Mirror mirror on the wall… At Highland Park?!

As many of you may have noticed, the halls are buzzing with talk about new installments on the first floor girls bathroom– the mirror and trash can. There has been much discussion about what exactly is the cause of the increased amenities. As students, there have been private complaints for years about the lack of mirrors in the bathrooms, but these concerns haven’t reached the administration…Until now. “This came out of student concerns,” says Ms. Morton. At an SPPS facilities planning meeting, several students, Juniors Katherine Jossi, James Farnsworth, and Ryan Ross, mentioned the want for mirrors and bathroom amenities. Soon enough, the Highland Park head engineer, Kevin Martinson, was taking the step to ensure that these needs were met.

This story emphasizes a functional link between the administration and student body, and shows the reward in students being more vocal about what they want. Increased communication between administration and students could be an important channel to articulating student needs that are often overlooked. The mirrors are not the end; thanks to the work of several students, there is more to look forward to. Highland Park will also be the recipient of at least two new drinking fountains with a feature to fill water bottles. Of course, having nice things comes with responsibility. Ms. Morton cautiously reminds students that “If you like the changes, take care of them!”

 

Audrey Dombro is a junior at Highland Park Senior High.

Natalie Duncan (11) was also a contributor to this article.

Highland Park Students at the Youth Nobel Peace Prize Forum

Last Friday, Highland Park was privileged to send a delegation of students with teacher Kari Rise to the Nobel Peace Prize Youth Forum at Augsburg College. The group was able to hear from several speakers, notably, Leiv Sydnes of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), Director-General of the OPCW Ahmet Uzumcu, and former President Jimmy Carter.

President Carter highlighted the many issues that hinder gender equality. In the US, rape in universities and the US military perpetuates gender inequality. In other countries, women face genital mutilation, higher abortion rates for female babies, and a deeply-rooted cultural inferiority. Carter reminded students that although there has been much work for peace, many are unaware “we have more slavery on Earth now than the 19th century.” While his speech gave appreciation for our progress, he sent a message to our generation that there is more to be done.

The OPCW speakers, Leiv Sydnes and Director-General Ahmet Uzumcu remarked about chemical weapons and the OPCW’s leading role in the worldwide effort for the eradication of these dangerous weapons. Natalie Duncan from Highland Park Senior High was privileged with the opportunity to ask a question to the Director-General. Her question, “How will the OPCW work to engage the six non-member countries?” led to much explanation from Uzumcu.

The most remarkable part of the forum was that those in attendance were very diverse. People of all ages, races, and religious groups united on their common goal of peace. During the hour designated for discussion about peace, called the “World Café,” participants were able to share in a dialogue with a wide range of individuals and enjoy multiple perspectives. The forum was also brought to a real-life level when students were split into groups to work on service projects. Projects included visual art, spoken word, writing letters, dance, and bookmaking. Natalie Duncan enjoyed her service project in which “we talked about what’s in our hearts, what drives us to act, and the actions we take in our community.”

YouthThrive, the organization that partnered with the forum to host this event, is made up of high school students from across Minnesota. Kevin Nguyen and Grace James, students from Highland Park are members of the program.

 

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Above: Juniors Katie Tennis, Isabella Isett, Natalie Duncan, Keiko Hilmo, and Audrey Dombro pose with Leiv Sydnes of the OPCW.

 

 

Acclaimed Author Makes One Stop in Minnesota – At Highland Park Senior High

Jay Asher had no idea how much of an impact his book would have on students when he originally wrote it as a response to the suicide attempt of a close relative. In fact, his book was originally not received well, as it was rejected 12 times, to the point that he likened every rejection letter to a breakup, noting to HP students, “If I was going to get through this rejection process, I was going to have to make a game out of it.” His good humor and resilience kept him moving forward and he was eventually signed on by a publisher. Since then, Asher’s book has become a call to action for an anti-bullying campaign. This year, he has launched a tour called 50 States Against Bullying and is visiting a school in each state. Highland Park was honored to be the Minnesota school.

Asher’s book, Thirteen Reasons Why, deals with suicide and a lot of issues that teens face in their time in high school. Today, Asher offered wise words to Highland Park students. With regard to the people that we see at school every day, Asher stated, “A lot of what you know about them is just what you’ve heard about them.” There is a quintessential truth to this statement, as gossip and rumors can become commonplace in high school, so often accepted as truth that they lock high school students in an ongoing battle to be who they are amid the overpowering idea of how others perceive them. Asher’s character faces a similar dilemma. Hannah Baker has a series of vicious rumors that circulate about her, rumors that, according to Asher, “change how they see her and then change how they treat her and eventually how she sees herself.” Although Asher never meant to challenge how we treat each other, his book seems to reminds high schoolers of their power and influence in the lives of each other.

Asher’s book resonates with different teens in different ways. That is one of the reasons why it is such a powerful story. At his presentation, Asher shared many of the responses that he had gotten. Many cited the book as a life changer; some realized that they weren’t alone in their struggles, while others pledged to open their eyes to how they treat people and work for others.

It isn’t hard to see why Asher’s book was such a success. His presentation was loaded with wit and humor, and he seemed to connect with the struggles of high school students that often seem overlooked especially by adults. On behalf of Highland Park students and staff, thank you Jay Asher for choosing our school and for all your work to bring awareness to bullying and suicide.

Follow Jay on Twitter @jayasherguy and visit his blog at jayasher.blogspot.com  (As he said, “This is how we can all stay friends when I go home.” )

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Above: Jay Asher speaks with Highland Park students at the assembly

Great Decisions Conference for HPSH students was a field trip to the real world

Nine students from Kari Rise’s IB Geography class were able to attend the 7th annual Great Decisions Conference last Friday. Each year, this conference tackles issues that have global relevance. The topic for 2014 was energy independence. Speakers ranging from experts from the University of Minnesota and the Star Tribune to foreign affairs specialists of Germany, Mexico, and Canada brought their voices to the panel.

Discussion about energy independence began with an overview from foreign relations expert Tom Hanson about foreign policy and America’s history with oil. His speech was particularly startling because it introduced the politics surrounding energy, an issue that many of us, especially as high school students, do not even think about.

Part of learning about energy independence was understanding the complexity to any subject. While all the speakers were highly educated, they had different, and sometimes opposite, opinions. As many spoke of the economic and political benefits from obtaining oil in the US, others spoke to their concerns about the environment or the lack of sustainability in continuing current patterns. For some, the United States has made incredible progress in a positive direction because of their increased energy independence. Oil ties countries together politically. 80% of China’s oil comes from the Middle East, causing lifestyle in China to hinge on the political stability of the Middle East. The US does not have this issue, as only one third of our oil is imported. On the other side, localization brings into play the environmental impact. It is important to remember that the reserves of oil will not be able to sustain increasing energy needs forever. Respected intellectuals and members of the public presented on each side of the debacle.

To Highland Park students, one of the most intriguing facets of the conference was Hector Castro’s presentation on Mexico. Hector Castro described a progressive situation in Mexico. Since the election of President Enrique Peña Nieto, the Mexican government has instituted sweeping structural reforms, including 21 new laws. Regarding energy, laws were adopted to try to decrease the monopoly of the government petroleum and electricity companies of PEMEX and CFE. The presentation was thought-provoking because of the efficiency of the Mexican government. HPSH students commented on the contrast with the difficulty in passing legislation that the United States government often faces.

This wasn’t the only opportunity to compare and contrast. Energy dependence is a problem that many countries have had to face. As Mario Ingo Soos, Deputy Consul General of Germany in Chicago, explained, for Germany, the solution to becoming independent was turning to renewable energy sources. About 27% of their energy is from renewable sources. When faced with the same dilemma, the United States has resorted to a dramatic increase in local hydraulic fracking. Both ways have been successful in reducing international dependence, but each have a very different set of outcomes and consequences. It was interesting to see the different methods of solving a problem.

Every day in school, we learn the skills that we need in our future, but our education in the classroom doesn’t always enter into current events or share in the concerns of the “adult world.” It felt refreshing to be aware of something that matters and to take part in contributing ideas. Our choices with energy are going to shape future generations and being informed is critical.

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(Above) Several geography students who attended the conference pictured with Kari Rise, HPSH IB Geography instructor, Mario Ingo Soos, Deputy Consul General of Germany in Chicago and Carol Engebretson Bryne, President of Minnesota International Center

(Below) Students with Star Tribune energy reporter David Shaffer, and Dan King, US Department of Energy.

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History Day students prepare for D.C.

The National History Day tradition at Highland Park will continue as freshmen Samara Kroeger and Tessa Newman-Heggie advance to Nationals in Washington D.C. This is the fifth year that Highland Park has sent students to the National History Day Competition.

At Sate History Day on May 3rd, Samara placed 1st with her individual website, titled “Toxic Time Bomb: Love Canal, Superfund and the Establishment of Environmental Rights and Responsibilities”. Her project also received the Environmental History topical prize. Tessa’s individual documentary,“Violations of Rights in the Obedience Experiments: How Stanley Milgram Shocked the World”, received 2nd place.

Both Tessa and Samara have participated in the Minnesota State History Day competition in past years. According to Samara, “I was really happy because this was my fourth year doing history day, and I’ve been improving every year. So I finally achieved my goals.”

They leave for Washington, D.C. on June 14th. The girls are excited to see landmarks and museums, and of course, to go running together in our nation’s capitol. They are happy that they will be able to experience a high level of competition and meet students from all over the world.

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From right: Samara Kroeger and Tessa Newman-Heggie

 

Goodbye Class of 2014

Surrounded by friends, family, and teachers, 261 seniors graduated earlier tonight at Roy Wilkins Auditorium. Wise words were shared by faculty, guests, and graduates to aid the Class of 2014 in all their future endeavors. Speakers included Mary Doran from the Saint Paul Board of Education, Senior Class Advisor Charlotte Landreau, and Superintendent Valeria Silva.  The Highland Park choir serenaded the graduates, and the symphonic band played a special rendition of “Happy” by Pharrell. Rachel Lindholm, a member of the Top Ten, gave the valedictorian speech. The members of the Senior Class Council also spoke to their peers about the years they’ve shared together.

The commencement address was given by Andrew Dirks, physics teacher, who was chosen by the students. Many would say his speech ended with a bang, as Mr Dirks closed with a demonstration of a ping-pong ball cannon to simulate traveling through high school.  The ceremony was both exciting and saddening.

As red and white caps flew through the air, a new chapter opened in the lives of these students. On behalf of the rest of the current student body: Congratulations Class of 2014 and thank you for all your contributions to Highland Park. We wish you the best.

 

 

 

 

 

Staff editorial – Phthalates, the controversial chemicals with the weird name

Cosmetics have become a prominent part of American culture, so much that few of us stop to think of the repercussions of constant usage, or even consider what exactly we are welcoming into our bodies. When I surveyed 280 Highland Park students, 79% admitted to not reading the labels before buying or using a cosmetic or beauty product. This is basically condoning the use of potentially harmful chemicals in our cosmetics. Now is the time to get informed and to stop this mindless consumption.

One particular group of chemicals, known as phthalates, have been in the news a lot lately. Of the students I surveyed, 95% responded “no” when asked whether they knew what phthalates were. Many have never heard of them, but everyone is likely to come in contact with them daily. Although these chemicals have been banned from products in the European Union, phthalates are still used heavily in American products. A study by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tested 2,500 individuals and found 97% had molecules of at least one type of phthalate in their bodies.

Phthalates are a group of chemical compounds that are clear and oily, and used in almost everything from children’s’ toys to blood storage bags in hospitals.  Phthalates, or “plasticizers”, soften the texture of plastics and cosmetics. They also cling to skin, which allows products to last longer and retain scent or color for more time. A rule of thumb to go by is that basically any product with a fragrance, be it deodorant, perfume, body wash, or lip-gloss, is likely to contain phthalates. Of the students I surveyed, 95% said they use cosmetics or beauty products including shampoo, deodorant, and lotion on a daily basis.

So what could this cost us? Research on phthalates is varied. Phthalates are a possible carcinogen, meaning that research shows that they are related to cancer. They increase the amount of breast cancer cells in women’s’ bodies and they are endocrine disruptors that offset hormone balance, causing early puberty and breast development in girls. Two pediatricians, Dr Shanna Swan, an epidemiologist, and Doctor Howard Snyder, a urologist at Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia both studied baby boys and the relation of chemicals to abnormalities in their hormones. Dr Swan found that baby boys that had more reproductive organ problems and low sperm and testosterone levels consistently had mothers with higher levels of phthalates in their urine at the time of pregnancy. These developmental problems relate to reproductive organs, and low sperm and testosterone levels in adult men as well. Dr Snyder links hypospadias, a condition that has tripled in the last forty years, to chemicals, especially phthalates.

On a container, phthalates are labelled as DEHP, DBP, DMP, MEP, and most commonly, DEP. However, even if none of these chemicals are listed on the product, it may still contain phthalates due to loopholes in the law regarding product ingredients. Companies are not required to state ingredients in their trademark “fragrance,” so there is no way of determining if a product is completely phthalate-free.

According to the Food and Drug Administration and the Consumer Product Safety Commission, there is not enough solid scientific evidence that points directly at immediate negative outcomes of phthalates to spur legislation. Companies say that phthalates are relatively safe and pose no health risk. A prime concern is that if phthalates were banned, a substitute would have to be developed that would be new and untested, which could potentially be even more toxic. Furthermore, companies insist that phthalates are not harmful unless used in high dosage, and the small phthalate content in their products isn’t truly harmful. However, in 2008, congress passed a bill that outlawed phthalates in children’s toys, which seems to indicate differently. This legislation doesn’t seem to support the notion that phthalates are entirely safe.

The phthalates debate has still not yet been ended with conclusive data. Regardless, it is good to be informed. Because of the controversy, it would be safest to choose products that do not contain phthalates. It falls to the consumer to decided what they do and do not want in a product. Say no to phthalates by not buying products that clearly contain phthalates, at least not until more conclusive research is done.

Also, remember that phthalates are not the only potentially unsafe chemicals that find their way into our cosmetics. As the consumers, we have the power to change this.

To learn about skin products with safe ingredients visit: http://www.ewg.org/

Staff editorial – A world debate in Minnesota: Mining and the environment

NOTE: The following article won 3rd place in a contest put on by Young Reporters for the Environment.

It might seem as though the controversy over proposed sulfide mining plans in the Northeastern region of Minnesota doesn’t directly affect high school students. But in reality, this is the generation that will be feeling the effects of any decisions made, so it is crucial that we are involved in this process.

Recently, PolyMet, a Canadian corporation hoping to begin mining in 2016, released the Environmental Impact Statement of the proposed mine. The environmental review has received over 40,000 comments on a public comment thread. For those in support, the resulting economic growth and job creation are incomparable, while those opposed raise concerns about the environmental impact.

Sulfide mining, also known as hard rock mining, is the extraction of minerals like Minnesota’s vast reserves of copper, nickel, cobalt, and platinum from sulfide ore. Polymet workers estimate that the Duluth Complex in Northeastern Minnesota’s Mesabi Iron Range has 4.4 billion tons of minerals. The plan projected by PolyMet is to reuse existing infrastructure from Erie Plant, a 1957 taconite processing facility.

The proposed mine is in an ideal location of economic need. As stated by Ely resort owner Joe Baltich at a public hearing of the Polymet proposal, “I’m in the tourism industry, and I certainly don’t want to shoot myself in the foot. But we’re losing businesses right and left. We have 360 properties that are for sale, and no one is buying… We’re going to lose our schools, our grocery store. We’re going to lose everything, and it’s my hometown.” Baltich, and many others, support the mining project because they believe it could mean increased jobs and a revitalized Minnesotan economy. PolyMet estimates that mining could generate 360 jobs, and hundreds for construction workers, for 20 years. The University of Minnesota-Duluth calculated the mining would produce over 550 million dollars per year, clearly an economic stimulant.

Proponents of Minnesotan sulfide mining also emphasize the positives in obtaining metals locally, reflecting a problem that the United States as a whole faces: dependence on foreign minerals. Mining nationally has been promoted to reduce international dependence, and allow us to more closely monitor conditions for miners and for the environment where the metals are extracted, which are often unsafe due to few regulations. This Minnesotan mine could be a step away from foreign dependence and towards a self sufficient America.

But it isn’t this simple. The Great Lakes contain 18% of the world’s fresh water, and mining could be a threat to this valuable resource. 99% of the rock that is unearthed is waste rock or sulfides. When the sulfides are exposed to air and water, the waste could be subject to acid mine drainage, which would create sulfuric acid. This acid could be a potential pollutant for water, as well as for wildlife and fish. Water is difficult to contain and to treat, and the interconnected water systems in Minnesota are a concern if any pollution were to occur. Minnesota isn’t the only state that has undergone mining turmoil. “Other states have suffered because their leaders saw dollar signs when they should have seen question marks. Leaders believed promises that the mines wouldn’t pollute, but ignored all the times those promises had been broken,” stated Friends of the BWCA Executive Director Paul Danicic, in a Minneapolis Star Tribune editorial, referring to pollution in Colorado, Montana, and South Dakota mines. According to the project Mining Truth, there has not been a single sulfide mine that has not polluted.

Furthermore, environmentalists claim the PolyMet plan is riddled with gaping holes. The water treatment after the project could last for 500 years or longer in cases of high levels of pollution. Scott Helgeson of Bloomington spoke at a public hearing on January 28, stating, “What prevents [PolyMet] from going bankrupt 30 years from now and saying, guys, we just can’t pay the bills anymore. Are we insane?” Helgeson’s concerns echo those of taxpayers across the state. The cost of cleanup after the mining is complete could thrust Minnesotans into an economic deficit. For some, the risk of a costly cleanup outweighs the prospect of economic thriving for twenty years.

Of course, the economic gain could be very substantial, but here’s the question Minnesotans are asking: is any amount of money worth putting natural beauty at risk? The solution isn’t clear cut. Minnesota is undisputably host to a plethora of natural minerals, something Minnesotans should be able to harness to economic advantage. However, we need to know how to do this correctly, without environmental harm as a stipulation. Mining could leave Minnesota’s next generation–our generation– in an economic deficit. So we need to be involved. Aaron Klemz, communications director for Friends of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area, in a personal interview March 10, stated,

“When regulators know that tens of thousands, and hundreds of thousands of people are watching their decision-making process, they make better decisions, because they have to actually know that they will be held accountable for what’s happening. Part of it is about being involved in the process, and part of it too is making sure the DNR understands that Minnesotans want to preserve our water for the next generation, because it is probably our greatest natural resource.”

The Minnesotan debate is bringing to the surface decades of dispute that pit mining against the health of the environment. Japan, Spain, Peru, and Indonesia are only a few examples of the many countries dealing with mining pollution. Our world depends on minerals to make products, and countries need the money from this international trade. Together, we are going to have to work to find a balance to eventually obtain them in a safe manner, or risk trashing our environment.

Minnesota is going to be a leader, but whether for a successful or destructive sulfide mining project or an environmental victory, is a choice that Minnesotans are going to have to make.

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(Boundary Waters photos courtesy of Karl Boothman)

Staff editorial – Class color T-shirts: Harmless fun or creator of division?

I like wearing my class color shirt just as much as any student. It’s fun to get all decked out in green and be proud of my sophomore status. However, when I really think about it, wearing these shirts seems to contradict what we stand for as a school. The message we are sending, that Highland Park is separate, just isn’t right. With class colors, it isn’t about Highland Park as a school, it’s seniors against freshmen, sophomores against juniors, upperclassmen against lowerclassmen. I’m not saying a little class rivalry can’t be fun sometimes, but wearing these shirts ingrains a negative message into our minds.

Our grade differences shouldn’t be such an emphasis, especially during spirit week, when it is time for Highland Park to celebrate our school and show our Scot spirit. It isn’t about freshman, sophomore, junior, or senior spirit. “Instead of working as a school, we work as grades… Eliminating class color shirts could help unify the school instead of individual grade separation,” says Akira Callahan, a freshman. It seems to be contradictory that administration constantly reminds students not to yell the traditional “Go home freshmen!” or participate in marking, and yet grade separation is promoted through class color shirts. Freshmen are bright, yellow targets in their shirts. This sends a very confusing message to students if we are both encouraged to be inclusive, yet are so easily reminded of a difference that drives a lot of negativity.

Another problem with class color shirts is that they become outdated after a year. Most students will buy four shirts that they will never wear again. Jonas Buck, a Highland Park junior, does not buy a class color shirt for this reason. “It’s ten dollars for a shirt that you’re going to wear for maybe nine months. It’s just not worth it for me,” says Jonas.

I looked into the use of class color shirts at some other schools near Highland. The sophomore Jack McKenna transferred to Highland after a year at Nova Classical Academy. Nova does not have class color shirts. At Highland, he notices the grade conflict, especially surrounding freshmen. He agreed that class color shirts could be a contributor to this. Kate Grumbles, a sophomore at Cretin Derham Hall, says that CDH does not have official school-sanctioned shirts. In the past, class colors were a part of spirit week, but they are no longer encouraged by the administration. At Central High School, sophomore Brendan Tickle says there are no class color shirts. Kieran McDonald, a Highland Park sophomore, says his previous school, Saint Paul Academy, doesn’t have class color shirts either. According to Kieran, the school also has less problems with the negativity associated between grades. However, Kieran thinks this isn’t related to the shirts. He says, “I think it makes no difference. SPA and Highland are just different groups of kids.”

However, there are still schools that have class color shirts. Sam Sukar, a Highland sophomore, says the school she previously attended, Eastern Hills High School in Texas, had class color shirts. This leads a person to wonder whether grade barriers are as prominent of an issue, like it is at Highland, at schools that also have class color shirts. According to South High sophomore Izzy Rousmaniere, students at her school are discouraged, and even restricted from wearing class color shirts during pep fest because of the problems they have had with grade conflict in the past. She says, “I think they’re cool and fun and build solidarity I guess. But a lot of people use them to differentiate themselves from other grades, which is just rude and pointless.”

In previous years, we wore the class color shirts at the pep fest during homecoming week. However, similarly to South, the Highland Park Student Council made the decision to change this, so now all students wear red for pep fest. Senior Nguyen Lu, Student Council President explains. “Student Council executive board had a meeting with our administrators and we discussed how we could improve on school unity and spirit… We believed that class color created a barrier between the students. During every pep fest, the classes would be booing one another… After much more discussion we decided to make the first homecoming pep fest a school spirit day. We believed that homecoming pep fest should be about encouraging one another instead of dividing.”

I think that as a school, Highland needs to take the next step forward and rethink having class color shirts at all. Most teachers say these class color shirts have been a part of Highland for as long as they can remember. Maybe, it’s time for change. If we have to designate between classes, let’s just have class color shirts that are all the same color with the class’s graduation year written on the back because they would be reusable. Except, seniors should keep their special customized shirts as they deserve to stand out, and be recognized for their time at Highland.

Remember: we are ALL students of Highland Park! Every senior, junior, sophomore, and freshman make up our student body. We should stand united as a school. Think about this next time you wear your class color shirt.

Featured activity – Highland Park Automatons

Every Thursday, the woodshop at Highland Park is filled with about twenty students programming and working with fuses, miscellaneous robot arms, and electrical cords. Other students are designing the team website, taking photos, preparing marketing speeches, and planning fundraisers. This organized chaos is just a typical weekly meeting for the robotics team.

Right now the Highland Park FIRST robotics team, the Automatons, is gearing up for build season: the time in which they will work on the robotics challenge that will be unveiled in early January. Each year, a different challenge is presented and teams must build robots over a two-month period that will be able to rival robots of other teams at the regional competition. Last year, the goal was to create a robot to throw Frisbees and climb. Frisbee throws were aimed into several slots and points were scored based on the difficulty of the shot. Climbing effectiveness of the robot was determined through height; the higher the climb the more points. Regarding the outcome of the competition, senior team captain Aaron D’sa says, “We got into the top half, which is way better than a lot of other teams. Our robot was simple enough where if something went terribly wrong, we would have an idea of where to fix it. Overall, the competition went pretty well.” The Automatons were able to build a great robot and advance to semifinals, but they hope for even more success in their upcoming year.

For now, the team is trying to hone in the skills that they will need to use later in the year. With the guidance of the robotics coaches, mentors, and dedicated parents, each team member is responsible for mastering as many lessons as possible from a set of illustrious binders known as the “lazy mentors” which contain all the keys to success in robot-building. “The team is learning how to put real-life examples to what they’re learning in their science, math, and engineering classes. It’s really a great application of their knowledge,” says Coach Lynn Ihlenfeldt.

The team is comprised of a diverse group of students of all different ages and experience levels in robot building. For some aspiring to work in a science, technology, engineering, or math career, it is a chance to sharpen technological skills, while for others it is a totally new experience. Co-Captain David White gives insight on building a robot without prior building experience. “It’s totally doable, I mean you can walk in with nothing and still build a successful robot in the end…For me, robotics is definitely providing more experience [in STEM].” Misha Prasolov is a programmer on the team. He says, “As a programmer, I usually brainstorm with the other programmers to figure out the best way to text or code the functions needed to make the robot do things. I like coding. I feel like it could be a really great profession.”

Something that a lot of students don’t realize is that there are many parts to the team beyond robot building. “There are lots of cool things you can do in robotics. A big part of it is doing outreach, marketing, designing and programming, as well as building the robot,” says Coach Lynn. The team also participates in volunteer work to give back to the community. In the past, they have mentored FIRST Lego League teams, been involved in robotics at the State Fair, and participated in showcases for young students interested in robotics like an event at the Mall of America. The team tries to give back to their community and be positive role models, especially for budding STEM students.

Robotics is an expensive activity due to the parts that are needed for building, along with entry fees for competitions. The business sector of the team includes several students who apply for grants and organize fundraisers. Jack McKenna, a member of the business team, encourages Highland Park students to help out in any way that they are able. According to Jack,  “The team really needs help from our school. Highland Park students can participate in fundraisers by doing normal things such as going to Starbucks and buying coffee or going to Chipotle and buying a meal. We hope to see everyone at some fundraisers later in the year!”

For more information, visit the team website: http://www.team2823.com/

Or connect with the team on Twitter @frc2823