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Mrs. Cook cans her old life for one in New York

Here is Mrs. Cook with her mother, who visited from Washington state last October to enjoy the fall foliage, and her husband, enjoying the trails in the Adirondack Mountains.
Photo Courtesy of: Mrs. Cook

Former RAHS English teacher for at least a decade, Mary Ciccone-Cook, has been up to big things. Mrs. Cook has been gone for almost an entire year now, and while there are parts about RAHS she misses, she is enjoying her life away from the school. Living in upstate New York, Ms. Cook has become a Career and Technical Education (CTE) English Instructor; a teacher for people in the workforce.

“CTE is big here,” said Cook, “with programs in automotive technology, building trades, electrical technology, culinary arts, cosmetology, agriculture, health occupations, and others.”

As a CTE instructor, Cook is implementing English Language Arts (ELA) standards into her technical curriculum.

“I’m in charge of embedding the ELA standards and curriculum into the CTE curricula,” said Cook. “It’s the opposite of what I did at RAHS where I embedded aviation and aerospace topics into my English classes. Now, I’m learning all about these trades in order to find books, short stories, essays, and other texts and topics for reading, research, writing, presentation, and other ELA skills and standards.”

Working in the CTE program, Cook is teaching people in the workforce valuable English skills they can use to benefit their careers. Her program makes it so that people in the workforce don’t have to go back to school in order to expand their knowledge. The CTE program Cook is working on has a rich history in helping people realize their full potential.

“CTE used to be called vocational education and most high schools across the country had programs like these up until the mid-1990s,” said Cook. “Then the philosophy changed that ‘everyone should go to college’ and they got rid of these programs, much to the detriment of educating high school students with real work skills so they could either go into those trades or at least have some job skills so they could get a decent job to help pay for college.”

Her former job at RAHS helped prepare Cook for her new job, and the work that she does in the CTE program is useful and important. But outside of work, Cook is enjoying a fun life away from the hustle and bustle of the big cities.

“My hobbies since we moved here have been mainly pertaining to painting and decorating our 106-year-old house,” said Cook. “I’ve been watching a lot of HGTV [Home & Garden Television] shows to get decorating ideas! Since this is a very small town with limited shopping–the nearest mall is 50 minutes away–I’ve had to do a lot of shopping online for things. However, the antique stores here are plentiful and much cheaper than in the Seattle area.”

Decorating her house is just one of the things keeping her busy. In addition, Cook has spent some time putting puzzles together and canning fruits and vegetables.

“I’m just about to finish my seventeenth puzzle since moving here last June!” said Cook. “I’ve also learned to can, so last fall I canned about thirty-five jars of tomatoes and eight jars of apples. My latest hobby is beading–I’ve been making necklaces and bracelets. There are tons of craft fairs here so I might start expanding that hobby and [sell] my works.”

Although she is missed dearly, there are some things about working at RAHS she is happy to be rid of.

“I don’t miss the horrendous commute on I-5,” said Cook. “My commute is five minutes and I stay in town. Periodically I have to go to the other CTE program, which is a 45-minute trip into the mountains to Saranac Lake. It’s gorgeous and there is no traffic. (The traffic issues we have here are the occasional cattle crossings, farm tractors, snowplows, and Amish horse and buggies.)”

Mrs. Cook is enjoying her new life in New York, however, she does miss parts of Raisbeck.

“What I miss about RAHS are the students,” said Cook. “However, several of the seniors have kept in contact since I did many letters of recommendations for them for their college applications and now for the scholarships they are applying to.”

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Balloon Team looks to the sky with upcoming balloon launch

Cole Evans works with Satellite Team balloon payload and flight systems.
Photo Courtesy Of: Andrew Struthers

In the past, Satellite Club (Sat Club) has struggled to accomplish their goals pertaining to satellites on their original timelines. However, this is starting to change as the club is starting to find success on a scale larger than just the classroom.

Originally, the goal was to build a cubesat and launch it by the end of 2016.  A cubesat is a 10cm by 10cm by 10cm cube that functions just like a regular satellite, but on a smaller scale. A simple satellite consists of some proof of concept (eg. a 3-D printed satellite), along with a communication system to talk to the earth. Building a working cubesat on the first try, with a group of people who have no experience building satellites proved more difficult than they previously thought. As a result, a subgroup attempted a simpler goal by deciding to make a high altitude balloon, with senior Cole Evans as team lead and Miles Durnwirth as co-lead.  

“When you think of a cubesat, it is a very complex thing,” said Evans. “There’s a lot of subsystems on there, and there’s a difference between doing something for real and on a test bed. The balloon is an effort for Sat Club to build something that actually flies [that is] built to the quality of a space-ready cubesat, including software.”

The balloon is a solid first step towards launching a cubesat, as the subsystems and software are almost identical. The balloon has to have computer chips, or microcontrollers, that handle data and run the entire system, and a satellite (SAT) phone communication system in order for the team to communicate with the payload after launch.

“We have a few microcontrollers, a SAT phone com[munication] system, GPS systems, and other subsystems,” said Evans. “It will be very similar to how they would be on an actual cubesat.”

As with every project, there are a multitude of challenges that the team has to overcome. Launching a balloon seems like it wouldn’t be too complicated, but even after getting it to work, the FAA can still shut the project down.

“[The launch date] depends on our FAA certification,” said Durnwirth. “We do not have a flight termination system on the balloon, so we need to get an exemption from the FAA rules.”

The goal of this launch is to build something that can operate as a learning platform for the future members of the team.

“Hopefully this balloon can be reusable,” said Durnwirth, “and hopefully we can fly it multiple times to gain knowledge for people who have no knowledge or experience with cubesats.”

One of the main struggles for getting a good test balloon is getting the communication system to work well. The communication system is used to track, monitor, and talk to the balloon throughout its flight.

“Some balloons uses HAM radio to communicate with the ground,” said Evans, “but that requires line of sight. So we use a SAT phone running off of an Iridium network, which works anywhere around the earth if it has a clear view of the sky. The com[munication] system can send 300 bytes per packet of information.”

Not only will this balloon be a test of concept for the cubesat launch, but the project has the potential to provide some really interesting pictures and videos of the payload as it goes up, reaches its maximum altitude, then goes back down to earth.

“We are trying to get a lot of cool video from the flight,” said Evans, “so we have 4k cameras with fisheye lenses, and we should get some really cool videos of the flight.”

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Students expanding their horizons at international event

Cole Graham (left) and Harrison Jerome sit in one of Team Canada’s bobsleds before the start of the day’s races.
Photo Courtesy of: Cole Graham

Many students travel to learn about different communities, and some students are lucky enough to travel to different cities or states, but seniors Harrison Jerome and Cole Graham are traveling out of the country to visit an international event.

Graham and Jerome are visiting the 2018 Winter Olympics in mid February to watch the events and be a part of the cultural mix.

“We are seeing the bobsled two-man final, the women’s gold medal hockey game, curling round robin, speedskating long track, and freestyle skiing aerial,” said Graham. “We might try to see more events if we have the time. We chose to see these events because we have the most interest in these.”

Graham got the ability to take one friend to Korea as a Christmas present from his father. Although it was mainly a present for his son, the trip also has special meaning for Graham’s father.

“My dad was a bobsledder,” said Graham, “and since he is paying for the trip, we are going to see that too.”

Graham’s dad has a history of bobsledding and a special tie to the Olympics.

“He was a 2 time bobsledder in 1988 in Calgary and 1992 in Albertville, France,” said Graham, “and 1 time track in the Olympics. He competed in the Seoul Summer Olympics in 1988. We are going to watch his event, although he will not be competing this time.”

Visiting a new country is an opportunity for Graham and Jerome to expand their cultural horizons.

“We are planning on trying exotic food, and visiting a lot of tourist attractions,” said Graham. “We are very excited to expand our horizons by visiting and learning as much about a different culture as we can. We are going to try to not be cold, and not be shot by the North Koreans.”

Taking part in this entirely new culture can seem a little daunting, at first, but Jerome is not too worried about the big change.

“I am a little bit nervous because of the culture shock,” said Jerome, “but it is something people get over really quickly.”

Since visiting South Korea is somewhat inherently dangerous due to its closeness to North Korea, the students and their families are both a little bit nervous.

“No, I am not worried,” said Graham. “My grandmother is freaking out and calling me every day, telling me to not go into the crowds, which is kind of hard to do, because it’s the Olympics. ”

Although Graham isn’t as worried, Jerome’s only worry is soothed by his belief that it is actually safer to visit Korea during the Olympics.

“Going to the Korean peninsula is inherently dangerous,” said Jerome, “but it is, in my opinion, worth the risk because it seems like this is the last time in a long time where it would be safe to go to South Korea.”

Jerome brings up a good point, being South Korea will most likely be more safe, and even the potential danger of North Korea will be diminished during the events.

“In my opinion, this is one of the safest times to go to South Korea,” said Jerome, “because not only is North Korea sending some of its athletes, and also China is sending its athletes. They would be putting themselves in a very unstrategic position if they attack South Korea. No one would take their side if they attack during the Olympics.”

Regardless of the safety concerns in South Korea, Jerome and Graham intend to push their luck even further, by getting as close to visiting North Korea as possible.

“We are going to visit the DMZ if it is open,” said Graham. “I would like to go into the UN negotiation rooms, which are legally in the Democratic Republic of North Korea.”

“We will look at the DMZ and see the guards,” said Jerome, “but we will remain on the South side of the border.”

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Competitors face annual Poetry Out Loud competition

Kayla Tran, winner of this year’s and last year’s POL competition, performing “Ways of Talking” by Ha Jin.
Photo Credit: Ryan Lipour

Poetry Out Loud (POL) competitions took place in three different classes this year: AP Literature and Composition, Sophomore English, and Aviation Theater. RAHS English teacher Wayne Storer ran the competitions in Aviation Theater and AP Literature and Composition, while Sarah Fitzpatrick and Mr. Storer ran the competitions for Sophomore English.

POL is a national poetry competition where students pick a couple of poems, memorize them, then recite them in different competitions. The goal of POL is to get students involved with poetry.

“POL helps students learn about poetry in a different way,” said Storer, “other than the scary, oh poetry is so hard and I have to analyze it and I don’t understand and it has so much depth and meaning. It is a different relationship and understanding of poetry, and for many kids, it is a different introduction to poetry.”

Going into the school wide competition, Storer believes that all the competitors are fully prepared, yet can’t emphasize enough the importance of practice outside of class.

“Like most things in school, the more you work at it, the better you get,” said Storer. “If they are preparing, if they are working on their recitation at home, if they are reciting to other people, they will be better.”

In the competitions, students stand in front of an audience and judges, and recites their poem from memory. The objective is to present the poem in such a way that shows a deeper understanding of the already complex piece of work. Storer believes that with a little bit more practice, the students will do very well during the school competition.

“They couldn’t possibly just prepare from the time in class, and win. Period.” said Storer. “They have to work outside of class. From the class competition, it looked like the winners are as prepared as they ever have been in my class.”

Senior Cole Graham won the in class competition for AP Literature third period. Heeding Storer’s advice, Graham prepared his recitation in a variety of different ways.

“I practiced in class in both my Aviation Theater class and my AP Literature class,” said Graham, “but I did most of my preparation in my first period TA class, with my friends. Whenever I would mess up, they would laugh, so I learned how to perform with adversary and distraction.”

Presenting in front of a large group, regardless of how much you prepare and practice, can still be a daunting task. Going in to the competition, especially when you don’t like speaking in front of a group, can be a nerve wracking experience.

“Yes, I was nervous,” said Graham, “because I don’t really like speaking in front of people, but I was excited at the same time. I was nervous that my friends would hold up posters and make me laugh in the middle of my performance, so I was nervous.”

Battling through the nerves, and coming out the other side successful, can lead to a sense of accomplishment and desire to compete further. However, in some cases, the nerves of a larger scale competition can deter students, such as Graham, and take away any interest in advancing further.

“For me, poetry is a private thing,” said Graham. “I write it and I share it with those who matter to me the most, and I don’t want to share my poetic musings with people who may not know me, like the general public.”

With the in-class and school competitions over, the POL recitation winners are looking to expand outwards and compete in larger venues.

“National finals are in the spring,” said Storer. “Students that win their schools go to either regional or state finals, and the winners of the state finals go to the national finals.”

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New workspaces for students become available to all

The programming team of Skunkwords, (left to right) Tanvir Tatla, Eric Pratt, Bella White, Eli Benevedes, Mike Heidal, and Tri Phan, use the Small Projects Lab to work on software for their robots.
Photo By: Giovannie Dang

Nikhil Joshi, RAHS Mathematics, Flight by Design, and Astronomy instructor, is working on turning the Small Projects Lab and the Large Projects Lab, also known as the shop, into a space available to the entire student body.

“I want to make both the Small Project Lab (SPL) and Large Project Lab (LPL), more usable for all classes and clubs at the school,” said Joshi.

The first part to making the SPL and LPL usable to all classes involves rearranging equipment to make cabinetry accessible, cleaning up the LPL and allocating storage space for clubs. Clubs that could use this space regularly are  Robotics, Science Olympiad, and classes such as CAD+Manufacturing (CAD), and Flight by Design (FbD).

Joshi believes that developing an operations manual for the labs will keep students safe, and the space available for all students.

“Creating an operations document that outlines rules for using the lab spaces and safety guidelines will include the standards for leaving the space usable for the next class period,” said Joshi. “We [Mr. McComb, myself, and Mr. Gudor] would develop this operations manual with collaboration with the principle expected users of the space.”

Even though Joshi is trying to make the space accessible to everyone, it will not be a truly public area.

“Students will still need teacher supervision to use the spaces,” said Joshi. “It’s just that they’ll be available to all students and classes at the school for project work and there will be expectations on how to use and share the space.”

The labs would have a similar setup to the CAD lab on the second floor.

“Think how the CAD lab is shared between CAD, FbD, and Yearbook,” said Joshi. “We want to do the same with the labs and equipment on the first floor, and we’ll include formal operational rules for use of the CAD lab while we’re at it.”

In robotics, any student who wants to or has to use the heavy machinery needs to be shop trained. Any student who needs to use any of the tools needs to have some sort of safety training before being allowed to have access. One concern to making the SPL and LPL available to everyone is maintaining the safety and security of the students.

“A teacher would need to be present to use the space,” said Joshi. “We would likely keep the SPL and LPL locked when not being used. The labs would not be used without a trained staff member present to monitor students and other users.”

Skunkworks, the school’s robotics team, has been the main user of the SPL and LPL, but making this space usable by the entire student body will benefit individual students.

“Robotics has been the primary user of the lab spaces to date,” said Joshi. “We have lots of cool technology that isn’t being used efficiently because we don’t have protocols for sharing the space with other programs in the school. Setting guidelines for usage will allow more teachers and students to take advantage of the technology for projects in different classes.”

The robotics team works in this space a lot, especially the programming subteam. Senior Mike Heidal, a member of the programming team, uses this space frequently.

“It [the SPL] has several different uses,” said Heidal. “There is a 3D printer and a laser cutter for CAD. I’ve mostly just used it as the robotics programming sub-team’s home.”

Most students never use the SPL, on account of it always being locked.

“I’ve only ever used the small projects lab for programming,” said Heidal. “It is a quiet room out of the way. It’s also used for the utility of the garage door.”

Making the SPL available for the student body is an important addition for students who need the extra resources to be creative.

“The SPL can be a shared instructional space like the CAD lab,” said Joshi. “The labs are part of the school so all programs should be able to easily use the shared space.”

One of the big concerns for turning the SPL  into a semi-public workspace is that robotics will be hindered.

“I guess there is delicate equipment in there that could be an issue,” said Heidal. “Delicate equipment like the laser cutter, wind tunnel, and any projects people are working on at the time.”

In Mr. Joshi’s opinion, robotics should not be hindered, necessarily, by this transition. There would be an impact on them, but there should not be any obstructions.

“The Skunks have had primary access to the lab space in the past,” said Joshi, “so yes there will be an impact on them to share the space on a regular basis with other school programs. I’m confident that it can be managed in a way that allows all programs at the school to benefit without a serious impact on robotics.”

Not only should there be very little impediment, making the SPL and LPL available to all students could benefit the kids on robotics.

“Students on Skunkworks will also benefit by being able to use the space for their other classes, outside of robotics,” said Joshi.

Another main concern for student access to the SPL and LPL is that the labs are already very crowded with robotics paraphernalia, such as old robots, none of which can be realistically thrown out.

“There are a lot of robotics specific parts and artifacts in the LPL,” said Joshi, “including several years’ worth of robots. So yes, we need to work with the robotics team to clean up the spaces, and free up storage space so other programs in the school can use the labs.

One big hinderance to robotics would be if classes during the day left the LPL or SPL messy, cluttered, or otherwise obstructed.

“Day users of the space would need to reset it so Robotics can use it in the evening,” said Joshi. “Similarly, robotics would need to reset the spaces so CAD or FbD, for example, could use the labs the next day, which would involve moving their in-progress work out the way. This is where the operations manual for the labs would come in so everyone understands the expectations for using and resetting the shared spaces.”

Build season is a very stressful time for students on robotics, and turning the SPL and LPL into a school-wide space is in no way trying to impose upon robotics during build season.

“Certainly there may be different expectations depending if the Skunks are in build season versus outside of build season,” said Joshi. “Regardless, I think we can come up with guidelines so the labs can be used by everyone in the school both in and out of robotics season.”

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Students search for science and technology

Senior Lane Burke is carefully reviewing the online Inventor textbook for instructions on his next CAD sketch

As the first two months of school are wrapping up, students are becoming immersed in their science and technology related elective classes. Although there is a wide variety of classes to choose from, some students are struggling to find the classes that match their interests.

Senior James Mitchell transferred into RAHS during his sophomore year in order to fulfill his need for science and technology in the classroom that he was unable to get at his previous school.

“At Aviation, my thirst for STEM was finally quenched,” said Mitchell. “This year I am taking three technology electives [Flight by Design, Engineering Design, and Computer Science], another two science classes [Chemistry and Physics 2] and a math class. So yeah, I am feeling pretty good about STEM electives.”

Recommendations from upperclassmen to underclassmen for fulfilling their science and technology needs are to take full class loads, filling their schedules with anything that sounds vaguely interesting.

“Take Flight by Design. It’s a lot of fun and you will get a lot out of it,” said Mitchell. “Engineering Design [CAD] is a lot of actual fun. It is a great class to go into with a little knowledge and a desire for interesting and cheap projects.”

Engineering Design teacher Michael Gudor tries his best to integrate science and technology into his classes.

“There are some classes that are easier to integrate technology,” said Gudor. “Some classes, like CAD, are easier [to integrate technology]. CAD is all done on technology, and anything that is produced in CAD is really easy to integrate.”

Finding a balance between technology and content is sometimes a struggle, but teachers understand the added learning that comes from using some technology.

“There always needs to be a balance,” said Gudor. “I would never teach math only on a calculator.”

Most teachers understand that their students learn best when the students are pursuing their own needs, which is why electives teachers, such as Mr. Gudor, try and make their classes as flexible as possible while still meeting the requirements.

“The student’s voice is a lot better at bringing in tech,” said Gudor. “If a student said ‘I can design this in Inventor or Sketch Up,’ I’ll say yes. I will work with the student to meet their needs. Even in geometry, we use Sketch Pad, and students seem to really like that. There is a balance between tech and no tech. The different skills are useful for the students to have.”

Different electives have different availability for integrating science and technology, which can make it difficult for students to have their science and technology needs satisfied, especially considering the classes each student must take. Students and teachers need to meet halfway to figure out how to properly incorporate technology into the classroom.

“First find possible ways it [technology] could be incorporated in the given class,” said Gudor, “then approach the teacher with a solution as to how they can solve the problem with technology.”

There is a lot of opportunity for each student to fulfill their own needs; however, students must remember that class size puts a huge limit on their ability to get the classes they actually want.

“Many people will be applying for the class, and whether I will actually be able to take the class is a huge factor, since electives, especially STEM, fill up really fast,” said Mitchell.

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