Demon Robotics Team Ended Season with Trip to the FIRST World Championship

In 2011, a new club was founded at Kennett High School. Demon Robotics, now in its sixth season, welcomes all skill sets, technical or nontechnical, and has more than doubled in membership since its formation. This year, the team is proud to announce that it is headed to the FIRST World Championship in Saint Louis, Missouri, April 26 to 29!

According to its website, “FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) was founded in 1989 to inspire young people’s interest and participation in science and technology.” By developing accessible and innovative programs, the public charity hopes to motivate young people to pursue fields related to STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics). Participating in these programs allows students to build not only robots but self-confidence, knowledge, and life skills. As FIRST says, it’s about “more than robots”—there is something for everyone on a robotics team.

“Demon Robotics makes Kennett a place where you don’t have to be athletic to go to a championship,” says Molly Hohner, a sophomore at Kennett High School who has been with the program for two years. “With Demon Robotics, our best qualities become the school’s best qualities. This program makes Kennett a place where, no matter what you want to do, you can achieve your dreams. Robotics brings a feeling of achievement to the students who participate and brings students together who may not have otherwise met.” Molly is the team’s secretary and marketing team lead.

All officers and team members of the club are Kennett High School students. This season, the team has 25 student members and 13 adult mentors. This season started off with a first for the team: at their first competition, at Westtown, they finished regular matches in first place, dominated in all the finals matches, and ended in second place. The team was also awarded the Industrial Design Award, sponsored by General Motors, which “celebrates form and function in an efficiently designed machine that effectively addresses the game challenge.”

At the second competition of the regular season, the FIRST Robotics Competition Mid-Atlantic Event at Springside Chestnut Hill Academy, the team finished first. After the qualification matches, the Demons finished with nine wins and three losses, placing them in third and securing their position as an Alliance Team Captain. Then, in the elimination matches, the team won all their quarter-final and semifinal matches, taking the team to the finals. To win in the finals, an alliance must win two of three matches. After losing their first match, the Demons came back strong to win matches two and three and secured a first-place win for the weekend’s event.

These performances and awards qualified the team to compete at the Mid-Atlantic Regional District Competition at Lehigh University in April. This highly competitive three-day event was another wonderful experience for the team to develop their skills on the field of play, technically, and networking through communications. Although the team came into the event placed fourth, they did not compete in the final rounds. The very last announcement at the end of the weekend’s event, after all the awards and recognitions were presented, was that one team in attendance had secured itself a place at the FIRST FRC World Championships in Saint Louis by its overall performance this season—and that team was team 4342, Demon Robotics!

Once the team had settled down from all the screaming (and some happy tears), there was some serious work to be done. The Worlds would be held eighteen days later, which meant transportation, lodging, logistics, and funding would all need to be sorted in a very short period. Team members were looking forward to another thrilling and fulfilling competition, so everyone got behind the effort, with families, the school, and the community showing support.

Thirteen students, eight mentors, and six additional parents traveled to Saint Louis for the six-day adventure, proudly representing Kennett on the world stage. Out of 400 teams, Demon Robotics played at the same level they had all season. At one point in the competition the team held the high-match score. The students reveled in the extremely high level of play, and enjoyed watching other matches as much as playing in their own as well as talking and networking with other teams.

The trip provided far more opportunities than just the competition: there were speakers and work sessions for students and mentors to attend. Universities that offer FIRST-specific scholarships were on hand in “Scholarship Row,” and hundreds of businesses and organizations that support and offer STEM careers and interests were available to talk with students about their future plans. Teams also attended a Cardinals game. Since so many students forgo their proms for this event, ours included, there was a full “Robo-Prom.”

“It wasn’t until I joined the robotics team that I truly had a chance to explore and figure out what engineering was. I fell in love with working in the shop and solving the problems,” says Sarah Ploener, a junior who has been on the team for three years. She serves as the team’s vice president and as team lead on the Chassis Build and Drive Team. “Every year our knowledge deepens, which is what being on the team is truly about. The success of this season shows us that we are improving and that we are doing what we are meant to do. Sure, receiving our first-place banner was amazing, but the real reward is proving to ourselves and our peers that we can do this.”

The team’s accomplishments this season indicates how far the team has grown in its six years. The entire team, students and mentors alike, are ecstatic about the results. They would like to thank all the people who came out to cheer them on; parents, family members, team alumni, and other Kennett High School students, in addition to the many people near and far who watched the livestream. Without their support and generous contributions from the community, the team would not have been able to experience this season and the successes that came along with it.

Ronan Gorman, a Kennett High School freshman in his first year of the program, says, “Demon Robotics has been a great opportunity for me and I have been very fortunate to have access to the many mechanical ideas, processes, and terms that have shown me what a future in engineering will be like. With the guidance and knowledge of my mentors, I have learned many techniques that ensure certain processes or tasks are completed well and efficiently. It has been a great opportunity to get a head start for my future in engineering.”

Interested in volunteering time, talent, or funding to the program? You can contact the club’s adviser, Mr. Dan Folmar, at Kennett High School, or see the team’s website for more information: www.demonrobotics4342.org.

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Kennett Education Association Recognizes Top Students

The Kennett Education Association (KEA) held its 26th Annual Scholarship and Awards Reception, May 30, to recognize outstanding students for their academic merit and school citizenship. These students represent the excellence that the members of the Association encourage in the Kennett Consolidated School District.students standing in two rows with awards

The Kennett Education Association is the professional organization of teachers, librarians, guidance counselors, school nurses, and school social workers of the Kennett Consolidated School District. Each year members of KEA select students from different levels and disciplines for special recognition for their outstanding academic achievements and school citizenship qualities. The awards are funded by contributions from members of KEA. This event represents over $7500 in support by members.

Receiving awards for their accomplishments at the elementary level were fifth graders Sadie Maxwell and Bryan Calderon (Bancroft Elementary School), Emerson Wolff and Owen Orpello (Greenwood Elementary School), and Sahana Shivakumar and Martin Hernandez (New Garden Elementary School). These students were awarded certificates and $50 book gift cards.

Recognized for their performances at Kennett Middle School were eighth graders Alondra Herrera-Esquivel and Rio Jeffrey King who received certificates and $100 book gift cards.

Earning accolades at the high school level for excellence throughout their high school careers in their disciplines were seniors Jacqueline Tucker (Business Education), Lydia Pebly (English) Juan Martinez (Fine Arts), Zachary Hrenko (Mathematics), Yvonna Liszewski (Music), Gemma Erickson (Social Studies), Madison Brown (Technical Arts), Cullen Abelson (Science) and Henry Shattuck (World Languages). Each of these awards carried with it a check for $200.

Association President Michael Kelly presented the most prestigious award of the evening to senior Lydia Pebly who will be pursuing a teaching career. Mr. Kelly congratulated Lydia on winning the KEA Award in not only 5th grade and 8th grade but also two times that night. He also welcomed Lydia into the profession and commended her for her dedication to building the future. In her application letter, Pebly did not write about knowing that she wanted to be a teacher from early on. In fact, she wrote that that decision did not occur until this year.

Mr. Kelly remarked, “Lydia believes now that teaching is her purpose. Hoping to make an impact and inspire her students just as her teachers have impacted and inspired her.”

Mr. Kelly presented Ms. Pebly with scholarship money in the amount of $5000 to be paid over her four years of college.

A reception hosted by KEA followed the presentations.

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Kennett High School Students Exhibit Work

Last week Kennett High School artists displayed their talents for their fellow students, teachers, staff, and the Kennett community. The show, held in the school’s auxiliary gym, was open to the public for viewing on Wednesday evening, and students and staff also had the opportunity to attend the show during the school day on Thursday.

The show included works from all visual arts classes within the Fine Arts Department, as well as the art honor society and the photo club. Teachers Mrs. Jodi Davidson, Mr. Tom Hironimus, and Mrs. Kathy Caputo Nelms guided their students through the creation and exhibition of their artwork; all three teachers are undeniably impressed by their students.

Mrs. Caputo Nelms said, “The artwork created by the students of Kennett High School is amazing. The exhibit featured a variety of drawings, paintings, photography, ceramics, and graphic designs. There was also a closing reception held by the Art Honor Society, attended by student artists, family, and friends.”

“Kennett High School art students are extremely hard working and incredibly talented. They are dedicated to getting better every day and being the best they can be. It is a blessing to be surrounded by such enthusiastic and committed students,” added Mr. Hironimus.

“The Kennett High School students in our Ceramics classroom constantly amaze me with their dedication, creativity, and willingness to explore new techniques and challenge themselves daily. I love working with the kids here at KHS, and each day is a new opportunity for everyone to continue to learn and grow as a student of life,” said Ms. Davidson.

Mr. Charlie Lewis, former Kennett Middle School teacher who creates etchings, and Mrs. Ellen Catanzaro, a painter and parent of junior art student, Claire, also displayed their work and were available to talk to students. And, the Gender Sexuality Alliance (GSA) used the opportunity to disseminate information and raise funds for the organization.

By all accounts, the show was a success. High school principal Dr. Jeremy Hritz observed, “The talents of our students are undeniable, and they were on full display at this year’s Art Show. It was an enjoyable experience to see the passion and creativity of our students embodied in the various works of art. KHS students are simply amazing.”

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A Spotlight on Mrs. Colleen Thurmond

Avid readers agree that to open your mind, you need only open a book. Mrs. Colleen Thurmond, the Response to Intervention (RtII) Teacher at New Garden Elementary School, teaches students to use reading this way.

Mrs. Thurmond has taught everything from preschool to fifth grade in her 32-year career; 29 of those years have been at New Garden Elementary. She attended West Chester University and received her undergraduate degree in elementary education before receiving her master’s in literacy, allowing her to become a reading specialist.

“At each opportunity, I’ve learned so much about teaching,” explains Mrs. Thurmond. “I constantly strive to try new positions to learn more at every level. It has been a lot of fun to explore different opportunities.”

Mrs. Thurmond knew early on that she loved education, so after college she went right into teaching at the preschool level in Connecticut. Next, she got a classroom teaching position in South Carolina. She loves Southeastern Pennsylvania, so she moved back and got a job at Kennett Consolidated School District as a fifth-grade teacher. She has been with the District ever since. While her primary focus is on reading, she also enjoys teaching math, social studies, and science.

“When I first started teaching, I wanted to learn more about how kids learn to read,” says Mrs. Thurmond. “I was intrigued by the learning process. Response to Intervention covers reading, writing, and math. This approach looks at the whole child to see how they’re progressing across the board. Every aspect is considered. We even look to see if their behavior could be affecting their learning.”

Mrs. Thurmond puts interventions and strategies in place to be sure that every student is successful. If a student is struggling with fluency, for example, Mrs. Thurmond will have them do repeated readings. The idea behind this is that as a student re-reads a story or passage, they will begin to feel more comfortable with the words. The more comfortable they are with the words, the more they will comprehend the passage.

“I work with students in first through fifth grades, so it can be challenging to make sure all students are progressing. We look at math and reading data three times a year: fall, winter, spring. This lets me take the pulse and see how students are doing. Some students are monitored more frequently. Then, of course, I follow up to make sure that the strategies are working.”

Watching the students grow is a big reason why Mrs. Thurmond loves her work. Students begin in first grade as one type of learner and leave the school a whole new person, both academically and personally.

“I really get to know the students, and the parents too,” says Mrs. Thurmond. “It’s great fun to have that community feeling when working together with the students. It’s fun to see the spark in their eyes. Students will tell me ‘I can’t read’—then, usually around January, all the pieces begin falling together and they say, ‘I can read!’”

In addition to her role as the Response to Intervention (RtII) Teacher at New Garden Elementary School, Mrs. Thurmond is also a Shelter Instructional Observation Protocol (SIOP) facilitator and presenter for the District, as part of a program that helps students build their background knowledge to help them learn in the classroom. She serves on the English Language Arts (ELA) Committee, which is working on developing a “grammar scope” to look at what’s being taught and when. She is also on the Word Study Committee, which looks at phonics development and vocabulary from kindergarten through middle school and is evaluating materials that will benefit all learners.

Outside of school, Mrs. Thurmond loves to read and spend time with her husband of 30 years, Benton, and daughter, Jaime, who graduated from the Kennett Consolidated School District. She also loves to spoil her three pets: one dog and two cats. Her happy place is the beach.

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KMS Students Produce Winning Video

Five Kennett Middle School students took on the challenge of discovering “What’s So Cool About Manufacturing” by creating a two-and-a-half-minute video of their visit to Schramm, a century-old manufacturer in West Chester and global supplier to the hydraulic drilling industry.

Read more by clicking here.

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2016-2017 Calendar Revision

As a result of all schools being closed because of inclement weather on February 9 and March 14, 2017, the last student day for elementary and middle school students for the 2016-2017 school year will now be a half day on Monday, June 12, 2017.

Because of the emergency closing of the high school on Friday, April 7, 2017, the last student day for high school students for the 2016-2017 school year will be Tuesday, June 13, 2017.

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A Spotlight on Mrs. Kimberly Suydam

Dr. Seuss writes, “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” Mrs. Kim Suydam, reading specialist at Bancroft Elementary School, makes this concept the focus of her work with students. She comments that reading opens up new possibilities of learning for students, allowing them to guide themselves through the world. She has made opening that gateway for students her primary responsibility.

“There is something so rewarding about teaching a child to read,” says Mrs. Suydam. “The spark of joy in their eyes when they’ve read their first sentence or paragraph or book—it’s an indescribable feeling. When I see pride on a student’s face, I know I’m in the right profession.”

Mrs. Suydam graduated from West Chester University with a Bachelor of Science in education and a minor in reading, and has worked in Kennett Consolidated School District since her student-teaching days. She taught 2nd grade and 3rd grade before earning a master’s degree from West Chester University and receiving her certification as a reading specialist. She now works with young readers at Bancroft Elementary School, but has also worked at New Garden Elementary School and the Mary D. Lang Kindergarten Center.

The majority of Mrs Suydam’s day is spent teaching targeted reading groups, but she has served in many capacities beyond her specialty at Bancroft Elementary. As a Title I Interventionist, she presents Title I information to Bancroft staff and families. She also plans and hosts the school’s Family Night, sets up its after-school tutoring program, organizes its summer reading program, helps set up a summer school program for students, and is part of the school assessment team.

“As I’m sure most teachers would agree, my toughest challenge is time,” says Mrs. Suydam. “We all play many roles in our jobs. Teachers are creative individuals who can really maximize a 30-minute block of time to provide motivational and interactive lessons.”

Indeed, Mrs. Suydam takes on an impressive number of duties that support the students attending Bancroft Elementary School. She has participated in Responsive Classroom training, an approach to teaching that focuses on the connection between academic success and social-emotional learning; she serves on the Building Leadership Team and the Word Study Committee; and in years past, she was herself an after-school tutor. In addition, Mrs. Suydam has been a summer school teacher, hosted book clubs, and organized Reading Olympics. She even traveled to China one summer with her colleagues and spent three weeks teaching English at a summer camp there.

At home, Mrs. Suydam is an avid reader. She enjoys spending her summers at the beach and enjoying as much time as she can with her husband and 1-year-old daughter.

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Kennett High School Will Re-Open Monday, April 17th

This is an important update from the Kennett Consolidated School District concerning the legionella bacteria found at the high school last week. Under the guidance of the Chester County Health Department and the recommendation of our environment consultants, 1Source Safety and Health Inc., we developed a comprehensive plan to remediate the bacteria. In order to start the sterilization process as soon as possible, we elected to close the high school last Friday. We also wanted to ensure the safety of our staff and students and eliminate the possibility of scalding because the domestic hot water system had to be raised to a minimum temperature of 160 degrees. We successfully completed the heat sterilization process on this past Saturday, and, after consulting with the Chester County Health Department, will re-open the high school on Monday April 17th as indicated on the school calendar. Thank you.


Esta es una actualización importante de la Kennett Consolidated School District con respecto a la bacteria legionella que se encontró en la Kennett High School la semana pasada. Bajo la guía del Departamento de Salud del Condado de Chester y la recomendación de nuestros consultores del medio ambiente, 1Source Safety and Health Inc., desarrollamos un plan integral para remediar la bacteria. Para iniciar el proceso de esterilización tan pronto como posible, decidimos cerrar la High School el viernes pasado. También, queríamos asegurar la seguridad de nuestro personal y estudiantes y eliminar la posibilidad de escaldadura porque el sistema de agua caliente doméstica tenía que ser elevado a una temperatura mínima de 160 grados. Hemos completado con éxito el proceso de esterilización por calor el sábado pasado, y después de consultar con el Departamento de Salud del Condado de Chester, vamos a abrir la Kennett High School el lunes, el 17 de abril como se indica en el calendario escolar. Gracias.

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