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Powerhouse biology teacher leaves RAHS cell

Biology teacher Mr. Gwinn talks with students in biology group discussion
Photo by Sam Hart

On Wednesday, 23 May 2018, biology and health teacher Nathan Gwinn announced to his class that this will be his last year. He will be teaching at Vashon High School next year, a shorter commute from his home in Port Orchard, Washington.

“The commute is ridiculous, it’s untenable, I can’t do it long term. It’s at minimum an hour and a half each direction,” said Gwinn. “So after some time, and me talking with my wife a lot about it, it’s just what we needed for our family.”

Even in his short time here, Gwinn’s teaching experience at RAHS has been unexpectedly interesting and educational on both ends, even though he didn’t think he would enjoy teaching at the school.

“My past teaching experience has been with kids with much more personal damage or personal trauma in their lives, and so when I first got here, I wasn’t sure if I would like it that much,” said Gwinn, “and I told my students this, I wasn’t sure if I would even like teaching them that much.”

Gwinn was proven wrong. He found he enjoyed teaching here even more than he had at previous schools.

“Teaching these kids basically taught me that I’m a pretty good teacher for the most part, in that it’s actually something I want to do long term. I’ve always been thinking, ‘I want to go into administration, that’s what I want to do, I wanna get out of teaching’ for whatever reason,” said Gwinn. “But these kids have taught me I want to teach for a while, this is what I want to do. It’s been huge for me; it’s really encouraging and inspiring to be able to teach kids and then see them do some of the things that you teach them.”

Being able to see students directly apply what he’s taught them has been a unique experience for Gwinn, in comparison to when he taught in Tennessee, where he focused more on students’ personal growth than the curriculum itself.

“In my past, I would teach them and try to keep my kids from making horrible decisions or just help them be healthy, help them grow and be healthier people,” said Gwinn. “Here, it’s like, I get to do that and then so much more. It’s been really awesome.”

Sophomore Joe Pacini agrees that Gwinn has learned a lot from his time at RAHS.
“I’m really bummed that he is [leaving], but I think it’s good for him,” said Pacini. “It’s a new opportunity for him, and I think he’s learned a lot from the class of 2020 and I really like that.”

Pacini has been good friends with Gwinn, having bonded with him during one of the info nights.

“Mr. Gwinn and I really bonded on one of the info nights because I hung out in his room, so we really started talking,” said Pacini. ”I’ve always been one to share out and ask questions, and his 5th period is really a lot of fun, so that’s basically how we bonded and strengthened our relationship over the school year.”

Pacini thinks Gwinn is a very unique teacher, and that in his absence, next year’s biology class won’t be the same.

“Mr. Gwinn’s a very unique teacher that has a very unique style of teaching. So I think it will be a lot different for freshmen that will take biology next year,” said Pacini. “But I also think that him leaving makes sense just because he’s commuting so far, and the things he wanted to do in Highline didn’t work out. So I find it reasonable that he’s doing it.”

Mr. Gwinn’s students appreciate what he’s done as a teacher and will miss him.

“I’ll remember that we’ll always banter each other and just talk crap about each other a lot. That was a lot of fun,” said Pacini. “If Mr. Gwinn reads this, tell him that I love him and thank you for being a good biology teacher.”

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Vape nation, or vape cessation?

Johnson Longhorne ripping a fat vape in the RAHS parking lot
Photo by Zachary Sleeth

Teenage vaping has become a hotly debated topic in society at large, as well as in the RAHS school community. In light of the 27 Jan. 2018 Winter Ball ending early due to students being caught vaping and the onset of prom season, more caution is being taken in hopes to prevent another incident.

RAHS Junior Juarez Rosborough believes that vaping as a whole is the decision of the student, but should be taken seriously in school and school-sanctioned events.

“In our school setting I see [vaping] as uncalled for; I don’t see why you would need to vape at school,” said Rosborough. “If you want to do it outside of school then go ahead, it’s your life you can do what you want. Just don’t do it in school.”

While the issue is clear, it may be potentially difficult to prevent school vaping from occurring.

“I’d have to say that bringing it to school dances is a choice someone makes that shouldn’t have been made. It’s kinda hard to stop it in general though — if someone chooses to bring that in they’re going to bring it in anyways,” said Rosborough. “You won’t be able to search everyone as they walk in.”

While students are able to do what they deem fit outside of school without penalty from admins like Vice Principal Mr. Holloway, inside of school there are rules that still apply, whether you’re 18 or not.

“Inside these walls, the expectation is there’s no drugs, there’s no smoking, there’s no alcohol or things of that nature,” said Holloway. “[Vaping] falls in the same line [as drugs and smoking] in my opinion, and that’s how we’ve been able to stay out of the grey area; keep it black and white, like ‘this is what’s not permitted.’”

While the law of the land is clear, not every violator can be caught.

“I only have two eyes and there’s four-hundred of you. I can’t always see if a kid might be in the bathroom or something like that,” said Holloway. “It’s almost like when you’re on the highway and you’re speeding: there’s one police officer, he can’t catch all the cars that are up there, but the one he does catch is the one that’s gonna get the penalty and the punishment, because he physically saw that person speeding. So if I definitely physically see it, I have to say something and do something about it.”

While there are efforts to crack down on vaping in school, not much can be done by administration outside of school, which is heard about more.

“Before coming to Raisbeck [I] was at a middle school, and there were several incidences, this was in Arizona, of even 8th graders vaping in the neighborhoods,” said Theresa Tipton, RAHS principal. “We’d never had an incident on campus of vaping, but heard of kids in the neighborhood and several of the local high schools.”

Senior James Mitchell has heard of the dangers of second-hand smoking, and ultimately does not advocate for smoking on school grounds. He does, however, respect students’ choice to smoke and believes schools should as well.  

“I think that it’s not a good thing in the educational setting, even like in the halls. But I’m perfectly fine with it being on campus if it’s like away in designated zones,” said Mitchell. “My main objection is health risks and it never being forced on students. I’m totally okay with them making the choice though.”

Mitchell understands the caution surrounding vape but thinks the punishment for violators should not be as severe, especially given the legality of it.

“I err on the side of saying that it shouldn’t be banned, but that it should be on a warning basis, that there shouldn’t be any of kind suspension,” said Mitchell. “I don’t think it should accelerate [as fast as it does], especially when it’s something fairly mild that’s legal anyway at 18. I think it’s a little unfair to instantly suspend someone for doing it at a school dance, although I don’t think they should be doing it inside.”

Sophomore Molly Brombaugh, on the other hand, thinks there should be much stricter rules surrounding vaping in school.

“[Vaping is] generally unhealthy and personally not recommended, and I feel it does show a lower level of society and maybe that person [who is vaping],” said Brombaugh. “It’s generally bad practice for youths and it should be enforced a bit more than it is.”

On the other hand, junior Ariana McDowell believes that, while not a vaper herself, vaping can be a stress reliever.

“For some people I’m sure it’s to try to calm down if they’re stressed,” said McDowell, “but I think that it’s definitely not a school thing.”

While it may have some merits, Brombaugh maintains that vaping comes with health concerns, and that these concerns should be approached with enforced regulation.

“I feel that [vaping in school] should be more enforced and the legal regulation should change to prevent youths from using vaping devices just because of the health concerns,” said Brombaugh. “Additionally, if youths are not actively purchasing their own vaping devices, then that’s bad practice for adults to do as well, and it should be treated in a manner similar to alcohol.”

To Arianna, the final decisions on vaping is that of the parents.

“A lot of kids from my old highschool and my grade do it,” said McDowell, “and I feel like if their parents are okay with it it’s fine.”

Mitchell shares a partially similar opinion, believing that current laws preventing youth from drug-usage are a good idea, but in the future can be improved with legalization.

“I think that the choice should be made individually, but I think, as a rule, legislation blocking stuff until you’re 18 is a good idea,” said Mitchell. “I think that the end game for drugs is that basically everything that’s illegal now should be legalized, de-stigmatized, taxed so that there can be de-stigmatized aid available to people and it’s a more realistic choice.”

In general, Brombaugh sees vaping as a recreation that should not be brought into schools or school dances.

“Honestly if they’re gonna try and do it, that was kind of stupid of them to get caught like that, but I can understand maybe people would want to do that stuff as a recreational activity or to liven up a party, but don’t do it in public if you’re gonna try and get away with it,” said Brombaugh. “I feel that vaping in school distracts from the learning environment and reduces student’s capabilities and potential, and it kind of goes against the message of the school of health and safety and making good choices.”

Not only is it a distraction, Holloway sees vaping as a negative social trend that threatens the school environment.

“I think [drugs and vape] are relatively the same. I think kids are always going to attempt to push the envelope with it, because it is different, it’s something new. Social media, society, doesn’t do anything to help that, right, because it’s a new thing, it’s a trend now. Potentially students may be trying that outside of here, and unfortunately I can’t do anything about what goes on outside of here,” said Holloway, “but my job, my duty, is to protect the lives and the school climate and environment that’s here.”

As vaping gains more steam, the RAHS faculty recognize that it’s an issue that can be potentially solved through communication.

“One thing that we could probably do better is ensuring students are aware of consequences, why or why not something is okay or not. Also the potential harmful effects,” said Tipton. “I think every generation went through their own version of this, whatever it happened to be at the time, and as adults, as a school team, we need to educate ourselves more of what [that] is.”

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Teachers working to open robotics space to creative students

The robotics space sits empty during the day, when it could be used to teach hands-on skills.
Photo By: Zak Sleeth

Teachers Nikhil Joshi, Michael Gudor, and Scott McComb are working with seniors James Mitchell and Erik Harang on the development of a Makerspace, a place for students and classes to not only design creations, but to have a hands-on experience in creating them. The makerspace will consist of the Large and Small Project Lab and the CAD Lab.

“Mr. Gudor and I have been talking about it along with Mr. McComb, to maybe convert the shop from being more of a robotics space, that was used primarily by the robotics team, into a more open and welcoming space for the rest of the school, and other classes, and teachers, and students,” said Joshi.

This Makerspace is meant to be a resource for the students, a place for them to do more hands-on work on projects, and for them to become more acquainted with industry-oriented skills.

“All of these tools and skills are being used out in industry, to degrees of depth and breadth,” said Joshi, ”and I think a student might not really know what it means to be an electrical engineer until they’ve sat down and figured out how a microprocessor works and how I hook it up to things and read data from sensors and make decisions with software and build a working component.”

A Makerspace gives students a chance to do something more with their hands.

“For me I try to put myself in a student’s position, like if I were at this school and a student. I know for me, I like to design things, but I really want to see them actually made and built,” said Gudor. “I don’t like to just design them in the computer and be happy, I want to actually physically touch them and use them.”

This concept of a more hands-on workspace is really important to Gudor.

“The Makerspace would fulfill that need of actually producing what I thought might work for something and see if it works. That would give me motivation to do more, versus just building it in the computer and theoretically it works, but I really don’t know,” said Gudor. “I like to see and touch my creations, so I put myself in my student’s position, and I’m like ‘that would excite me to try something new and see if it works.’”

The Makerspace also gives students an opportunity to learn something about what they’re really interested in.

“Look at it this way, a kid might think they want to be an electrical engineer, then they do a project that involves it and they discover ‘well, that wasn’t as much fun as getting all the mechanical stuff hooked up,’” said Joshi. “Now they can say, ‘okay maybe mechanical engineering is something I’m more interested in’, because they actually did a project that required all of these things to be put together, the software engineering, the mechanical engineering, the electrical engineering, the manufacturing technologies put together.”

In a project-based school like RAHS, using the tools sitting in the robotics lab to expose students to a real project workspace can be extremely beneficial.

“Those are tools that are here and right now sitting idle most of the time that could be readily used making projects to help students learn. And nothing engages the brain more than getting the hands engaged also, and building real world projects,” said Joshi. “I think it’s a huge asset that we’ve underutilized, but finding out efficient ways of using assets requires time and energy and thinking.”

Of course, it’s not as easy as opening the robotics lab up to any student who wants to cut wood and grind metal.

“A lot of the equipment down there is dangerous, there’s saws, table saws, band saws, there’s machines that could crush your hand,” said Joshi. “Certainly we have to take into account student safety. In general, policies are that students need to be supervised by teachers pretty much all the time when they’re using building resources, so there are these policies we have to figure out.”

In order to make sure the lab is a safe environment, there needs to be someone present anytime there is a student in the room.

“The main problem right now in between having a student space for that [a makerspace] specifically is just the fact that we need mentors, or we need an interesting insurance plan,” said Mitchell. “Why this hasn’t happened before, and why it’s being so slow now, is because of that room being so hard to access. We might even need to hire somebody to overlook that for a couple hours in the week.”

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Science Olympiad preps for success

Junior Troy Leighton and senior Timothy Wang wearing their first place medals in Astronomy and Remote Sensing from the previous Science Olympiad RAHS Invitational.
Photo Courtesy of Abigail Quinsay

Science Olympiad went to the Curtis Invitational on 13 Jan. 2018. Sophomore Troy Leighton and SciOly Secretary senior Adeline Bader are both on the studying team, which involves extensive research and test taking.

“I do three different events,” said Leighton. “Astronomy, which is focused of course on astronomy and space. Specifically, this year, Type II Supernovae and Stellar Evolution. I’m also in Remote Sensing, which is focused on using satellites to look at earth’s atmosphere, and use that to make judgments about what’s going on in our atmosphere. I’m also in Dynamic Planet, which this year is focused on plate tectonics.”

The competition goes from 8:30am to 4:00pm, with studiers taking tests and builders testing their creations at individual periods throughout the six hours.

“Generally, there are 6 different hours for taking a test. For builders they have an impound at 8:30. [The test hours] go from 9:00 to 2:00,” said Leighton. “You’ll take your tests in your allotted time slots, which can vary depending on competition.”

The main event for studiers is taking tests, which can be done with a partner and a sheet of notes.

“For most events, you’re allowed at least a sheet of paper of notes,” said Bader. “So you and your partner have your notes, you’re allowed to talk within each other, and you just tackle that test and try to get as much correct in the limited fifty minutes. Whoever has the most correct points then wins.”

Before competitions, studiers will meet three times a week to collect knowledge and compile it into notes. Although this time is intended for work, being near friends can often be a hindrance.

“We are supposed to be studying this whole entire time and working and gaining knowledge and collecting notes for when the competition occurs,” said Bader. “But sometimes, you know, [it’s] school and your friends are all around you, so you get distracted and sometimes you’ll just be talking to your friends. Usually the week before a competition everyone is studying till last minute.”

Bader’s favorite part about these competitions is the competitiveness, even if it’s something as seemingly boring as taking a test.

“You’re saying, ‘oh yeah, this is so exciting, you’ve been studying for this.’ Usually for most people they think ‘oh man, just taking a test, that’s so boring,’” said Bader. “But when you get into that room you see all the other teams and you’re just scrambling, you’re like ‘oh man, I really wanna beat these people, I wanna get a higher score.’”

Having a higher score means that the team is more likely to get a higher ranking in that event (1st, 2nd). The judges awards 1st place with 1 point and 2nd with 2 points and so on for all the rankings. At the end of the competition, those points are averaged across all of the events the team competed in. Whichever team has the lowest average gets first place.

“If your event’s called, you go down and you’re handed a metal, and you get it placed on, and you go up,” said Bader. “If [your team] has the least amount of points, because they sort of do it like golf-style scoring, you want the least amount of points, you end up overall with your whole team placing. Then you get another trophy, which is really fun. So I love that.”

Leighton did well last competition, and thought he would do equally as well on this next one.

“I am in Varsity 1, and I got two first place [awards] last competition,” said Leighton, “so I’m hoping to get a couple more this competition.”

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Davie Anne Ross appointed ASB Art Director

Davie Anne Ross laughing at something a friend said while drawing a picture of Bob Ross.
Photo By: Semay Alazar

Davie Anne Ross, RAHS ASB Art Director, has began the year prepared to take on not only incumbent responsibilities, such as making posters and decorating dances, but also new responsibilities, like creating new designs for RAHS merchandise.

As Art Director, Ross’ main job is to head the Leadership Class’s Art Committee, designing the various posters for school events.

“That’s basically my job, organizing them [art committee members],” said Ross, “giving more ideas to them, and allowing them to use their own [ideas] as well in a very cohesive atmosphere where we’re able to create things that make our school not just more beautiful but more colorful, and find ways to represent the student body in art.”

Another of Ross’s main focuses is to increase the number of student-made projects that have already been selling at the Spirit Shack.

“[I] definitely want to try and make more merchandise. I feel like this years’ were a pretty big hit, a lot of people seemed to like the authentic student-made designs,” said Ross. “I want to incorporate a lot more graphics into our merchandise instead of just all text.”

Ross is driven by student art-work, which she believes is a key facet to ASB.“Whether they be personal designs or graphic logos, we were able to introduce student artwork into our merchandise this year,” said Ross. “Something I really want to get more [of] is representation of the student body [through our merchandise], versus just strictly ASB, [the] art director, [or] anyone within ASB.”

The creation of these student designs was due to the need for newer, better looking merch.

“I felt like in past years merchandise that RAHS had produced was more [text based],” said Ross, “and I was looking for more ways to incorporate art and logos into it and actually have other people produce art for themselves to be included in designs for the future.”

Kenny Pham, ASB Vice President, enjoys the creative and often funny designs that have come from this new approach.

“[The] Bob Ross [shirt design] was created by Felix Bosques, Davie Anne Ross, and Eric Lottsfeldt. We decided that should be on a shirt because that was really funny,” said Pham. “The leadership kids definitely have a lot of creative freedom when it comes to creating logos in that class.”

While it is her main job, Ross’ focus is not limited to Art Committee. She also works with event coordinators to design decoration for dances and other events.

“I feel like the look and aesthetic of a certain place or environment really influences the atmosphere and who goes there and how people feel,” said Ross. “It’s really important to have something that reflects the mood that you’re trying to go for at certain events.”

The Art Director will work on just about anything that needs some artistic flare.

“The [Art Director] works on making sure the art direction in our everyday lives, with dances or with the slides in assemblies, [is done well],” said Kenny Pham. “Anything that relates to art or needs visual appeal, the art director will be there to take the job.”

Ross has always been an artistically inclined person, so it has been difficult for her to find artistic outlets at RAHS, a more STEM focused school.

“This being a STEM school, there are very few outlets for my artistic capabilities and affinities, so whenever I see something [art related], I really commit to going forth and committing to it,” said Ross. “So when I saw Art Director, I saw that as a really great opportunity to not only find an outlet for my artistic capabilities, but to also produce something that would be seen on a widespread scale.”

With Art Director and leader of the RAHS String Ensemble on her plate, Ross hasn’t had much time for herself, so seeing her own artwork worn by many students has been validating for her.

“I don’t really have a lot of time to draw and paint for myself, on the weekends or even during the week,” said Ross. “I definitely saw Art Director and String Ensemble as a way for me to find artistic outlets within school so it wouldn’t consume too much time.”

Students form tech company

A group of sophomores has created a company called Advanced Flight Modeling Simulation [AFM Simulation] that specializes in the development of aircraft for X-Plane, the same flight simulator used by science teacher Scott McComb’s freshmen during their Flight Test Project. Sophomore Cooper LeComp is the CEO of the company.

 

“I first started this making our aircraft for X-Plane, and I started with the role of pretty much everything,” said LeComp. “[My role] morphed now to being in charge of the day-to-day operations, getting stuff done, and contacting external resources.”

 

Cooper also leads the development of the code for each aircraft model.

 

“There’s some significant development that I do,” said LeComp. “I’m in charge of all the code that runs behind the scenes of our products, and for the current aircraft we’re making I’ve done the 3D modeling.”

 

In charge of working with the physics engine is sophomore Oliver Low, the Chief Physics Director.

 

“The scope of the work as Chief Physics Director involves considering the mathematics and equations behind these things from all sorts of angles and dealing with numbers of variables that were inconceivable to me before, even in calculus,” said Low. “It really has been a very steep learning curve that I have yet to start climbing.”

 

Cooper began his work on simulator aircraft in August 2015, eventually teaming up with sophomore Roosevelt Anderson, the Chief Quality Officer, at the beginning of their freshman year.

 

“It started as a fun thing to do over the summer, and then we realized that the market for these types of modelling for aircraft is quite big, out there in the simming world,” said Anderson. “So we decided to step it up a notch and create our own company, AFM Simulation, that develops CAD [Computer-Aided Design] modeling aircrafts for [flight simulators] like X-Plane.”

 

They started with a few different ideas, moving back and forth between plans for a first aircraft as they got a feel for what they could and couldn’t do.

 

“We originally started with the idea of making a Hawker business jet model. I don’t know why we stopped doing that one. I think it was just more out of interest we decided to start working on a Concorde, which we sooned learned was drastically above our scope of knowledge, in terms of being able to make as a first aircraft,” said LeComp. “So we went back to the Hawker.”

 

In the beginning, the team encountered many challenges, but they eventually came upon the right aircraft to develop as their first project.

 

“We were getting stuck with some of the development processes, with having so many different things trying to simulate, so we then decided that we’re gonna make a Mooney M20R Ovation 2 aircraft,” said LeComp. “And that’s what we’re currently working on, and we’re around 70 [or] 80 percent complete with that development, hoping to get it released in the next few months.”

 

The team is even in the process of being becoming a legally-recognized company.

 

“We’re in the process right now of registering for an LLC in the state of Washington to be legally protected as a company,” said LeComp. “We have multiple products. Right now our advertised project that we’re working on is the Mooney M20R and everything beyond that is right now confidential to our company.”

George Sidles explores metalworking

Sophomore George Sidles is known for the metalwork he does on his home island of

Bainbridge. After starting about 3 years ago, he has been interested in the craft ever since.

 

“In seventh and eighth grade I attended a couple intro to welding camps that got me interested [in metalwork].” said Sidles.

 

Sidles has done some work in welding and blacksmithing but has spent most of his time on casting: a process done by pouring molten metal into a mold and letting it cool into a hardened form.

 

“I have been doing casting for almost a year,” said Sidles. “I dabbled in blacksmithing at a pre-industrial themed camp a couple years back but only got around [to build] my own forge last summer. In the case of welding I still don’t have my own equipment and only did it at my summer internship last year.”

 

Sidles even took up a summer internship in a metal fabrication shop, which took up most of his vacation.

 

“I worked as a shop assistant installing wiring and stainless steel cabinets in a food truck, repairing trucks and motorcycles, maintaining equipment, and helping to design and complete whatever projects came in,” said Sidles.

 

Sidles also worked with children as a TA at an industrial arts school, teaching them how to safely use equipment and tools.

 

“I’ve also worked as needed as a TA for Alchemy Industrial Arts School, located in the same building [as the metal fabrication shop]. While the kids worked on building and launching rockets and kinetic devices in class, my role was to instruct them in proper use of dangerous tools and basically keep them from destroying themselves and others,” said Sidles. “I was asked to collaborate on curriculum design, which I really enjoyed.”

 

Sidles was even able to complete his independent art credit by welding together a forge and smelting aluminum, copper, and mixed alloys.

 

RAHS freshman Nic Nemeth also lives on Bainbridge, and has been friends with Sidles since 6th grade. He has been by Sidles’ side since he started working with metal.

 

“At first the biggest part was just melting down steel cans into ingots, which then could be casted into whatever the mold was, so for a significant portion of the time it was really just melting down cans,” said Nemeth, “but now I know he’s been working on knives, and I’ve actually looked at the finished project, and they look really good.”

 

Sidles doesn’t focus on making his work look good, though. Most of his effort is put into ensuring that whatever he’s making is useful.

 

“My work is almost entirely functional,” said Sidles. “I always try to make what I fabricate look good, but form always comes after function.”

 

Sidles talks about metalworking often, especially with Nemeth, who frequently helps when George is looking for more components for his work.  
“He talks about it a lot. Both him and I have been looking at different components. He did make his [components] by himself,” said Nemeth. “He often talks to either me or my dad when it comes to looking for new pieces for him to obtain.”

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