Current Reports

Your bulletin of current news involving adolescents

Monday, April 14, 2014 — Texas High School Students Create Prosthetic Hand for Young Boy.  LEANDER, TX: Two-year old Zaxton can go nearly anywhere on two hands, two feet or on the shoulders of his big brother Christian. This little boy is missing three fingers on his left hand. Christian decided to reach out to Herb Wasson, his former Leander High School robotics teacher, for help. “Mr. Wasson, our teacher, gave him a better idea,” said Leander High School junior Jacob Ostrander. Instead of a premade design for an adult, Wasson thought why not create a new design made specifically for Zaxton. “It was an adult sized hand. Maybe a teenager could use it, maybe down to 12 but for someone as small as Zaxton, I didn’t think it was going to work,” said Wasson. He asked three of his students, James Bell, Lexi Wilson and Jacob Ostrander, to step up to the plate and create a whole new design. “I started to learn how to use the program really fast, and I started designing things that were on the notebook, so we came up with this first prototype,” said junior James Bell. Beginning in December, James, Lexi and Jacob spent countless hours perfecting the design. “There were times that James would stay until six in the afternoon after school and Jacob would be here at seven in the morning,” said junior Lexi Wilson. The first 3D printed hand was too big, and it was followed by several others. Five attempts to perfect the hand later and “all he has to do is bend his wrist a little, and it curls the fingers" said Bell. Zaxton was born with cleft hand, meaning he only developed a thumb and a pinky on his left hand. “Right now he only has a crab motion, closing his thumb and pinky together,” said Wilson. Their prosthetic will give him full use of his hand. The team still has plans to keep making it better. “We started this for him and we want to end it for him. We want it to fit him correctly and be what he wants and something he wouldn’t be ashamed to wear," said Wilson. They aren’t doing it for class credit, and these high school students never expected to win the Skills USA State Competition; now this team of three is preparing to compete against teams from all over the country for Skills USA Nationals in June. Win or lose, these kids say they’re doing this for one reason. “For me it was seeing Zaxton’s reaction when we would give him his new hand,” said Wilson. “The feelings you get whenever Zaxton puts on the new hand and he’s like, 'Oh I love this,' and he starts playing around, it’s just so much fun,” said Ostrander. "Knowing that I could help Zaxton have a better, happier life is really, really important to me,” Bell said.
For FULL STORY, go to:, 4/10/14


Monday, April 07, 2014 — Colorado Students Volunteer Time to Help Adults with Taxes.  COMMERCE CITY, CO: Instead of spending his Saturdays hanging out, Isaiah Silvas is doing taxes at Adams City High School. "We work really hard to be able to come and give back to our community and it really does mean a lot to me to be able to do that," Silvas, a junior, said. Silvas is part of Tax Help Colorado, a program set up by a non-profit called the Piton Foundation to offer free tax help to lower-income and moderate-income working families around Colorado. Normally, this is done by trained college students. Silvas is one of 21 teenagers working the only Tax Help Colorado site run entirely by high school students. "That's most people's kind of mindset when they come in here. They're a little hesitant because they see high school students," Silvas said. "They think here's these punk kids and what do they know.” Adams City High School Business Teacher Dennis Mercer makes sure these students know a lot. He's working with Front Range Community College to have his students earn college credit while learning a professional skill. "The first semester of their class, they actually take a tax class and then they take the IRS exams," Mercer said. "They become certified.” Mercer and other trained adults are on site to supervise and help with complicated situations, but for the most part, students like Silva are making sure people's taxes are filed correctly. "It's not something people come to be excited about, tax site," Silvas said. "But for me, I come in here and it makes me feel important.” Out of the 21 students preparing taxes, 15 of them are bilingual. The community around Adams City High School is heavily Hispanic and Silvas knows trust can be an issue when it comes to things like taxes. "It really does help for a lot of families to be able to come in and know that they can get this free and they're going to be able to have the asset of someone helping them in Spanish or not having to translate," Silvas said. Silvas and the other students have worked 10 Saturdays this Spring. They have another Tax Help Colorado day set up at Adams City High School on Saturday, April 12 from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. After volunteering for 40 hours, the students will get special recognition from the Governor. So far, students have logged a total of more than 1,000 volunteer hours. "We are here to help," Silvas said. "We know what we are doing.”
For FULL STORY, go to: NBC9News, 4/5/14


Saturday, April 05, 2014 — Speech Champ Wins Fight Over Project on Gender Identity.  GORDON, NE: A battle over free speech ended Wednesday with a dramatic finish. Under pressure from free-speech advocates, the Nebraska School Activities Association backed down, allowing teen speech champion Michael Barth to perform his poetry presentation on gender identity. The association's executive director had initially blocked Barth, a Gordon-Rushville High School senior, from giving the presentation for a television broadcast highlighting state champions from last week's speech contest. Rhonda Blanford-Green, the executive director, said the association decided the presentation was inappropriate for the broadcast because people could perceive that the NSAA endorsed the content. Her decision sparked a firestorm of criticism on social media across the country. The group then reversed itself. “The speech community is made up of the underdogs and the outcasts, and the weird people, and I'm one of them,” Barth said. “When a message like this has a chance of getting out there and somebody gets in the way of it,” he added, the speech community is “not going to let it happen.” Barth won a first place medal at the state high school speech tournament last week. He said his presentation was based on the poems “Swingset,” “Same Love” and “Manly Man.’' “Swingset,” by Andrea Gibson, is about a lesbian kindergarten teacher whose students wonder if she is male or female. Barth said his only option under the initial NSAA decision would have been to eliminate “Swingset” entirely. Barth said his presentation was inspired by the bigotry he's faced. Students have bullied him, he said, and called him homophobic slurs for much of his life. “Despite being a feminine person, I am still a man and that's what I am,” he said. “That's what I discovered through doing this.” Barth was selected from among poetry champions in six classes. The show is scheduled to air statewide Easter morning — April 20 — at 9 a.m. CDT on NET1. It also will be available online and will be rebroadcast at a later date on NET2.
For FULL STORY, go to: the Omaha World-Herald, 4/4/14

Monday, March 31, 2014 — Teen to Government: Change Your Typeface, Save Millions.  PITTSBURGH, PA: An e. The most commonly used letter in the English dictionary. Imagine it printed out millions of times on thousands of forms and documents. Then think of how much ink would be needed. 14-year-old Suvir Mirchandani was trying to think of ways to cut waste and save money at his Pittsburgh-area middle school. It all started as a science fair project. As a neophyte sixth-grader at Dorseyville Middle School, Suvir noticed he was getting a lot more handouts than he did in elementary school. Interested in applying computer science to promote environmental sustainability, Suvir decided he was going to figure out if there was a better way to minimize the constant flurry of paper and ink. Reducing paper use through recycling and dual-sided printing had been talked about before as a way to save money and conserve resources, but there was less attention paid to the ink for which the paper served as a canvas for history and algebra handouts. "Ink is two times more expensive than French perfume by volume," Suvir says. He decided to focus his project on finding ways to cut down on the costly liquid. Collecting random samples of teachers' handouts, Suvir concentrated on the most commonly used characters (e, t, a, o and r). First, he charted how often each character was used in four different typefaces: Garamond, Times New Roman, Century Gothic and Comic Sans. Then he measured how much ink was used for each letter, using a commercial tool called APFill® Ink Coverage Software. Next he enlarged the letters, printed them and cut them out on cardstock paper to weigh them to verify his findings. He did three trials for each letter, graphing the ink usage for each font. From this analysis, Suvir figured out that by using Garamond with its thinner strokes, his school district could reduce its ink consumption by 24%, and in turn save as much as $21,000 annually. Encouraged by his teacher, Suvir looked to publish his findings and stumbled on the Journal for Emerging Investigators (JEI), a publication founded by a group of Harvard grad students in 2011 that provides a forum for the work of middle school and high school students. It has the same standards as academic journals, and each submission is reviewed by grad students and academics. Sarah Fankhauser, one of JEI's founders, says that of the nearly 200 submissions they have received since 2011, Suvir's project was a real standout: "We were so impressed. We really could really see the real-world application in Suvir's paper.” Fankhauser said Suvir's findings were so clear, simple and well thought-out, it had the peer reviewers at JEI asking, "How much potential savings is really out there?” For the answer, JEI challenged Suvir to apply his project to a larger scale: the federal government. With an annual printing expenditure of $1.8 billion, the government was a much more challenging task than his school science project. Suvir repeated his tests on five sample pages from documents on the Government Printing Office website and got similar results -- change the font, save money.
For FULL STORY, go to:, 3/29/2014


Tuesday, March 25, 2014 — Student Journalist’s “Rape Culture” Article Sparks Free Speech Debate.  FOND DU LAC, WI: When Tanvi Kumar wrote an article about what she perceived as her high school's casual attitude toward rape, she talked to victims of sexual assault, visited an abuse treatment center and combed through the article with her adviser before publishing it. Still, she never thought that her story would be read aloud and discussed in Fond du Lac High School classes, or that a teacher would approach her in the halls with her own story of sexual violence. "I was never prepared for something like that as a student," said Kumar, a senior. "I think that just goes to show how powerful these topics can be." District administrators reacted to Kumar's story by enacting a censorship policy, touching a nerve among students and faculty and leading to a controversy over First Amendment rights that has made waves in national forums. Though they are not hopeful the policy will be changed, students plan to crowd a school board meeting Monday to continue pressing the issue. The story, titled "The Rape Joke," was published in the February issue of Cardinal Columns, a student magazine produced through a journalism class. Kumar serves as the publication's co-editor-in-chief. It reported the stories of three sexual assault victims in the school, whose names were changed in the article, and documented the effects on victims of what the article referred to as a "rape culture" — including the prevalence of rape jokes and victim-blaming. Initial feedback on the story was overwhelmingly positive, with teachers reading the article aloud in class and inviting discussion. But on March 10, almost a month after the issue's publication, principal Jon Wiltzius visited the print journalism class that produces the publication. He informed students that the district was implementing a quarter-century-old school board policy subjecting student publications to "school guidelines as determined by the principal.” A petition to reverse the new policy, started by another student staff member, has attracted more than 5,000 signatures. Meanwhile, Linda Selk-Yerges, director of the Fond du Lac sexual assault victims group ASTOP, said the organization has seen a significant increase in calls and walk-in visits since the article was published. The organization provided Kumar statistics and contacts for the story and was featured as a local resource. A 1988 U.S. Supreme Court case, Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier, allowed school districts some license to censor school-funded student publications. But that censorship still has to be educationally justifiable, said Frank LoMonte, executive director of the Student Press Law Center, a national legal support group that has been in touch with the Fond du Lac students. "It is somewhat unusual that this occurs after the fact, especially when the story has been published with no ill effects," LoMonte said. "It doesn't seem like there's anyone besides the superintendent that's complaining that this is bad journalism.” Kumar said even if the policy remains in place, the students will continue pursuing stories like "The Rape Joke." They have even received offers to publish censored work elsewhere. "We're going to continue to write — maybe not publish, but write — cutting-edge pieces about issues we're passionate about," Kumar said. "If they choose not to include it, then we'll have to go from there.... We're never going to stop writing.”
For FULL STORY, go to: the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 3/23/14


Friday, March 21, 2014 — California High School Students Skip Class, Save Woman from Burning Home.  SAN RAMON, CA: Three high school students who ditched their morning classes braved a fast-rising fire to rescue an nonagenarian from a burning home. California High School seniors Garen Kissoyan, Peter Kravariotis and Kirill Yantikov were driving to get food shortly after 10 a.m. on Monday when encountered smoke billowing from a home on Boardmoor Drive. They found Dianna Davis, who was frantically trying to grab a water hose to extinguish the embers and told the teens that her elderly mother was trapped inside. The San Ramon, Calif., teens quickly sprung into action, they recalled on Wednesday after their act of heroism. "We both had the same instinct," Kravariotis told NBC Bay Area. "Just go in the house, so we did.” The thick smoke made it impossible to enter through the front door, so the three teens hopped a fence and entered through the backyard. "When we picked up the chair and we grabbed the dog," Kravariotis told the station. "The only thing she said to us was 'I'm on fire,' and it was kind of shocking to me to hear that.” The woman was transported to a burn center in San Francisco in critical condition. It’s unclear what sparked the raging fire. Bob Smith, who lived across the street, was pushed back from the flames and smoke, said the boys arrived in the nick of time. "The elderly lady, she would have been gone a minute and a half more," Smith told NBC Bay Area. "I don't think she could have survived. I went in there and couldn't see my hand in front of my face. It was that bad.” Despite skipping class, California High School Principal Mark Corti said he’s proud of his courageous pupils. “(I am) exceptionally proud of the three young men who would reach out and do something like that because they could’ve easily kept walking,” Corti told KTVU. “But they saw smoke, moved towards where the fire was and ultimately saved somebody.” The students didn’t get off completely scot-free — they still have to serve four hours of volunteer time for skipping class.
For FULL STORY, go to: the NY Daily News, 3/19/14


Thursday, March 20, 2014 — High School Students 3D Bioprint Bacteria.  LOVELAND, OH: Seniors at Loveland High School have accomplished something many medical students would be proud of. They have successfully created a 3D bioprinter to print out living bacteria cells in a predetermined orientation. Nathan Bryant, Cameron Spicer and Thomas Worsham created a functioning bioprinter which has the ability to print and grow bacteria – and is the culmination of a nine-month capstone project the students began as juniors as part of the LHS biotechnology class. “You don’t see this happen every day,” said Jamie Allison, LHS biotechnology teacher. “I’ve seen something like this happen now once in my career.” “In medicine what you can do is take cells from an organ if a patient needs an organ transplant and then put the patient’s cells into it and actually make an artificial organ,” explained Worsham. “Ours is printing scaffolding that has bacteria in it, where they would have real human live cells and be creating very complex shapes and living structures.” “This is a proud moment for all of us in education,” said Loveland Superintendent Chad Hilliker. “This was a lesson in passion and perseverance, and I believe it proves when given the tools and the freedom to flex their creative muscle what our students can accomplish. It is phenomenal, and I salute these students and their teachers on achieving this amazing feat.” The biotechnology capstone is a student-selected project that is the pinnacle of research for LHS students enrolled in the course. “You get to learn things you never knew possible,” said Spicer. “You get to test the boundaries and push the boundaries of what high school students can do.”
For FULL STORY, go to: Loveland Magazine, 3/19/14


Tuesday, March 18, 2014 — Maryland Political Race Goes Mobile with Help of High School Students.   BETHESDA, MD: A pair of Walter Johnson High School seniors are gaining traction with an app to assist District 16 voters. On the app, users can learn more about one of their candidates, figure out if they live in District 16, and find election information. Robert Mozayeni and Daniel Kapit designed the app, called Cooper for Maryland, for Democratic District 16 delegate candidate Jordan Cooper. The app includes statements from Cooper on various election issues and a blog, and connects to social media, volunteer opportunities, and a website where users can make donations to Cooper’s campaign. It is free and available for Apple and Android devices. Cooper for Maryland is among four or more apps Robert has designed since first exploring the world of designing software and apps at age 12. He designed the iPhone version, while Daniel took on the Android one. Another friend and Walter Johnson senior, Gio Managadze, helped build Cooper’s website. Robert volunteered to create the app for Cooper after meeting the candidate last year, drawn to Cooper’s focus on job creation and business growth. In October Robert started writing code for the app, spending “a couple weeks worth” of time developing it until its debut in February. Daniel’s Android version came out a week or so later. Robert was 12 when Apple introduced its app store, and he recalls, “I just got really excited by the idea of building software that anyone could have access to and anyone could use.” He started with MIT’s free online introduction to programming course, and the concepts really started to stick when he took programming classes at Walter Johnson. Between online tutorials and summer classes, Robert developed a game app called InifiMaze and a photo sharing one called LocalPics. He also does freelance developing now. Daniel also became interested in programming early, around age 13. He used online resources and books to learn programming, and later took classes at Walter Johnson. Daniel did an independent study last fall and created a robotic arm. The user wears a glove and when the person wearing it move their hand, the robotic one mimics the movements. Daniel had focused on building computer applications and websites, but said he’d like to build more smartphone apps in the future. The three students are already kicking off careers in programming with internships. Robert has an internship writing code for Treehouse, a company based in Orlando, Fla., that teaches programming and software development online. Daniel and Gio both worked for BEA Enterprises Inc. last summer, building websites with health care information and resources for underserved foreign populations.
For FULL STORY, go to:, 3/18/14


Monday, March 17, 2014 — Students Produce Winning Videos about Personal Finance.  EASTHAMPTON, MA: For his entry in a video contest hosted by Easthampton Savings Bank, Ryan Fleury, 15, decided to film his older brother giving him advice about saving and spending. Fleury, a ninth-grader at Easthampton High School, won first place in this year’s “Lights, Camera Save!” contest at the school. He received a prize of $250 and automatic entry in a national video competition hosted Feb. 26 by the American Bankers Association. Three of Fleury’s classmates — all ninth-graders at EHS — also won prizes in the contest at the high school, which drew a total of 24 students this year. Veronica Hing, 14, won second place, earning $100 for her animated video using a tortoise and a hare to represent money-saving habits. Ella Smith and Morgan Page-Lacoff, both 14, won third place, a $75 prize, for their video contrasting the experiences of a saver and a spender. All four students are enrolled in Eileen Claveloux’s multimedia class at EHS. “The students did an amazing job,” Claveloux said a statement announcing the winners. “They had to come up with innovative ways to convince their peers to save money.” This is the second year that Easthampton Savings Bank has hosted a local video contest at EHS. Tom Brown, the bank’s senior vice president of retail banking, said next year’s contest will be open to entries from all interested area teens. To compete in “Lights, Camera, Save!” students must be between 13 to 18 and submit videos of 90 seconds or less that communicate the values of saving and smart money management. The contest is part of the American Bankers Association’s Teach Children to Save campaign, founded in 1997. This year, 119 banks participated nationwide by judging local video contests and submitting winners to the nationals.
For FULL STORY, go to:, 3/16/14


Monday, March 10, 2014 — Amazing Prosthetic Hands Built by High School Students.  CAMBRIDGE, MA: High school students at the NuVu Studio in Cambridge, Massachusetts, don't go to classes and aren't graded on a curve. Their only real job, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. every day, is to create something new--and thus learn in a different way. "It's not about the regular subjects and the one-hour schedule that makes it hard for people to dig deeper," says Saeed Arida, NuVu's founder and "chief excitement officer." "They get a completely different perspective on college, and what they want to do.” NuVu is an "innovation center" for under-18s that takes 35 students at a time. Twenty of those come from Beaver Country Day School, a founding partner. The rest are from other public and charter schools nearby. Every two weeks, faculty from M.I.T. and elsewhere come in to help the kids work on a new problem or project. This can range from telepresence robots to futuristic headwear. The theme this winter has been "hacking health." For example, the students have worked on ideas for prosthetic hands, riffing off templates from the MakerBot Robohand project. They're not really hands in the conventional sense: more like bodily attachments with certain uses in mind. There's this two-fingered device that fits into a baseball glove. There's a "Ratchet Hand," which has a cylinder for pencil, Sharpie, brush, knife and fork. And don't forget the Swiss Army Hand, with its Wolverine claws. The students are getting input from e-Nable, a community group for DIY prosthetics. The baseball hand is particularly popular with parents of disabled kids, Arida says. "The feedback we're getting is they don't necessarily just want a hand," he says. "These kids don't have a hand from the beginning, so they can have something that is different. This is pushing prosthetics into a direction that's not necessarily literal."
For FULL STORY, go to: Co.Exist, 3/10/14


Monday, February 24, 2014 — Portland Students March to Save Football, Soccer Programs.  PORTLAND, OR: Benson Polytechnic High School students give up access to several options when they choose to attend the career and technical magnet high school. They don’t have band or a drama club. They can’t study French or join the Constitution team. But when word spread that the school might not have varsity football or soccer next year, students said they couldn’t take it. A group of more than 100 marched the mile and a half between their Northeast Portland school and the Portland Public School Board meeting in February. District leaders say they are still analyzing options, but when athletic director Marshall Haskins submitted the district’s fall football schedule to the state, he did not include a Benson team. Students say they worry that if Benson loses sports, more students may decide not to attend. Fewer students mean fewer resources for the school. “When you think about high school, you think about the events you went to. We literally could not have a homecoming dance without football,” said sophomore Benjamin Gilmore, a running back on Benson’s football team. “It’s so much more than sports. You’re cutting a bloodline to the school. When you cut that artery, you bleed out and die.” “Without sports, I would be a totally different person because I wouldn’t have an outlet for my problems,” said Chetan Prakash, a soft-spoken senior who plays both soccer and football. Prakash said sports had helped him make friends and find a place amid the tumult of being a teenager. Other students said they considered their teammates family. “You’re not just taking away what we do every day,” said Jocelyn Bautista, a junior soccer player. “You’re taking away a home.”
For FULL STORY, go to:, 2/14/14


Tuesday, February 04, 2014 — Bronx School Beats Out Deep Field to Snag International Award.  BRONX, NY: The city opened this school in 2011, in the poorest congressional district in the nation. Three years later, the Bronx Design and Construction Academy has distinguished itself on an international scale. The Melrose school earned global recognition last week when it received the Zayed Future Energy prize, a distinguished international award, for its blueprint to build a sustainable energy research center. The South Bronx public high school outperformed a deep field of competitors from North, Central and South America to take home the award — which comes with a $100,000 grant to help pay for the project. “I was extremely shocked — I haven’t taken it in yet,” said Ray Figueroa, 15, who traveled to the United Arab Emirates to accept the award on the school’s behalf. “I haven’t settled down from it. I’m still shocked, and so are my peers. It is an honor.” “In a region where students might not have an opportunity to learn high level skills, we are outcompeting any other school in the city and maybe the nation,” said Nathaniel Wight, a science teacher who is overseeing the project. “There is no place like this in the city,” Wight added. “It might be thought of as ironic or strange that it is happening in a region where there might not be great educational opportunity. But the skills needed to do the work, and to design, are high-level skills that attract high-level students.” The school’s Energy-Environment Research Center will power an off-grid greenhouse that will be used to grow organic produce through cutting-edge renewable energy technology. It will also serve as an educational center to study renewable energy systems. The center will be visible from the street, and students hope the project will be a community resource to educate residents on sustainable energy. “The word ‘sustainability’ is not a word you hear very often in the Bronx,” Figueroa said. “The project should spark some interest in the community.” The United Arab Emirates introduced introduced the category for high schoolers in 2012 as part of its commitment to the United Nations “Sustainability for All” initiative. The prize, named for the late ruler of Abu Dhabi, is awarded to one high school in each continent. Construction will begin later this year and the center should open by summer 2015, school officials said.
For FULL STORY, go to: the Daily News, 2/3/14

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