Robotics seniors have big dreams
Naselle-Grays River Valley High School offers students support in science, technology, electronics, and math
November 9, 2023
Interviewing three Naselle Grays River Valley seniors was a reminder of what can happen when students find their niche and run with it. Derek Suomela, Lewis Hoff and Alia Lebovitz are exceptional young people, all of whom are well-equipped to become scientists in robotics automation.
These students not only know what field they love to work in, but they also know who they are as individuals. They are enrolled in the Running Start program while in their senior year. This puts them a year ahead by attaining college credits while finishing their last high school year. As students of Ron Wright for the past two years, they have already learned the basics for their robotic projects and competitions. Each of them stated they want to earn a Ph.D.
These are highly intelligent, confident students who have already accomplished much. They have won national robotics competitions, traveled to Maryland and Washington, D.C., and mingled with other gifted youngsters from all over the country. They have a name for their own company they hope to one day establish: "DTech."
These students are not only of high intellect; they have used their creative and athletic gifts to broaden their relationships with younger students.
Derek is an inventor and a problem solver. He is happy to talk about robotics challenges and eager to teach younger students as well. Recently he competed in the 1B/2B Cross Country Championships.
"I placed 65th out of 163 with a time of 18:42.80. I wasn't too happy with it, but it was still a pretty good run. I'm just glad I made it to State."
Derek has also worked with his father on the family's tuna troller since he was ten years old. He loves music, so he started a jazz band. He wants to help music students, "build back our band program and inspire younger students to continue to pursue music." He wants to show them what they could achieve in the future and get them excited about music. Last year he traveled to Iceland and this year he hopes to visit Finland.
Both Lewis and Alia enjoy music, but they also enjoy theater and drama, having been involved in a school play together in the leading roles.
Lewis enjoys making theater.
"Not just reading the script and saying the lines, but having an image of the character's personality in mind, and bringing it to life and sharing it with other people," he said.
Alia Lebovitz was nominated by Rudi Rudolph as a "STEM Rising Star," a big deal in EDS 112. She was the regional winner, out of thirty schools. Last spring, she was also recognized by the American Association of University Women of Long Beach for her excellence in math and technology, after she was nominated by school staff.
Several teachers and staff members contribute to the robotics curriculum.
"The teachers who have been most involved with robotics are Rudi Rudolph, who incorporated it into his Computer Science class last year and this year, and Greg Nelson who has also supported this cause," said Principal Justin Laine.
Computer science teacher Nathan Bruce and principal Justin Laine are also part of the network of adults to make the program possible.
"They took the risk midway through the year two years ago to try out robotics," said Ron Wright.
Laine added that "Nathan definitely deserves credit for submitting a competitive application to become part of the Amazon Future Engineers Program," for teaching multiple sections of computer science, and preparing students for the advanced placement test in the subject. Justin partnered with Ron and others to provide computer science experiences for students on and off campus, including a field trip to the Museum of Flight in Seattle and the Amazon campus.
Greg Nelson also offers contributions and support. His collaboration with Rudi Rudolph provides computer science, engineering design, and robotics experiences to students.
The activities to date, including competitions, have been funded through grants. The funding available for this school year for competitions was reduced, so students and school staff are looking to the community for support. Those interested in contributing can contact Justin Laine (360) 484-7121.