Robotics season on Long Island officially kicked off this month with a special event revealing this year's competition theme to more than 800 techie teens at Stony Brook University.
The theme, titled "Aerial Assist," challenges three-team alliances to score balls in goals during 2-minute, 30-second matches -- with extra points earned by robots working together and throwing and catching balls over a truss suspended about 5 feet high.
This year's Long Island Regional FIRST Robotics Competition will draw 49 local teams to Hofstra University on March 27-29. FIRST is an acronym for For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology.
"This proves to be an exciting time for the students and the mentors when they learn the name and the rules of the game for this year's FIRST Robotics Competition," said Joani Madarash, executive director of the School-Business Partnerships of Long Island, the competition's sponsor.
At the kickoff, each team received a kit of components that they will use to design, build and program their robots over a six-week period. In addition, parents learned about the impact of the program on their children's lives and shared ideas on ways to help raise funds for the teams.
In other news, Plainedge High School's Team 527 won the competition's musical theme contest. The team will receive $1,000, and their song, "Ignition," will be played during this year's matches.
The contest received 17 entries from 12 schools.
Brentwood High School students Kayla Diaz, Jennifer Luna and Ashley Paez took their love of animals to another level by creating a "Lend a Paw" club for fellow animal advocates at their school.
The club is intended to help support local animal shelters and related organizations through volunteer work and fundraising efforts.
The three students are enrolled in the animal science program at Eastern Suffolk BOCES' Eastern Long Island Academy of Applied Technology, which launched in the fall.
"To their surprise, so many of their peers showed up to join and participate that the meeting had to be moved from a classroom to the cafeteria," said ESBOCES animal science teacher Lisa Mongiello.
John F. Kennedy Elementary School students recently raised $1,250 to benefit the EJ Autism Foundation in East Islip by selling more than 100 rubber-band bracelets made using Rainbow Loom, a bracelet-making kit.
The project was initiated by Emily Blair and Joy Petersen, who were joined by four classmates.
"I congratulate all of these students on their exceptional achievement, as it signifies attributes of outstanding character and service," Kennedy Principal Aileen O'Rourke said.
Coast Guard offer
Kurt Caminske, a senior at Sayville High School, is one of 20 students nationwide who was offered an early appointment to the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in New London, Conn., school officials said.
A total of up to 300 students are accepted to the academy each year. Tuition is fully funded in exchange for an obligation of five years of active-duty service upon a cadet's graduation.
Caminske will report to the academy on June 30, just two days after his graduation. While at the academy, he will be a member of the Coast Guard Academy Glee Club and the lacrosse team, which next year will make its debut in Division III, school officials said.
'The Polar Express'
Several local schools put a wintry twist on learning last month with lessons and activities pegged to the children's book and animated fantasy film "The Polar Express."
In Seaford and Wantagh elementary schools, kindergartners received mock train tickets stamped by Seaford Principal Debra Emmerich and Wantagh Superintendent Maureen Goldberg, who served as train conductors.
Seaford students watched the film in their pajamas, while Wantagh kids tackled craft projects ranging from making reindeer hats to papier-mâché candy canes -- all symbolic of moments in the book.
In Copiague, Great Neck Road Elementary School third-graders performed a presentation of the book in the style of reader's theater, which required students to read a script adapted from the literature. The children spent two weeks learning their lines and creating scenery for the production.
In Port Jefferson, Edna Louise Spear Elementary School students compared the movie to the book and helped teachers make hot chocolate, which is a celebrated refreshment in the film.