Unit project brings class curriculum to life

What is the What character, Moses, posing with his family for a recent Christmas photo while living in America.
Photo Courtesy of Arianna McDowell

When RAHS junior, Arianna McDowell, embarked on her newest project in Junior Literature, she was definitely not expecting the interview of a lifetime. The classJunior Literature is currently doing a project that is related to the latest book that they read, What is the What by Dave Eggers. This project involves the real stories of immigrants in American society, and the journeys and stories they have had. McDowell received the tremendous opportunity, in that she got to of interviewing an important actual character from this non-fiction story.

When RAHS junior Arianna McDowell embarked on her newest project in Junior Literature, she was definitely not expecting the interview of a lifetime.

“The project we’re doing in savsSavishinsky’s right now is interviewing immigrants or refugees that have found their way here,” said McDowell. “I brought this up with my mother and she told me that the Smith tower had a lot of refugees who worked for them in maintenance.”

What is the What is the story of Valentino Deng, who, at 8 years old, fled Sudan with over 20,000 other children (The Lost Boys of Sudan), while under constant hardship.

“I brought up the book we are reading, “What is the What”, and she said there was a Lost Boy who worked at the Smith tower.,” said McDowell. “So she gave me a contact of a close family friend, who gave me a contact of one of the refugees, who was Moses from the book (Valentino’s best friend).”

This unlikely connection helped her learn the story of someone she had known forever, but never knew the backstory of.

“It was a connection of people that iI found him through,” said McDowell. “I even used to know him when iI was really really young — he used to greet us whenever my mom would go to work with me.”

This contact almost sounded too good to be true at first, but McDowell was able to confirm Moses was the real deal.

“At first i was a bit suspicious — I was suspicious because the book told a different story than what Moses did,” said McDowell. “That is when Sav told me Valentino (the main character of the book) was only 7 when everything  happened, so of course he’s not gonna remember everything.”

The verification did take a little bit of inquiry and digging, but it all paid off.

“I did a lot of research before asking moses if he was moses from the book, and when he said yes, I thought it was insane. ,” said McDowell.

McDowell was able to interview someone who is exactly the same in real life as he was in the book.

“He [Moses] is such a sweet person, the personality of Moses conveyed in the book is exactly like who he is,” said McDowell. “He is so eager to tell his story, after one question he just took off and told his whole story without having to ask any questions.”

Moses was able to give amazing detail of his harrowing journey.

“It’s almost like he read my question sheet and knew what to say beforehand,” said McDowell. “But he has just told his story so much. He even told me about the differences in climate between Seattle and Sudan.”

The story starts with the civil war in Sudan.

“It all started because of the war in sudan between the north and the south,” said McDowell. “His village was raided and he was separated from his family. So he started to run away, and he walked for months, going through deserts, going through crocodile infested rivers. He even found safe havens, but sometimes they were not safe for long enough.”

The story was massive, and it displayed endurance.

“He kept going on and on, and it was just super thrilling because these bad things were happening, but he’d find a way to lighten the mood, said McDowell.

One interesting story is how his name is not actually what it is currently.

“One of the best part of his story is about when they were in a city between Sudan and Ethiopia,” said McDowell, “where the UN was helping them and doing immigrancy checks to pick and choose who they wanted to have immigrate. He actually failed the test, but because his friend (who went back to South Sudan) was not there, he took his name and was able to come to the US.”


Moses’ story was not only funny at times, it was also filled with intense, violent, and unforgettable moments.

“He also told me a prominent story in the book where he was carrying his teacher’s goat across a river after they were raided,” said McDowell. “He heard gunshots and then saw blood all over him. He checked all over for a wound even though he felt no pain, He thought he was simply in shock, and realized it was the goat in his arms that was shot. It is definitely an intense story.”

The class overall seems to be very excited for this unlikely connection, and interest throughout the school is rising.

“It has become increasingly popular,” said McDowell. “Ive had alot of people ask me about it, people asking how the interview went and stuff like that. A Lot of people are excited because it’s the best friend of the main character in the book, and a prominent character in the novel. Its has just surprised everyone that this connection has been made.”

McDowell is still stunned that this was the direction her project went.

“I am overwhelmed myself because i know i have to make this good,” said McDowell.


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Youth and Government teaches politics, citizenship

At NSCC, Senior Youth and Government member, Teo Bagnolli, annotates and prepares his bill.
Photo Courtesy of: Mauricio Ayon

RAHS’ very own Youth and Government is busy at work with their bills and debating in preparation for a North Seattle College event.

Senior Henry Crockett is a veteran member of Youth and Government (Y&G). He is also currently on the leadership committee of the club.

“Our mission is to get young students more involved into politics,” said Crockett. “If you see politicians today, most of them are fairly old, and so we want to get more of an understanding of how the actual process works of getting bills passed.”

In tandem with getting students involved into politics, Y&G has another goal of fostering citizenship. RAHS alumni Rachel Demaree is a former member and the founder of the RAHS branch (or delegation as they are called) of Washington State Y&G.

“Y&G is where students learn to write and debate a bill,” said Demaree. “The goal is essentially to become better, informed citizens.”

These bills could be in relation to any number of issues that students deem necessary to fix or change. Y&G students are always working to hone and refine their bills.

“We practice debating bills in our clubs and our meetings every Wednesday, and it leads us to an event in Olympia in May in which we go to the State Capitol and debate in the House and Senate Chambers to try and get a bill that we created passed,” said Crockett.

The club’s current goal is to not only refine their bills, but to gain valuable feedback on them. RAHS sophomore Mackenzie Firestone is also a Youth and Government team member. She agrees that the repeated practice is vital.

“The goal is to practice for Olympia, to get more experience with parliament, to get a feel of some of the other delegates, and to get more practice on your bill and to get more constructive feedback to get your bill more solid,” said Firestone.

Y&G is always at work practicing for their big day at Olympia.

“We do a ton of debate,” said Demaree. “We play different debate games. My favorite activity is called Trash Night, where everyone proposes their bill and everyone else tries to tear it apart. It can be kind of intimidating at first, but it’s really useful and makes everyone’s bill stronger.”

The event at North Seattle Community College is a large stepping stone to readiness for the Olympia event.

“At the meeting, our main goal is to get people actually enthusiastic and involved in politics at a young age,” said Crockett. “I mean our goal of course is to get our bill passed, but more importantly than that is to have some good debate and understand what things worked for our argument and what things did not so we can compete for next year.”

Getting a bill passed is much more than simple debating in Youth in Government.

“In mock legislature, we split up into groups and we debate based on what our bill is about,” said Crockett. Mock lege [legislature] is different than Olympia because you are in small groups and you don’t actually do whole debates with the entire chamber. In Olympia you may have 50 to 100 people in one room, at mock lege you may have only between 10 and 20.”

As far as the Olympia legislatures go, they are important in connecting people all across the state. There is an array of various topics that are debated, as students can develop a bill for whatever they are interested in changing.

“It’s awesome because you see what everyone’s passionate about and you learn to research quickly on the fly to support your arguments,” said Demaree.

Students of Y&G agree that the networking that you can experience at Olympia is diverse.

“You really get connected with your peers,” said Firestone. “Last year at Olympia I made a lot of friends that I didn’t know before.There are many people from different places. You get a lot of good perspective.”

As far as good perspective, that diversity is a key factor.

“It’s really nice having different political opinions from outside our centralized area is really interesting to hear because it allows us to see flaws in our own argument,” said Crockett. “If we’re all in the same room and we’re all like ‘yeah this is really solid, let’s all go for this’, you don’t really see the opposite view that could be debated. It’s nice to have that contrast.”

The club has been both instructional and inspirational.

“Y&G inspired me to pursue a career in policy,” said Demaree. “I’m specifically interested in foreign policy, which is a little different from what we do in Y&G. But Y&G taught me that I have a voice and that I should use it.”

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Flight by Design takes literal flight through drone

Senior Connor Whitlock works diligently on the project next to his team’s autonomous drone.
Photo Credit: Ryan Lipour

At RAHS, it is no secret that project based learning is a large part of curriculum. One of RAHS’ elective classes, Flight by Design, takes that to the next level. A group of students in Flight by Design is currently developing an autonomous drone.

Senior Eli Benevedes is a member of the team. He is currently developing software for the drone.

“The Flight by Design class is one of the capstone classes that is mostly upperclassmen,” said Benevedes, “where you combine all your skills previously learned in your other classes like physics and programming and your math courses, and put it together into an actual real life project.”

There are multiple project groups in Flight by Design, covering a myriad of different project types. Senior Connor Whitlock is another student on the team.

“There is one team that is trying to create a robotic hand, that will copy a glove that they make, there is one team that is trying to make their own music synthesizers, given only the basic electronic pieces,” said Whitlock. “There is another group that is doing their own drone, but where ours is trying to be autonomous, their drone is remote controlled to make a map of the terrain.”

The team’s vision of the project is for full autonomous functionality.

“The idea is that we will be able to pre-program a flight path, and it will be able to follow it without any human input, including takeoff and landing,” said Benevedes.

This goal has, as one could imagine, a host of obstacles

“We have had some issues with the gyroscope we have been using,” said Benevedes. “We have been having some problems doing the math to get the rotations correct, and we are just now working it out.”

There have also been a few difficulties as far as the construction of the drone.

“For me specifically, since I am focusing on build, my issue has been coming up with way to make the things that we have wanted to build,” said Whitlock. “We may want a fuselage, here’s what we want it to look like in CAD, but actually making it has been difficult at times.”

Whitlock also believes that his classes beforehand have been integral to his work on the project in Flight by Design.

“Obviously in Mr. Hoene’s class, we did a lot of group projects, which kind of factors into this when it comes to picking people you work well with, rather than just people you will mess around with,” said Whitlock. “And also the normal project skills like making a schedule and making sure you keep to it. Flight by Design just takes it a step up because it is such a long project.”

Besides being used as a capstone class, Flight by Design has also been instrumental in teaching students other lessons, such as time and product management.

“It really teaches you about holding to a timeline and planning multiple different aspects of a project in parallel to get it done on time, or stay consistent with your schedule,” says Whitlock.

Whitlock has learned many other important skills in Flight by Design.

“I’ve gotten a lot better at documenting stuff as I go,” said Whitlock. “When we started the project I was like ‘oh I’m just gonna build a glider,’ and I did, but then I had to go back and take it apart to take pictures of each piece. Now that we are building our second iteration, I have been way better at taking pictures as I go and writing down the process as I do it.”

Flight by Design has given students the opportunity to accomplish amazing engineering goals with the skills they already have.

“It [Flight by Design] has taught me that if I apply my skills, I would be able to do something I hadn’t thought I could do before,” said Benevedes.

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Upgrades over summer give new life to student computers

Mr. McLaughlin and TAs, Payton Adams and Michael Alden, stand proudly with the new drives.

Over the summer, Blended Learning Technologist Anthony McLaughlin and his corps of teachers assistants (TAs) were busy upgrading the RAHS student laptops.

“The primary issue was replacing the old mechanical hard drives, which were going on their fifth year in operation,” said McLaughlin. “It was a direct effort to keep the laptops more usable and reliable for the students.”

Hard drives, or “mechanical drives,” operate from the engraving of grooves on platters, like a CD. Activity and constant use by students took its toll. As each laptop would be used on a daily basis, the platters over time got scratched and damaged.

There was a liability issue behind the old hard drives as well. Because the mechanical drives were also out of warranty, they were non-replaceable by their manufactures.

The upgraded laptops also feature Solid State Drives (SSD’s). The SSD’s do not have the same room for error that mechanical drives have, since they do not work with disks. Another bonus is the fact that SSD’s provide a faster startup of the operating system.

“They [SSDs] startup and get into Windows very quickly,” said McLaughlin.

Because of their non-mechanical nature, the SSDs operate at a lower temperature, which helps keep the computers cooler.

“There is a lot less heat associated with these drives,” said McLaughlin.

As far as the new operating system goes, Windows 10 has been implemented.

“Windows 10 was approved by the district as a choice operating system, with Windows 7 and Windows 10 [being the two options for schools],” said McLaughlin. “I chose to upgrade to Windows 10.”

The addition of the new operating system does not change the performance of the computers too much; it was not necessarily needed for the new drives.

“The upgrade of the drives and the operating systems were mutually independent of each other,” said McLaughlin.

Some students, such as RAHS senior Eli Benevedes, have noticed a slight improvement in the startup of their computers, though they have not experienced any major change in how the computer runs.

“I mean, it’s nice for the computers and programs to start up quicker for sure,” said Benevedes, “but the actual run time performance has not seen any significant increases.”

The overall increase in performance and the cooler temperature is a step in a better direction for school technology. That is not to say there were not issues involving the distribution process of the computers to the students.

“About half of the drives were able to be installed before the first week of September,” said McLaughlin, “and the remaining 200 drives arrived the Friday before school started.”

This made it very challenging for them to send laptops out to every student in a timely manner.

The RAHS administration kept the students in mind while upgrading the laptops.

“My perspective is more from the goal of having the most efficient and up-to-date laptops that we are able to [provide] for our students,” said Principal Tipton.

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