Lapeer area adds seventh high school robotics team: Strike Zone

Tony Diodato of Cypress Computer Systems, center, reviews robot-building strategies with a small group of students from his new Strike Zone robotics team, along with students from Lapeer robotics Team 1684, the Chimeras.

Tony Diodato of Cypress Computer Systems, center, reviews robot-building strategies with a small group of students from his new Strike Zone robotics team, along with students from Lapeer robotics Team 1684, the Chimeras.

LAPEER, Michigan – To kick off the 2014-2015 robotics season, a new local robotics team has emerged. Known as Strike Zone, it’s the Lapeer area’s seventh high-school robotics team.

Strike Zone Team 5460 is headed up by engineer-programmer Tony Diodato of Cypress Computer Systems. Diodato, who coordinates the robotics programs based at Lapeer’s Center for Innovation, said creating a new team has enabled an influx of freshmen ─ along with a few former Chimeras from Team 1684 ─ to get more involved in building a robot than would have otherwise been possible.

Jon Uren, an original member of the Chimeras team, continues to coach the Chimeras.

Robot-building strategy will be completely separate for each team, although the teams plan to work together on off-season projects, such as the Downhill Derby which happens during Lapeer Days each summer, and the ROBO-CON robotics summer festival first launched by the Chimeras in July.

For now, the two teams are sharing the same space, the former machine shop at Lapeer’s new Center for Innovation.

The availability of state funding for rookie teams made this year an ideal time to start a new team, said Diodato, who has been considering creating a new team for some time.

The seven area high school teams are part of the international FIRST organization (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology), at the FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) level. Along with Strike Zone and the Chimeras teams, the Lapeer area FRC robotics roster includes Lapeer’s Ed Tech Team 3535, the Galak Tech Invaders; Team 4961 of Almont, Shock and Awe-sum; Team 5048 of Imlay City High School, the Spartronics; Team 5201 of North Branch, the Broncos; and Team 5238 of LakeVille, the Falcons.

The Chimeras and Strike Zone teams are two of five robotics teams now based at Lapeer’s Center for Innovation at the school’s West campus. The Center also serves as home base for two FTC (FIRST Tech Challenge) middle school teams and a new FIRST Lego League (FLL) elementary-age team.

The FIRST Robotics Competition combines the excitement of a varsity sport with hands-on training in science and technology to help high school students discover how rewarding a career in engineering or technology can be. Every student on a FIRST robotics team has a chance to turn pro.

Robotics team seeks mentors, year-end donations

Currently Lapeer robotics team 1684, the Chimeras, is seeking community sponsors to fund the upcoming season, which begins Jan. 3, 2015.

The cost for each high school robotics team to build and compete a robot ranges from $15,000 – $40,000 a season. Community contributions of any amount are welcome; teams also welcome in-kind donations and help from mentors with experience in science, technology, engineering, programming, electrical, machining, education and other related areas.

Chimeras robotics students work year-round to develop skills in science, technology, engineering and math, then use those skills to mentor others and contribute to the Lapeer community through events such as the annual Lapeer Days free Downhill Derby, and the new “accidentally educational” Robo-Con event, a free annual community festival introduced by the Chimeras in July.

Want to help the work of the Chimeras robotics team? Contact Tony Diodato at

Learning ‘without noticing': LHS sophomore Hannah Graham writes about recent field trip

What follows is a letter from Lapeer High School sophomore Hannah Graham about a recent field trip she participated in with many of her classmates:

LHS Sophomore Hannah Graham

LHS Sophomore Hannah Graham

My name is Hannah Graham and I wanted to share with you my amazing biology experience along with many others. Recently I had the opportunity to go on a field trip to Turrill elementary school, Zemmer, and Ferguson retirement home and present a Mitosis presentation. If you are unaware of what Mitosis is, it is cell reproduction and replication which enables us to live every day; without Mitosis we would not be able to survive.

Mr. Jeff Haring came up with a different learning style instead of the usual lecture and notes; this learning style let all of the students in his biology class to be creative. At first it was a challenge, figuring out how to present Mitosis and each of the cells processes through acting, singing, etc; but, he allowed us to go above and beyond, and actually make up plays, or a song instead of doing the normal read off of a presentation ordeal. It wasn’t just us coming up with our own presentations and reading off of a script or memorizing lines that we weren’t going to remember in a week. We actually learned the curriculum without noticing.

There were four groups out of all of his classes that actually had to tryout to see if the presentation was presentable, and or reasonably educational of course. Luckily, both of the groups out of my class were able to go on the trip. Those in my class that went were: Baylee Thompson, Alec nusz, Patrick McNulty, Jacob Rill, Mackenzie Maxwell, Layne Price, Ashley Pomorski, Emily Kirsammer, Anthony Maasch, Basil King, Nick Osentoski, Marisol Rodriguez,Eva Walker, and myself. Our class was split into evenly separated groups, and presented a play and a visual presentation. The play my group did was a reenactment of Romeo and Juliet, in which we showed the three last phases of mitosis, Metaphase, Anaphase, and Cytokensis. The other groups that went included: Will Taylor, Gavin Beckwith, Emily Alexander, Brady Bills, Monica George, Jesse Conway, Cristen lambert, Chelsea Kroll, Allison Davis, Quinton Cesefske, Nathan Newsome, Andrea Mchugh, Lauren Frederick,Noah Hirsch, Skylar Vettesse, Griffin Hammond, Tim Cahillelis, Evan Orr, Chad stamps, Cameron Johnson, Sam Cooke, Clayton Nolley, Bella Mirza, Hayden Rock, Skylar Humphries, Johnny Seabrooks, Malek Al Ghanem ,Alexis Brazelton.

Those groups did a “that’s good, that’s bad” reenactment in which they went through all of the phases one by one comparing and contrasting the process. We saved the best for last; Noah Hirsch, or the “artist” of this phenomenal song, explained mitosis through a ‘rap’ song. But here’s the catch, the song didn’t have any words. Noah was able to write a song that explained Mitosis step by step but at the same time got everyone to listen and get a clear understanding of what he was singing about. I assume you’re thinking “A rap song at a retirement home?”  Not going to work right? Wrong. Noah sang the song in a completely different tone and transformed an educational song into a beautiful enjoyable tune.

Once all of the presentations were over at the elementary school, the children had huge smiles on their faces and asked us to present us again. The middle school thought it was interesting the way we maneuvered ourselves into visual representations of the things that they are learning at the same time. But the thing that affected me the most was how the residents at the retirement home reacted. We presented two out of the four presentations to the residents, the song and the visual presentation. We showed them the visual, and then we sang the Mitosis song, they of course did not know exactly what we were talking about, but that was not the point. Our reason to go to the retirement home was to make someone happy. The residents that stay there are barely ever visited by people other than the nurses, and it was our mission to educate and entertain.

After we presented to the residents, we mingled with as many residents as we could lay our eyes on. I met a beautiful lady by the name of Edith, and simply just asked her how her day was, and she was in tears because of how happy she was that we came. I then talked to another woman by the name of Rose, she wasn’t able to walk and had a hard time speaking, but she made it clear to me what she wanted. “SING MORE SONGS” is what Rose said to me as soon as I said hello. So all of the biology students got together and created a striking idea. We were going to sing Christmas carols, a way to make the residents feel joyous and content with the snow that lay on the ground outside of their windows. Noah, being the caring compassionate individual he is, came up with the idea of going to the residents whom weren’t able to go see us sing. He went to numerous rooms, singing requested carols that the residents wanted to hear. We then sang songs, and said our goodbye as departure time was upon us.

For me, seeing how happy the elementary school, middle school and retirement home was, it gave me an optimistic outlook on how projects can actually have great meaning and impact. Simply singing a song gave us amazing opportunities to extend ourselves beyond the high school. Mr. Haring’s ambition to show us how important it is to understand what we are getting tested on proved correct (almost all of the students aced the test we took over Mitosis). Together as sophomores we were able to bond and receive priceless interaction or experience that is vital to growing and learning.  All in all the field trip was fantastic, and made me, along with others, feel like there is actually a good reason to learn this curriculum other than that it is required. Those who went on the trip are thankful for those that made it possible, and are extremely pleased with how well everything went.

Thank you for giving me your time to read my amazing experience and summary of the field trip, for it was a widely appreciated event.
Thank you, Hannah Graham

Lapeer High School students aim to “spark” a change with anti-bullying Twitter page

LHS sparkIn the wake of numerous media reports about the controversial Afterschool app, two Lapeer High School students decided to flip the script. The students, who wish to remain anonymous, created the @lhsspark Twitter page as an alternative to the destructive, anti-social and downright nasty content found on apps likes Afterschool.

The allure of the Afterschool app, ironically, is anonymity. Students can post most anything they want about their fellow classmates without having to see how the sheer ugliness of those comments affects their intended targets. It’s cowardly and pathetic to say the least. Those who create the content are no better than those who are entertained by it.

Fortunately, two students decided not be bystanders to this negative cycle. @lhsspark is a positive twitter account that allows followers to send positive (mostly anonymous) messages out on twitter about LHS, students, and society in general. This account has already garnered a following of over 230 people, and is a positive force within our local Twitterverse.

The co-creators of the page were inspired by this fall’s Hero Round Table Conference held in Flint. The conference covers numerous topics including the Bystander Effect. This phenomenon is one we are all familiar with: humans tend to be far less likely to offer help to someone in distress when there are others around. Doing nothing ultimately changes nothing.

We all think, “surely someone will do something.” But, then there’s this: Be that someone.

“The (Hero Round Table) conference gave me the confidence to step up and speak out when I saw things that were wrong,” said one student.

The Hero Round Table, combined with the District’s OMNI forum, led these two students to decide that the only way to stop the bullying happening in and around the building, was to take action. It is their hope that this account, and the positivity it creates, only gets bigger.

These students, and the account’s followers, truly want to “spark” a change not only in Lapeer, but throughout society by ending the cycle of negativity and encouraging more people to be the positive change that will benefit everyone. These two students exemplify the character of LHS and we are proud of the stand they have taken. Let’s join them!

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LCS Superintendent Matt Wandrie is a finalist for MASA’s Superintendent of the Year Award

LCS Superintendent Matt Wandrie.

LCS Superintendent Matt Wandrie is a finalist for the MASA’s 2015 Superintendent of the Year Award.

LAPEER, Michigan — Lapeer Community Schools (LCS) Superintendent Matt Wandrie is among the finalists for the Michigan Association of School Administrators (MASA) Superintendent of the Year Award. The winner will be announced next month.

The award is presented annually to “an individual who has shown tremendous effort and dedication to enriching the lives of children and the community as a whole … for strong leadership, creativity in successfully meeting the needs of students, communication skills, professionalism, community involvement and the success of students that has taken place during tenure in their district.”

Wandrie was one of 11 candidates brought forward to the MASA State Selection Committee for consideration.

“The Committee was impressed by Mr. Wandrie’s creativity and innovation in bringing positive change to the Lapeer Community Schools in a relatively short tenure with the district,” said William Mayes, Executive Director of MASA.

Wandrie, 38, is now in his fourth year as superintendent. Since taking the reins, the District merged its two traditional high schools, balanced the budget and expanded choice for students to include more academic options than ever before.

During his tenure the District leveraged its campus structure to accommodate transportation for students needing an extra class period before or after school for enrichment and support. At last count, more than 800 students took advantage of these new opportunities.

LCS introduced the state’s only AP Capstone Diploma Program, the nation’s leading STEM curriculum (Project Lead The Way) and opened the Center for Innovation (CFI) at the West Campus. CFI has become the District’s research and development facility, housing numerous programs including alternative education, robotics, Senior Capstone, PLTW, College on Campus and a standardized testing center. LCS is now home to the Lapeer Virtual Learning Center, The Lapeer Homeschool Partnership and the most advanced academic options among its peers.

The District of Choices is far more than a simple tagline. It embodies what the District has become.

Last week, Wandrie presented “Embracing Innovation: The Lapeer Story” at the Innovative Schools Conference in Lansing. He said he is most proud of the process that has led to the progress of the District.

“There has been a groundswell of support for innovation in our community and we’re already beginning to see these new opportunities pay off for our families,” he said. “Innovation isn’t easy. To have made such great strides in a short period of time requires sacrifices at every level of our organization. Our work is not done, but I couldn’t be more proud of what we’ve accomplished. Our kids are worth it.”

For more information, visit

Giving back: Senior Capstone students raise over $3,000 for local non-profit organizations

Senior Capstone students pictured with Mr. O'Bryan at the District's Center for Innovation.

Senior Capstone students pictured with Mr. O’Bryan at the District’s Center for Innovation.

Students enrolled in Lapeer Community School’s Senior Capstone course at The Center for Innovation recently participated in a team project, Pay-it-Forward, to raise funds for a local nonprofit organization of their choice in order to give back to the community.  Collectively, student teams raised over $3,112.00 to give back to various local nonprofits.

“This fundraiser has been the most rewarding thing I’ve gone through in high school,” said senior Thomas Gildner. “I’ve learned the importance of teamwork and giving back. Using our skills and talents to give back was very rewarding. I’m very grateful to have been a part of this.”

Some teams organized item drives for local non-profit organizations as well.  One team collected over 500 cans of food for a local soup kitchen. Several other teams collected personal items and/or blankets for Operation Care Package, The Refuge, and Habitat for Humanity and others.

Fundraisers ranged from bake sales and pop can collections to a chili cook-off event and a kids night lock-in for elementary students.  A special thanks to Lapeer High School, Rolland-Warner, Zemmer, Lynch, Turril, Schickler, and Bishop Kelley who helped teams facilitate their fundraisers/drives within their buildings.

“It wasn’t just another project that I had to complete for school so I could get a grade that I hoped for,” said senior Amber Culbert. “It was about helping people that were in need. My time was worth that. I learned to be more thankful for what I am blessed with.”

Over the six-week project-based learning experience, students researched a local nonprofit, presented their fundraising plan to a small public audience and their peers, organized and implemented their fundraiser, created a budget sheet, and reflected on what the experience taught them–many indicated that the project created a new empathy for those in need.  Some of the skills this project developed for students included communication skills, collaboration skills, leadership abilities, and time management.

“What I took away from this project will not stay in the classroom; what I learned here will be with me for the rest of my life,” said senior Brad Woloszyk. “This wasn’t just ordinary school work; this unique project was an experience that no book work could have ever taught me.”

The Senior Capstone experience is designed to be an innovative program that will allow our students to engage in real-world learning that is relevant to them and connected to where they want to go following graduation.

During the two-hour block, students will engage in study that includes material in the core content areas (Math, English, Social Studies and Science), while also working intently to develop skills that are highly valued in higher education and the world of work.

Rolland-Warner promotes literacy with popular YA Café

YA cafe 3-1

At least 120 students packed the Rolland-Warner Media Center on Thursday morning for the YA Café, funded by the school’s PTC. 

From Darlene Gannon:

Thursday morning the Rolland-Warner service learning class and book club hosted the first YA Café of the year generously funded by the school’s PTC. More than 120 students gathered in the media center before school to hear sixth grade math teacher, Rebecca Johnson, give a book talk on Dan Poblocki’s book, Ghost of Graylock.

While students were enjoying chocolate milk and donuts, Ms. Johnson was eagerly waiting to make her grand entrance as Nurse Janet, a character of the book.  As Nurse Janet made an appearance, students silenced in anticipation to hear what she had to say.  Students were given a special summary of the book, an excerpt from the book was read, and suggestions of read like a detective clues were given to use while enjoying the book. After we didn’t think things could get any more exciting, five books were raffled off to students.  In addition, the book club purchased five books for students to check out.  When the school bell rang, kids filed out of the media center talking about books!

Weather-related school closing information for 2014-15

snow image

Winter came early this year. It’s time for a refresher course on weather-related school closings.

This week’s inclement weather served as the perfect backdrop for a reminder about weather-related school closings. As the snow flies, sometimes rumors and misinformation accumulate with it. Just so everyone is on the same page, here’s a quick refresher course on our process (with one change for 2014-15):

  • Several district employees, including our directors of transportation and operations, travel our roads as early as 3 a.m. on mornings when weather could potentially cause a district-wide closing. They travel main roads as well as our district’s abundant rural roads (LCS is home to 225 miles of paved and unpaved roads). This means that at any given time, some roads will be passable as normal while others could be impassable. District officials must weigh not only the ability of our drivers to navigate the roads, but also be mindful that they are sharing the roads with other drivers in all types of vehicles.
  • In the early morning hours of an adverse weather day, district officials are in contact with local police departments and the Lapeer County Road Commission. At this time, we can gain a better understanding of the current road conditions as well as up-to-date information on plow schedules. Very often, superintendent also shares information with school officials from neighboring districts.
  • Because of our new transportation schedules, especially those created to extend learning opportunities for students (zero hour, seventh hour, etc.), some of our buses leave the garage as early as 5:30 a.m. Because of this, school closing calls will likely be made a little earlier than in the past. This will likely limit the amount of time available to consult with neighboring districts.
  • On occasion, school districts do close as a result of cold temperatures. We experienced this several times last school year. There is, however, no state law that mandates school districts close at a given temperature.
  • Some school districts have a wind chill threshold that determines if schools will be closed. For Rochester Community Schools, for example, the figure is minus 25 degrees Fahrenheit of wind chill; in Kent County in west Michigan, the figure is minus 30 degrees. Some districts use an actual temperature threshold, as opposed to a wind chill; in Kalamazoo, for example, schools are closed at minus 15 degrees and colder. Many other districts do not have a policy for cold weather closures, and simply play it by ear.
  • Lapeer Community Schools, like many of our neighbors, utilizes the National Weather Service Windchill Chart that dictates school closures when a combination of temperature and wind speed create conditions that can cause frostbite to exposed skin within 30 minutes. Given that standard, there is a variance of actual temperatures that can cause a closure. As an example, if the actual temperature were 5 degrees above zero with wind speeds at 40 miles per hour, schools would close (the wind chill would be minus 22 degrees). However, if the actual temperature were much colder, let’s say minus 15 degrees, schools would be open if there was just a trace of wind (i.e. less than 3 mph). In that case, the wind chill and the actual temperature would be the same — minus 15 degrees.
  • In order to have a uniform standard of temperature and wind speed, the District will utilize readings from one weather station: The Dupont-Lapeer Airport.
  • There is not a similar chart with respect to snowfall, as closures precipitated by snow accumulation are based solely on the condition of our roads – including our rural roads. With higher wind speeds leading to drifting, sometimes the snow amounts are not indicative of the actual condition of the roads.
  • As normal, school closing information can be found on, our social media outlets (Twitter and Facebook), via local media stations including ABC 12, WEYI, the Detroit stations (TV and radio) and via our School Messenger (phone, e-mail and text) system. Our phone system is a little slower than social media, so people who check those sites will be the first to know. Those followers of Superintendent Wandrie (@suptwandrie) may be the first (first, first) to know.
  • Finally, closing schools is not a decision we, or officials from any school district, take lightly. We cannot predict the future and, as you all know, weather can change in an instant. That said, in every decision we make student safety will always be our primary concern.

LCS Superintendent to speak at Innovative Schools Conference in Lansing

LCS Superintendent Matt Wandrie has been invited to speak at the 2014 Innovative Schools Conference on December 9 at the Lansing Center.

LCS Superintendent Matt Wandrie has been invited to speak at the 2014 Innovative Schools Conference on December 9 at the Lansing Center.

Lapeer Community Schools Superintendent Matt Wandrie will tell “The Lapeer Story” at the 2014 Innovative Schools Conference on December 9 in Lansing. The organizers of the conference sought out “recognized innovators” who focus on innovation as a district-wide model.

They found one in Lapeer.

Wandrie said the opportunity will put Lapeer in the spotlight as one of the state’s most-innovative school districts.

“As revenues declined, we made a pact with our organization and our community to hold our students harmless,” Wandrie said. “That’s the Lapeer Story. We doubled down on choice and innovation and our students have benefitted.”

Wandrie will speak alongside educational professionals from across the state. Speakers will highlight a broad range of topics including digital learning, flipped classrooms, early college, project-based learning, personal learning and more.

For more information, visit

December 6: LHS Band to participate in Lake Orion Holiday Lighted Parade

15459137695_d4caa5227b_kOn Saturday, December 6, the Lapeer High School Marching Band will take part in the Holiday Lighted Parade through downtown Lake Orion. More than 75 entries participate in the parade each year, including many civic organizations and school groups. This is a great opportunity to showcase our loud and proud, 165-member, Lightning Marching Band!

Please make plans to be in Lake Orion at least 30 minutes prior to the 6 p.m. kickoff of the parade. We invite everyone in our community to come out in support of our musicians!

Click here to learn more about the parade.

Here’s the map:

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Robotics: Chimeras girls take second place at Bloomfield event

Screen Shot 2014-11-13 at 5.18.29 PMLAPEER, Michigan – Lapeer FIRST Robotics Team 1684, the Chimeras, took second place in the Bloomfield High School Girls Robotics Competition this month.The team, which was ranked 32nd after September’s Kettering competition, was determined to turn their robot into a contender and worked late every evening for nearly two weeks to remake the bot, said Chimeras Coach Jon Uren.

On Nov. 1, 32 teams from Michigan, Canada and neighboring states competed in elimination matches. By the final rounds, contenders had been reduced to eight teams, which formed two alliances of four teams each. The Chimeras’ alliance partners included alliance captain Team 1501, the Huntington County Robotics Team; Team 2337, the EngiNERDS of Grand Blanc; and Team 5053, the Lakers of Waterford.

Uren attributes the successful outcome to the team’s willingness to re-engineer the team’s robot.

“The students involved in working long hours to rebuild the robot saw how much it made a difference,” he said. “That’s what engineering is, being willing to tear it apart and start over, even when it’s a lot of work.”

The alliance also seized on a winning strategy, with the Chimeras team effectively blocking while alliance partners concentrated on shooting.

To advance to the final round, the teams faced an alliance of robotics teams which included 2014 World Championship Team 469, Las Guerillas, of Bloomfield Hills International Academy High School.

The FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics Competition program, also known as FRC, combines the excitement of a varsity sport with hands-on training in science and technology to help high school students discover how rewarding a career in engineering or technology can be. Every student on a FIRST robotics team has a chance to turn pro. To learn more about Team 1684, go to To learn more about FIRST Robotics, go to


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