits the present and the future of our students.

New Technology at SCW

January 18, 2013

Recently the special education department at St. Clare Walker purchased a new type of projector. The department was budgeted to buy a SMART Board, but the OSCAR technology proved less expensive and better fit the needs of the special education teachers and students. One benefit is the mobility of the unit which allows it to easily move throughout the school, so all students have access to it.

Oscar 1

The OSCAR projection system turns walls, floors, ceilings, and tables into interactive areas. Students are able to interact with images, manipulate data, and practice skills in a variety of settings. The OSCAR is compatible with all of the department’s existing SMART Board activities and software, and the projector has allowed more students to benefit from their use.

Oscar 2

Although the system hasn’t been at SCW for long, it has already proven to be a favorite with the students, especially in a small group setting. The system is one example of how MCPS continually enhances the education of its students.

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