Students at Islip High School have catapulted their way to victory for the sixth straight year.
The school's homemade trebuchet bested machines constructed by nine other student teams from across Long Island to take first place in the ninth annual Long Island Pumpkin Fling last month at the Suffolk County Farm and Education Center in Yaphank.
The team's winning launch was measured at 693.6 feet, well ahead of the runner-up launch of 528 feet by a Deer Park High School team.
"This is hugely important to us, and we put in many, many hours," said sophomore Dan Angileri, who was on the winning team with Mike Barsalona, James Claudio, Brian Eichner, Mike Maratta and Sam Melaniff. "There's no other science program that's as rewarding."
Islip's device included a 24- foot arm built from a sailing mast, eight 60-inch springs and a series of smaller springs to "get the arm moving faster," said team coach Ken Phalen.
The champions received the Perpetual Trophy, awarded each year to the victors and engraved with the winning school name.
Last year, Islip set a Long Island record with a fling of 906.2 feet in the division for ages 14-18. This year the wind curtailed the distances.
"It blew right toward us," said Deer Park coach Bruce Sander, who credited the event with making science come to life for kids. "They're learning physics and not even realizing it."
Other local schools represented were Harbor Country Day School in St. James, Islip Middle School, Hauppauge High School and South Side High School in Rockville Centre. The Teresa Cordova Cub Scout Pack from Bohemia won the 13-and-under division.
The event was sponsored by the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County.
Bethpage High School took third place in the first High School Bioethics Bowl coordinated by the University of Pennsylvania and Moorestown Friends School in New Jersey. Teams from eight tristate area schools were judged based on their opinions on hypothetical biomedical ethics cases such as "You're the Next Contestant on Win-a-Baby" and "Kidney-Pro-Quo."
Bethpage was the only Long Island school to participate in the competition. Team members were Lauren Birck, Usman Asif, Michelle Mason, Jeremy Roller and Chang Jeong.
Locust Valley Middle School has put a unique twist on homework through a contest in which the grade level that completes the most homework assignments on time wins the chance to shave the head of a teacher at the end of the school year.
The student that ultimately gets to do the shaving will be chosen through a drawing.
In addition, each grade has two faculty members who must continue to grow beards as long as the grade represented completes 90 percent or more of their homework each week. If the percentage dips below 90, the faculty members shave their beards and start again.
"Motivating students with something fun creates the opportunity for success," said principal H. Thomas Hogan.
Six Nassau County schools are among roughly 130 nationwide to be named semifinalists for a 2012 Grammy Signature School Award from the Grammy Foundation based on their efforts to promote music education.
The schools next will submit an application that includes audio samples of their student ensembles. Schools are eligible for a cash prize of up to $10,000.
Battling with robots
Nineteen student teams competed last month at the eighth annual Deer Park Invitational, a postseason robotics competition in which teams built and programmed robots -- some weighing up to 135 pounds -- to battle on a playing field. Points were earned for robots that hung triangles, circles and squares on poles and for "mini-bots" that were deployed to climb vertical poles.
The victors were a three-team alliance: Team 329 from Patchogue-Medford High School, Team 884 from Malverne High School and Team 1751 from Comsewogue High School in Port Jefferson Station. Finalists were Team 271 from Bay Shore High School, Team 358 from Hauppauge High School and Team 1468 from Hicksville High School.
The event was sponsored by the School Business Partnerships of Long Island, FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) and the Deer Park Union Free School District.