Tag: Natalie Knight-Griffin

The Unsung Engineers of FTC Robotics

Words: Natalie Knight-Griffin

Photos: Eliza Andrew

Hidden down one of Centennial’s less crowded hallways (a rarity in itself) and down a rather dim, narrow corridor, is a computer science room- home to the FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) Robotics club. As I stepped into the room for the first time, the atmosphere felt almost animated. I was instantly hit with a feeling of intense, pure joy. The sight of photographer Eliza Andrew with her camera, and I with my notepad, immediately garnered a beaming smile on the faces of each individual as the words, “the Wingspan!” jumped around the room. Two enormous robots sat in the center of the room surrounded by a protective barrier, and just beyond that, a mass of students with determined faces. My eyes jumped from one excitable huddle of bodies to another. Sophomore Diego Montemayor quickly grabbed an oddly shaped bag, pulling out enormous foam hats. The hats were tossed across the room, bursts of color and decoration meant to distinguish the individual teams, Exponential 15561 and VIRUS 9866, that were controlling each robot. As I realized I was getting lost in the sheer madness and spirit of the room, I gathered my bearings and remembered that I had a story to tell.

As sophomore club president Phillip Wang and junior Carlos Montemayor excitedly made their way over to Eliza and me, I couldn’t help but feel giddy. Why hadn’t we come sooner? They introduced themselves and set down various trophies and binders accumulated over only a few short months, proving the club had already distinguished itself in excelling in the art of competition. I asked Phillip how this all worked, how this group of high school kids had managed to transform an idea into a robotics-based enterprise. He grabbed a thick, Leslie Knope-looking binder, and began flipping through the pages as if he’d done it a thousand times, and could recite every word. I noticed that the binder was separated by labeled tabs, detailing things such as mechanical instructions, marketing, and the business plan. Under the marketing tab, there was a spread of the numerous sponsors that had allowed the club to have the necessary funding.

Phillip and his team have transformed the impressive hobby into a business-like, full-time job. After only a little over a year of operation, the club gained over twenty members and numerous sponsors. A $10,000 grant from the Department of Education along with $3,000 from various other supporting companies allowed the group to purchase two brand new computers, a 3D printer, and essential equipment. The group works tirelessly three days a week after school, as well as weekends. Their mission, above all, is to become more knowledgeable about engineering, programming, and marketing concepts while simultaneously spread awareness of STEM within the school community.

Two years ago, this business-like robotics utopia was just a budding vision. Phillip and his two friends, Andrew Zhao and Matthew Zhang, imagined turning their personal FTC team into a real club at Centennial. From there, they reached out to Nancy Smith, the PLTW teacher, and fellow students with an interest in robotics.

The club’s robots, Exponential 15561 (left) and Virus 9866 (right).

Soon enough, this STEM dream became a reality.

“In the beginning, our main motivation for creating this club was to share our passion for robotics with more students,” noted Wang. Moving into the school would give them better accessibility to be apart of our passion.”

Their success has been immense, winning over three awards in just their first year of existence.

“During our first year as a club, we won the first place Inspire Award at the Naval Academy Qualifier, placed second in the Motivate, Think, and Control Awards, and third place in the Connect Award,” Wang remarked.

“The Inspire Award is the biggest award that a team can win at each competition, as it is given to the team that embodies the ‘challenge’ of the FIRST Tech Challenge program,” he added. “The team that receives this award is a strong ambassador for FIRST programs and a role model FIRST Team. We also qualified for the 2017-2018 FIRST Worlds Championship.”

In their second year, both teams Exponential 15561 and VIRUS 9866 qualified for States after winning the first and second place Inspire Awards at the Parkdale High Qualifier. The teams will be competing at the Maryland State Championship at UMBC in March.

As I excitedly scribbled my final thoughts into my notes, I took a final look around the room. Each cluster of laughing faces, the robots zooming towards one another, the pure bliss of the environment- a second home. There were so many words I could think of to describe this robotics enterprise, the STEM heaven single-handedly built from passionate freshman friends. If there’s one thing I can say, it’s that I will never underestimate this unstoppable group of young engineers.

For FTC robotics, it’s not the thrill of the awards, nor the rush of the competition, that motivates their endless time commitment and work ethic for the club. It’s pure passion.

“This is such an invaluable opportunity for any high school student to have. This club gives us an opportunity to essentially operate a start-up company,” said Phillip. “It gives us a chance to share what we are passionate about with others for the betterment of the community.”

To read this article in the March print issue click here.

For more breaking news and photos, follow The Wingspan on Instagram and Twitter @CHSWingspan.

Annual National Honors Society Inductions

Words: Natalie Knight-Griffin

Photos: Zach Grable

On Thursday, January 11, Centennial’s National Honor Society (NHS) inducted it’s 66 new members. The junior inductees listened to advice from the senior members of the chapter. An emphasis was placed on the four pillars of the society: leadership, character, scholarship, and service.

Special guest speaker Steven Peth, a former Army pilot who fought during the Vietnam War and current Red Cross Volunteer, spoke on the importance of service. Steven shared his personal war story in which he was shot during battle, inspiring his urge to serve the community. After each new member was individually inducted, the group pledged their allegiance to the society.

As the ceremony came to an end, the NHS members and their families joined for cake and refreshments in the cafeteria.

For more breaking news and photos, follow The Wingspan on Instagram and Twitter @CHSWingspan.

Centennial Indoor Track Performs Exceptionally at the 25th Hispanic Games and the Howard County/Anne Arundel County Meet

Words: Joey Sedlacko & Natalie Knight-Griffin

Photos: Eliza Andrew

On Friday, January 4, and Saturday, January 5, the Centennial Indoor Track team competed in the 25th Hispanic Games. Over the weekend, the team travelled to New York City to participate in the annual indoor track meet.

Multiple runners finished in the top ten of their respective events. In the girls’ triple jump for the Freshman/Sophomore division, sophomore Cherakie Pierre placed sixth with a jump of 30-10.50 meters; breaking Centennial’s long jump record. In the Novice division, junior Tyler Dan finished first in the boys 55 meter dash with a time of 6.71. Also in the novice division, junior Zack Garwacki ran a 8.71 in the boys’ 55 meter hurdles to place ninth.

In terms of Varsity, Centennial shined in the field events and long distance events. Junior Anthony Matthews finished ninth in the boys’ triple jump after jumping 42-03.05 meters. Another junior, Jack Ragonese placed tenth in the boys’ shot put. Senior Alison Betler represented Centennial well in the girls’ 1500 meter race and one mile race. In both events, Betler placed tenth.

The indoor track team’s following meet, the Howard County/Anne Arundel County Challenge, took place at the PG Sportsplex on Monday, January 6. Both boys’ and girls’ Varsity teams competed against 11 other schools in the region.

Numerous Centennial runners from both the boys’ and girls’ varsity teams placed in the top five of their individual events. In regards to the boys’ Varsity team, junior Zachary Garwacki placed second in the 55 hurdles.  Sophomore Adrian Nwakalor took fifth in the boys’ triple jump.

The girls’ team excelled throughout the meet, as junior Leah Alkire placed fourth in both the girls 500 meter as well as the girls’ 500 dash. The Varsity girls took fourth out of all eleven teams in the 4×400 relay. Senior Christina Stavlas dominated her respective events, landing an impressive third place in both the girls’ 3200 meters and girls’ 300 meters.

Centennial’s indoor track team will next meet on Tuesday, January 15, for the Howard County Championships.

For more breaking news and photos, follow The Wingspan on Instagram and Twitter @CHSWingspan.

 

Centennial Showcases Talent in Annual Dancing With the Staff

Words: Natalie Knight-Griffin

Photos: Eliza Andrew

On October 25, 2018, Centennial’s Senior Dance Company teamed up with a few lucky teachers to perform their annual Dancing With the Staff show.

There were four groups of dancer-teacher performances. In between each group was a video slideshow displaying the partners practicing their moves, most often with the teachers struggling to follow along, but nonetheless having a good time. Dancers interviewed their teachers of choice, asking questions along the lines of their previous dance experience and dance style of choice.

Tensions ran high as the judges debated results and audience members cast their vote. After fifteen minutes of intense discussion and audience voting, the dancers gathered on stage for results. The judges’ choice was Ms. Rebecca Vanover and Divya Proper, and Mr. David Riddler and Jen Solan received Honorable Mention. In fourth was Mr. Kevin Mccoy and Alison Betler, followed by Ms. Tori Hammers and Arya Bhargav. In second was Mr. Edward Fowler and Katie Pistner. Mrs. Erin Parisi and Eshna Ghosh received first for the night.

From rap to Irish dance, to throwback song choices such as “Call Me Maybe,” Dancing with the Staff was a success.

For more breaking news and photos, follow The Wingspan on Instagram and Twitter @CHSWingspan.

Centennial Wind Ensemble Opens The Year With A Fall Concert

Words: Natalie Knight-Griffin

Photos: Eliza Andrew

On the night of October 8, the Centennial band program performed an hour long concert showcasing their fall music selections. The jazz band opened the concert with a seasonally appropriate piece, a jazz rendition of Earth, Wind, and Fire’s September. The bands then played in order of advancement, with Symphonic Band first, followed by Symphonics Winds, and finally Wind Ensemble.

Wind Ensemble had the longest program, playing three pieces ranging from a militant march to a faster paced work. Compositions included Fanfare for Justice, Speedway, and Pas Redoublé. The audience gave a standing ovation succeeding Wind Ensemble’s performance. Despite only four weeks of rehearsal, the band program put on a fantastic show.

For more breaking news and photos, follow The Wingspan on Instagram and Twitter @CHSWingspan.

Centennial Students’ Homecoming Rituals

Words: Natalie Knight-Griffin

As homecoming nears, Centennial students prepare for the exciting night in various ways. In the days approaching homecoming, students showcase their school pride with a range of spirit days including pajama day, tropical day, USA day, decades day, and color day.
​​

Outside of school traditions, students prepare for the dance with their own traditions. Many who plan on attending the dance spend the day getting ready, ordering pizza, listening to music, and even practicing dance moves.

“I typically go and get my nails done a few days beforehand,” says junior Sara Ferrara. “My friends and I also love doing facemasks the night before for our skin.”

Preparing for homecoming can be a long and extensive process. Everyone has special routines to ensure the night is a success. But really, homecoming is what you make of it.

“I look forward to getting ready with a group of friends,” says freshman Ella Boodin. “It’ll be fun to listen to music and pump each other up!”

From freshmen to seniors, students preparing for homecoming spend hours, and for some, even days to make sure they look their best. With the perfect dress or suit, hair and nails, or whatever you please, homecoming brings a feeling of confidence and excitement to students.

For more breaking news and photos, follow The Wingspan on Instagram and Twitter @CHSWingspan.

Empire Mock Trial Prepares for International Conference in Atlanta, Georgia

Words: Natalie Knight-Griffin

On Wednesday, September 12, Centennial’s Empire Mock Trial team presented their trial court case before a mass of parents and teachers. After several months of hard work, memorization, and dedication even during the summer, Mock Trial has a full length court case to be presented at the international mock trial competition in Atlanta, Georgia.

The team consists of senior captain Mary Slattery and co-captain Anjali Gajendiran. Junior captains are sophomore Adam Goldstein and junior Judy Zhou. The team also consists of seniors Kieran Newell and Abby Zoller-gritz, juniors Meenakshi Adiyodi, Sruthi Ranesh, Emily Kim, and Christina Cha, and sophomores Carter Matties, Philip Wong, Adam Goldstein, and Emmeline Murphy.

Students performed the trial seamlessly, presenting months worth of preparation and memorization before a crowd of proud parents. Members of the team have practiced hundreds of hours in total to insure their case is fully committed to memory and presented in a believable manner.

All students play a role in the trial, acting as either lawyers, character witnesses, or expert witnesses. Nearly a hundred pages of mock evidence are used in the trial, all mock mugshots, photographs, and even prints of fake news sourcing regarding the made-up case. The case the team presents is not real, yet has all of the elements of many court cases seen today. The case discusses racial tensions and assault.

“It’s real up to the point that the events did not happen,” says senior Abby Zoller-gritz.

The international conference consists of high school teams from around the globe showcasing their hypothetical cases, each tying into current events and issues. The teams are judged by a panel of lawyers and legal experts. The Mock Trial team leaves for Atlanta on Wednesday, September 19, and returns on September 24. Students are missing three days of school to attend the conference on September 22, 23, and 24.

For more breaking news and photos, follow The Wingspan on Instagram and Twitter @CHSWingspan.