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Commack students' standby power idea gets a boost

A group of young inventors from Commack High School turned some heads at the national level last month.

Commack was one of 15 high schools nationwide to receive an InvenTeam grant of up to $10,000 through the Lemelson-MIT Program, an initiative that encourages teens to invent technological solutions to real-world problems.

With the funds, the 12-student team will spend the next eight months creating a device that reduces the standby power consumption of electrical devices in homes and offices.

"Even when electrical appliances are turned off, they still draw power if they are plugged in," said technology teacher Joseph Castrogivanni. "By combining motion sensors and current measurement, we will be able to turn off the power and decrease energy usage."

The power-saving idea was first proposed in an essay last year by student Robert Schuman, who graduated in June, district officials said. Castrogivanni then attended a training session at MIT in June to help prepare the team's final proposal, which was due the first week of this school year.

To meet the deadline, the InvenTeam met six times in the summer and also spoke to Castrogivanni on the phone during his family trip to Lake George.

"We knew we had a good idea," senior Frank Walsh said. "We've talked about a patent."

The team will showcase a prototype of their invention at MIT's EurekaFest in June.


Troop projects

To honor and assist U.S. servicemen, fifth-graders at Hampton Bays Middle School are participating in a series of service learning projects this fall that range from sending cards and letters overseas to collecting nonperishable food and toiletries for care packages.

Other projects include a "Wall of Heroes" that consists of photos of family members and Hampton Bays alumni that are serving, or have served, in the armed forces. Kids are also donating pocket change to the Wounded Warrior Project, a nonprofit that aids those coping with war-related injuries.


Librarians of the year

Two library media specialists at Lindenhurst High School, Tina Lackner and Diane Miller, were named 2009-10 librarians of the year by Western Suffolk BOCES based on their "outstanding service to students and staff." In their positions, Lackner and Miller oversee a teen book club and train staff to use various technologies, among other things.


'Skills for Success'

Dozens of William Floyd High School students learned the importance of networking last month at "Skills for Success," a workshop that taught the art of resume writing, cover letters and job interviews.

After the event, the teens used their new skills to apply and compete for an imaginary job at Teachers Federal Credit Union (TFCU). The "hired" student was awarded a $25 prize.

"Students are gaining valuable information that will enable them to compete in an ever-changing job market," said business teacher Allison Wiegand of the workshop, which was sponsored by TFCU and UBS Financial Services.


Walking for a cure

Rocky Point High School's cheerleaders raised $5,000 for breast cancer research last month during a "Cheer for a Cure" charity walk to benefit the American Cancer Society.

More than 300 participants - including athletic teams, teachers and community members - walked 20 laps, or five miles, around the school's track. To raise funds, each walker gave a minimum donation of $5.


Siemens semifinalists

Forty-seven Long Island students were among 318 nationwide to be named semifinalists last month in the Siemens Competition in Math, Science & Technology, which awards college scholarships that range from $1,000 to $100,000 in individual and team categories. Nine other students advanced to the regional finals. Local semifinalists included:

Commack: Matthew Kim of Commack High School; Dix Hills: Levent Alpoge, Theodora Efthymiou, Hayley Gadol and Candice Gurbatri of Half Hollow Hills High School West; Thomas McCune, Matthew Miecnikowski and Brett Teplitz of Half Hollow Hills High School East; Farmingville: Aditya Ramesh of Sachem High School East; Middle Island: Sandy Guerrero of Longwood High School; Mount Sinai: Anjali Kapur of Mount Sinai High School; Setauket: Nevin Daniel and Cara Lin of Ward Melville High School; Smithtown: Reena Glaser and Matthew Hung of Smithtown High School West.


Robotics competition

Students from 18 Long Island high schools participated last month in the Fifth Annual Deer Park Invitational, a postseason robotics contest sponsored by the School Business Partnerships of Long Island, FIRST and the Deer Park School District. The winners were a three-team alliance of Comsewogue High School in Port Jefferson Station, Patchogue-Medford High School and Plainview-Old Bethpage High School.

At the event, students programmed their robots - some weighing as much as 135 pounds - to pick up 9-inch balls and score by placing them in trailers hitched to their opponents' robots for points.

Finalists included Hauppauge and Hicksville high schools and a mixed team from Sachem East and North high schools in Farmingville and Lake Ronkonkoma, respectively.

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