Two Eastern Suffolk BOCES students steered their way to a big victory in a regional automotive competition.

Casey Cotrone and Ryan LaFata — who attend Eastport-South Manor Junior-Senior High School and Eastern Suffolk BOCES' H.B. Ward Career and Technical Center in Riverhead — won first place in the Greater New York Automobile Dealers Association's Regional Competition in Whitestone, Queens.

The competition required two-student teams to spend two hours diagnosing and fixing a vehicle bugged with problems that ranged from low tire pressure to non-working headlights to loose lug nuts.

"It's all about trial and error," Cotrone said. "Things may not go right the first time, so you just have to be patient and try something else." LaFata added: "Giving up is the worst feeling, and it's just not an option."

For winning, they were awarded a first-place trophy, an official competition T-shirt and hat, a series of automotive tools from Snap-on, and scholarships ranging from $2,000 to $12,000 from six different technical colleges. The scholarships are contingent upon the seniors' choosing to attend the schools.

To prepare for the competition, the pair trained for more than 40 hours over six weeks.

"We are proud of Casey, Ryan, [teacher] Mike O'Hara, and the auto technology program," said Harry Dean, H.B. Ward's assistant principal. "This is another fine example of how career and technical education prepares students to be college- and career-ready, and competitive in the workforce."

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Distance learning

John F. Kennedy Intermediate School recently used distance-learning technology to keep a fifth-grader up-to-date on classwork after being placed on long-term medical leave following surgery.

The bedridden student connected to his class using Skype, a software application that allows users to communicate with webcams. To supplement classroom lessons, fifth-grade teacher John Colford sent work sheets home to the youngster, who also received two hours of nightly personal instruction from a teacher along with his speech and physical therapies, school officials said.

"The students loved interacting with him through Skype," said Colford, noting the ill pupil has since returned to school. "It allowed him to be included and to not fall behind simply because he is at home."



App inventions

Riverhead Middle School's computer technology students are becoming inventors at an early age through a new unit on the invention of application software, also known as apps.

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As part of the unit, students recently created an app called "HelloPurr" that causes phones to vibrate when the app is opened or purr when an image of a cat is tapped on-screen. Their second app, "MoleMash," is a game in which points are scored by tapping a mole before it vanishes from a screen.

"My students really got into the process, because the software allows you to view apps live on their computer screens on mobile phone emulators," teacher Chris Malanga said.



Peace Week

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Rocky Point High School students Rachel Dwyer and Sarah Whitworth recently coordinated a Peace Week at the school in response to the shooting tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

To participate, Rocky Point students anonymously wrote down one way they intended to be more peaceful and wore green ribbons in support of the school's efforts. In addition, daily inspirational quotes were shared during the school's morning announcements, and teens inscribed more than 250 peace-themed messages for display in the school lobby.

"There is so much violence that surrounds us — from video games to reports on the news — that we often become desensitized," Whitworth said. "We wanted to give our school a chance to unplug from the chaos .?.?. and think about how they can make the world a better and more peaceful place."



STEM video contest

The Manhattan-based beauty company L'Oréal USA's "For Girls In Science" program has launched a video contest inviting students nationwide, ages 13-18, to create original videos under the theme: "Why is STEM Cool to You." Videos must be in one of four STEM categories — science, technology, engineering or mathematics — and be kept under 60 seconds.

A panel of judges will select eight submissions from each category after the March 4 deadline, and the public will be invited to vote for their favorite March 18-25. The grand-prize winner will receive $2,500, a 16-gigabyte tablet, and $500 worth of beauty products.

For a list of the contest rules and a submission form, visit