An Arlington Tech robotics team has an unusual strategy for building camaraderie and raising money ahead of competition season: yard work.
Every fall, members of the Koibots weed, rake and landscape around 40 yards in Arlington. Money funds the cost to pay for robot parts and travel and lodging when competitions start in March.
“We’re kids, we all we have the ability to go out and break our backs for four hours on a weekend, shoveling, raking leaves and whatnot,” says rising senior Madeline Florio. “It is a service that people do need and we are able to provide it. Our customers are pretty loyal.”
The team’s coach, engineering teacher Steve Nystrom, says yard work hones their ability to communicate and work together, which comes in handy during the building phase.
“So when you start making the robot, you need to know, who can I depend on? Who can I count on? Who has the skill sets?” he said. “Ironically, you can build a lot of that and know a lot of those answers by going out on yard jobs.”
This kind of fundraising makes the Koibots an anomaly, says rising junior Anna Litwiller. Most teams get large sums of money from Boeing, Lockheed Martin and sometimes the Dept. of Defense.
The yard work might provide the team a competitive advantage, especially considering how well they’ve performed in their short existence.
Despite being in existence for just five years and having constructed only three robots, the team has twice made the cut-offs for districts — where the top 50% of teams in D.C., Virginia and Maryland compete in the spring.
This year, the Koibots came in 36th out 0f 60 and won an award for its design and branding, which leans heavily into its quirky culture influenced by marine life.
Nystrom said he chose the name “Koibots” because Arlington Tech’s Frisbee team is called “The Kois.” After naming their second robot “Sharkbait,” the aquatic theme stuck.
“We try to do as much as we can send her around the fish, and the IKEA shark, and all sorts of aquatic things,” says rising junior Shangwen Cheng. “We highly encourage our team members to get a shark because they’re wonderful but it really brings together our team in a way that you really can’t from the engineering alone.”
“Obviously, we’re here to encourage a love of STEM and building things and learning all things technical, but it’s also a lot of fun and you get to throw sharks around at people,” she continued.
Peak Heat, Statistically Speaking — “Based on history, we are now at the hottest point of the summer. While it can still be brutally hot in the weeks ahead (and probably will be at times), we are about to begin our gradual descent into winter, using average temps.” [Capital Weather Gang, Twitter]
Arlington Home Prices Keep Rising — “A total of 369 properties went to closing last month, up 62 percent from 228 in June 2020… The average price of single-family homes in the county was $1,217,376 last month, up 9.8 percent from $1,109,179.” [Sun Gazette]
Protected Bikes Lanes for HQ2? — “Amazon.com Inc.’s newest PenPlace design would add protected bike lanes along a key roadway adjacent to the 11.6-acre campus and a new bike share station near the planned ‘Helix’ tower. During Arlington’s Long Range Planning Committee’s virtual meeting Tuesday, Amazon’s HQ2 landscape architect Scape presented its revised vision for the site’s 2.1 acres of open space and transportation networks.” [Washington Business Journal]
Woman Finds Bullet Hole in Window — “3900 block of Columbia Pike. At approximately 6:09 a.m. on July 13, police were dispatched to the report of suspicious circumstances. Upon arrival, it was determined that the victim was awoken at approximately 10:00 p.m. on July 12 to a loud pop sound. The following morning, she discovered a bullet hole in her window.” [ACPD]
Affordable Apartments Set for Renovation — “Arlington County is backing away from plans to buy part of the Park Shirlington apartment complex in South Arlington as the developers are instead pitching a full renovation of the affordable community. The county is set to deliver a $22.7 million loan to power the rehabilitation of all 293 units on the 15.7-acre parcel.” [Washington Business Journal]
Arlington Is a ‘Top Digital County’ — “Arlington County is once again ranked among the top digital counties in the nation. The Center for Digital Government and National Association of Counties has named Arlington to the No. 2 spot for their 2021 awards in the 150,000-249,999 population category.” [Arlington County]
New Record for W-L IB Program — “W-L students surpassed their worldwide peers in diploma pass rate, average score pass rate, and the average points earned by diploma candidates. In addition, the overall pass rate for all W-L students participating in [International Baccalaureate] classes, including Diploma Candidates and Course Candidates, is the highest in the 25-year history of IB at W-L at 92.6%.” [Arlington Public Schools]
‘Arlington Tech’ Students Earn Degree — “Seven Arlington Tech Class of 2021 graduates are the first APS students to earn Associates Degrees by taking courses offered through both Arlington Tech and the Career Center.” [Arlington Public Schools]
AWLA Captures Escaped Parakeet — “Officer K. Davis of the Animal Welfare League of Arlington successfully captured this errant budgie tonight… She used her phone to play budgie calls in hope of enticing the stray bird. Twice the budgie alluded the net but three times proved the charm as Officer Davis’s patience and speed completed the apprehension.” [Facebook]
Massage Studio Opening Next Week — “Elements Massage opens at Westpost (formerly Pentagon Row) on Monday, July 19… The 2,100-square-foot studio will be located at 1101 S. Joyce Street, Suite B10.” [Press Release]
Arlington Tech Students Earn Nat’l Medal — “Lina Barclay and Ellie Nix, two Arlington Tech seniors at the Arlington Career Center, won the second-place silver medal in the 2021 SkillsUSA National Competition for Television Video Production. This is the highest placement for APS students since placing fourth in 2018 and 2019.” [Arlington Public Schools]
Marymount Conducting Heat Study — “Marymount University is joining 11 other higher education institutions within the Virginia Foundation for Independent Colleges (VFIC) in setting out across the state to understand where residents are most at risk during extreme heat waves. Marymount faculty, staff, students and community volunteers will use specially designed thermal sensors to record air temperatures and humidity throughout the Northern Virginia area over three specific times this Thursday: 6 am, 3 pm and 7 pm.” [Press Release]
Local Woman’s Journey from Vietnam — “It was April 30, 1975 – as North Vietnamese troops converged on Saigon in the last hours of the Vietnam War – that Sonia Johnston (then known by her Vietnamese name To Nga) boarded an American helicopter atop the U.S. embassy and, with no family at her side, was whisked away to a refugee camp in preparation for a new life… ‘I had nothing, and here I am. You can’t do it by yourself,’ Johnston said during a July 7 presentation.” [Sun Gazette]
Arlington Tech students are raising money to send supplies to a Liberian school founded by their math teacher.
The school was founded by Arlington Tech math teacher Isaac Zawolo and just opened this past year.
The goal is to raise $10,000 which will go towards resources like laptops, iPads, textbooks, toiletries, and basic school supplies. As of today (Friday), they’ve raised $1,559.
“Stuff like eyeglasses, instructional materials, books, and even clothing and menstrual products,” says 17-year-old Arlington Tech junior Abigail Herrada, one of the students leading the effort. “A lot of times when women meet the menstrual age, they just drop out of school because they don’t have access to those things.”
The idea came to the students upon hearing about Zawolo’s work building the schools in his home country.
Zawolo immigrated to the United States from the western African country of Liberia in 1998 and spent several years teaching in Prince George’s County before coming to Arlington. He’s been a teacher in the county since 2004 and with Arlington Tech from the high school program’s 2016 inception.
Five years ago, while celebrating his 30th teaching anniversary, he had an epiphany about needing to help his native land. He started assisting schools in Liberia with resources, uniforms, and tuition, but wanted to do more.
“I just thought about the idea of doing my own thing and actually creating the school to provide quality education,” Zawolo says. “It could provide a general high school education but also some technical classes.”
His first school opened last year in Liberia’s capital city of Monrovia and, this past January, he opened a second school in his hometown of Kakata, located about 40 miles east of Monrovia.
The focus is to help students prepare for college and gain career-oriented skills through classes focused on electrical engineering, computer science, medicine, journalism, agriculture, and other disciplines.
His efforts in Liberia were brought to Arlington Public Schools’ attention by Zawolo’s colleagues, who saw a post about it on Facebook. He says he never intended it to become the subject of a student-led fundraiser.
Zawolo would sometimes mention his experiences in Liberia in class, Herrada says, and it really inspired her.
“I could see his real focus and his commitment to these schools and how having a passion for education can really [lead] to so many great things,” says Herrada.
Herrada herself is keenly interested in education — particularly, women’s education — noting that she has had the privilege of traveling overseas and seeing schools in other parts of the world.
“I’ve seen how underprivileged some of these schools are. In Arlington, everyone has a MacBook or iPad. There’s a drastic difference,” says Herrada.
School Board Budget Quarrel — “Despite being blasted by colleagues for circumventing established procedures and potentially poisoning a well of goodwill, a majority of School Board members on March 28 voted to direct their chairman to tell County Board members the school system couldn’t take any further budget cuts.” [InsideNova]
Arlington Tech Succeeding in Engaging Girls — The Arlington Tech high school program “applicant pool for the 2019-20 school year has an almost equal breakdown when it comes to gender. As far as reflecting the county’s racial diversity, this public school program, which accepts students based on a blind lottery, is within a few percentage points.” [Technically DC]
Online Signup to Speak at Budget Meetings — Arlington County’s public meetings on the county budget and tax rate will be held on Tuesday and Thursday, respectively. Those who want to speak at the meetings can register to do so until 5 p.m. the day before the meeting. [Arlington County, Arlington County]
New Name for Nauck Elementary School — Drew Model School in Nauck is being renamed “Dr. Charles R. Drew Elementary School” after the Arlington School board voted last week to accept a naming committee’s recommendation. [Arlington Public Schools]
Photo courtesy of Craig Fingar
Hope: No Impeachment Filing Yet — Updated at 9:50 a.m. — Del. Patrick Hope (D) says he’s delaying filing articles of impeachment against Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax (D), who is facing two accusations of past sexual assaults. “An enormous amount of sincere and thoughtful feedback… has led to additional conversations that need to take place,” Hope said. [Twitter, Twitter, Twitter]
More Trailers for Arlington Tech — “Students coming into the Arlington Tech program at the Arlington Career Center for the next two years may find themselves spending more time in trailers than they had thought, and more time than School Board members are happy about.” [InsideNova]
State Split on Northam’s Fate — “Virginians are deadlocked over whether Gov. Ralph Northam (D) should step down after the emergence of a photo on his 1984 medical school yearbook page depicting people in blackface and Ku Klux Klan garb, with African Americans saying by a wide margin that he should remain in office despite the offensive image, according to a Washington Post-Schar School poll.” [Washington Post]
Beyer on Face the Nation — “Democratic Virginia Reps. Don Beyer and Jennifer Wexton renewed their calls for Gov. Ralph Northam and Lt. Governor Justin Fairfax to step down over their respective controversies” on CBS’s Face the Nation Sunday morning. [CBS News]
Local Chef on CBS This Morning — Chef David Guas of Bayou Bakery in Courthouse made an extended appearance on CBS This Morning Saturday, talking about his food, his restaurants and how his aunt inspired his love of cooking. [CBS News]
Flickr pool photo by TheBeltWalk
Oppleo Security, a cybersecurity company from Montana, won the first Startup Arlington competition.
This year’s competition is nearly identical to the first, said AED spokeswoman Cara O’Donnell. Companies that apply by Jan. 31 stand to win three months of lodging at WhyHotel/The Bartlet and incubator space at 1776 “with access to expert mentorship and a powerful network to help the company grow,” according to the competition’s website. The winning company will also receive a $25,000 investment from Kiddar Capital.
Each applicant chosen as a finalist will be required to submit a 90-second video that demonstrates why their company should be chosen by a panel of judges and members of the voting public. Voting takes place between Feb. 21 and Feb. 28, according to the county.
But there’s a catch: Applicants can’t be residents of D.C.; Prince William, Fairfax, Loudoun or Arlington counties in Virginia; or Prince George’s and Montgomery counties in Maryland, according to Startup Arlington’s rules.
“We’re hopeful for a wide pool of applicants,” O’Donnell said. “We launched the competition at this year’s CES to reach a large audience.”
(Updated at 10:50 a.m.) With the notable exception of Barcroft Elementary, which opened on Aug. 1, today was the first day of school for Arlington Public Schools students.
Kids and parents flocked back to local elementary, middle and high schools this morning, as the APS bus fleet traversed local roads. There were no major hiccups reported, save perhaps a fire alarm that was set off in the teacher’s lounge of Taylor Elementary around 10 a.m. (No smoke or fire was found.)
This morning at Abingdon Elementary, which is being renovated and expanded, students were greeted by a number of newly-installed relocatable classroom trailers on the field next to the school. Several Arlington County police officers were stationed at the intersection of 29th Street S. and S. Abingdon Street, to help keep cars moving amid a new traffic pattern for dropping off students.
At Carlin Springs Elementary, meanwhile, administrators literally rolled out a red carpet for new and returning students. At the new Arlington Tech, the program’s first 40 students arrived and began classes. At the H-B Woodlawn Secondary Program, upperclassmen formed tunnels for freshman students on their first day.
Arlington County Police and APS are urging drivers to be extra cautious on the roads as school gets back underway.
ACPD and APS officials, School Board members and school administrators were busy ringing in the first day of school on Twitter this morning. More back-to-school tweets, after the jump.
Cooley Joins DJO Football Staff — Former Washington Redskins tight end Chris Cooley has joined the Bishop O’Connell High School football staff as the offensive line and tight ends coach. Cooley, who currently co-hosts the afternoon drive radio show on ESPN 980, is shifting to a morning slot at the station, thus allowing him to coach. [Arlington Catholic Herald]
Arlington Tech Light on Female Students — Only 21 percent of incoming freshmen at the new Arlington Tech high school program are female. That number is “not high enough,” an administrator told community members. [InsideNova]
North Arlington Road Closure — N. Sycamore Street is scheduled to be closed from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. today between Little Falls Road and 27th Street due to water service installation work. [Arlington County]
Architect Chosen for Gondola Study — Portland, Oregon-based ZGF Architects has been selected to conduct the feasibility study for a gondola system between Rosslyn and Georgetown. ZGF, which also has offices in D.C., worked on the preliminary concept for the Portland Aerial Tram, which opened in 2006. [Georgetowner, Urban Turf]
Real Estate Firm Raises $100,000 for Free Clinic — McLean-based Stewart Commercial Realty has helped to raise more than $100,000 for Arlington Free Clinic’s dental program. The program provides dental care to low-income, uninsured Arlington residents. The company held a fundraiser for the program in Courthouse last weekend. [Facebook]