Smithtown students recently swept the top three spots in an essay contest coordinated by Brookhaven National Laboratory.
The trio of teens from Smithtown High School East — Yongpeng Tang, Brian Righter and Emma Zawacki — won first, second and third place, respectively, in the lab's 2013 Science and Society Essay Contest, which challenged high schoolers to question and deliberate the purposes and social implications of scientific research. They won awards of $500, $300 and $200, respectively.
This year's topic revolved around the National Synchrotron Light Source, a lab facility that enables the use of bright beams of X-rays, ultraviolet and infrared light for science research. It is used each year by more than 2,200 researchers from 400 universities, government labs and companies.
"This sweep is quite a feat," said Maria Zeitlin, a science research teacher at Smithtown East. Of the contest's importance, she said: "I feel it is so important for students to be able to write creatively about science. I seek to develop scientific writers who thoroughly research topics, then write and repeatedly edit their responses."
Smithtown East also earned two honorable mentions in the contest, while Smithtown West earned one. In 2008, Smithtown East also swept the contest's top spots, Zeitlin said.
This year's contest received 38 entries from five local high schools, lab officials said.
A robotics team from Academy Street Elementary School in Bayport, the Lion Bots (Team 3643), recently won second place in the research category at the 2013 North American Open Championship Tournament at LEGOLAND in California.
This year's challenge required teams to design and build robots that could handle tasks faced by senior citizens, such as retrieving pill bottles and reaching switches.
The Lion Bots were invited to the tournament after receiving second place for the Champion's Award this spring in the FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) LEGO League Championship at Longwood High School in Middle Island.
Peace essay winner
Andrew Mok, a freshman at Longwood High School, recently was named the New York State winner of the United States Institute for Peace's 2012-13 National Essay Contest for his essay, titled "The Fight for Gender Equality and Peace: The Egyptian Revolution and Iraq War."
He won a $1,000 scholarship and an all-expense-paid trip this month to Washington, D.C.
Walking for a cure
Joseph A. Edgar Intermediate School recently raised more than $12,000 — the school's highest total ever — for the American Cancer Society through a Mini-Relay for Life that attracted more than 340 students, staff and community members to the school's track for a 90-minute walk.
Third-grader Julia Darby was the school's biggest fundraiser, collecting a total of $3,110.
The school has raised more than $42,000 over the past five years through the annual event.
Interim head of school
Joseph Ferber has been appointed interim head of school at Harbor Country Day School, a private school for preschool through eighth grade, replacing James Young. Ferber has more than 50 years of experience in education and most recently served as interim head of school at Newton Montessori School in Massachusetts.
Schools make the list
Dozens of Long Island schools made a list last month of the nation's 2,000 best public high schools by Newsweek and The Daily Beast. The list was based on the schools' ability to produce college-ready graduates and considered factors ranging from graduation rates to the percentage of pupils in Advanced Placement courses.
Long Island's highest-ranked high school was Jericho at the 32nd spot. Other top local high schools and their rankings were: Great Neck South, 67; Manhasset, 75; The Wheatley School in Old Westbury, 92; Syosset, 104; Cold Spring Harbor, 119; Garden City, 139; Locust Valley, 145; Harborfields in Greenlawn, 151; Herricks, 177; Great Neck North, 181; Half Hollow Hills West in Dix Hills, 248; Paul D. Schreiber in Port Washington, 264; John F. Kennedy in Bellmore, 268; Elwood-John H. Glenn, 277; Plainview-Old Bethpage JFK, 278; Hewlett-Woodmere, 303; South Side in Rockville Centre, 312; Half Hollow Hills East in Dix Hills, 314; Bethpage, 353; Commack, 355; Sanford H. Calhoun in Merrick, 360; Floral Park, 384; Oyster Bay, 425; North Shore in Glen Head, 433; Valley Stream South 440; Oceanside, 463.