I Knew Them When…

This past weekend was a great one for The Woods Academy. The Maryland State First Lego League Robotics Tournament took place at UMBC (a University hub for math, technology and sciences). Of the 314 teams that compete throughout the state, only 72 qualified for the state tournament. The Owlbots and The Green Machine, the two teams from The Woods, both qualified for the first time together.

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The Owlbots Ready To Go!

I have been going to this tournament for three years now and it has taken me every bit of that time to figure out how it works and what I am cheering for at the event. By way of some background information, there are basically four components to the competition,presentations on Core Values, a Research Project, Robot Design and the Robot Table game (this is the only component spectators are allowed to see). The theme of the season this year is Senior Solutions and the development of solutions to aid seniors as they age. Our teams selected Alzheimer’s Disease as the cause they wanted to champion. More on that in a minute.

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The Green Machine on the Table

Our kids competed so well. I had heard that both teams did a great job on their morning presentations and I watched the table games with anticipation. I left and found out through our Twitter feed @TheWoodsAcademy that The Green Machine won the award for Gracious Professionalism and The Owlbots took the Champion’s Award for 3rd place 0verall. Incredible accomplishments for both teams and their amazing coaches, Mr. O., Ms. Cunnane and Mr. Smith. I am so proud of our kids.

Nonetheless, their awards are not what I am most proud of. In doing their research on Alzheimer’s both teams set out to develop a solution that can aid those suffering from Alzheimer’s and assist their caretakers. The Owlbots have developed a “real life” app that uses facial recognition software, an ipad or iphone camera and voice prompts to help Alzheimer patients recognize their loved ones and prompt them with facts about those people to help with their memory dysfunction. The app really works too! It is amazing. What is more amazing is the kids are going to continue to develop this app, get it into the App Store, sell it for a minimal amount and donate all proceeds to Alzheimer’s research.

They were in this tournament to compete, but, in the end they will make an impact that goes way beyond a trophy (a well-deserved one at that). So, when the robotics program “makes it big” we can all say we knew them when….when they developed an idea to help others. That is leading a life of significance. 

From Resolution to Reflection

Every year as we approach New Year’s, and we near the ball dropping from Time Square, I think of a resolution or two to make. As I was thinking about it this year, I kept coming up with the same “stupid” stuff I think of every year. It is time to do something different I thought to myself.

So I decided I am done with resolutions. I have cancelled at least three gym memberships over the years and still drink too much coffee (apparently drinking coffee is good for you now?). Three kids, running a school, my own inability to sit still too long and the periodic exercise keep me in decent shape. So, rather than making empty resolutions, I am going to regularly reflect. Sounds simple, right?

A little daily reflection will go a long way. I try to make this a regular habit, and it is so important to do. Maybe it is that Jesuit education that rubbed off on me. Reflection is something we can easily teach our kids to do too. As we wind down our day or start a new one, a little “what did I do in the last day?”, coupled with a thought or two about, “where did I go wrong?” and “where did I go right?” questions can only help. Looking inward before the next day starts is a great way to begin each day. That is exercise that does not include a membership initiation fee and a year long contract. It is also exercise that makes the results of the coming day, hopefully, that much better.

Here is to a happy, healthy, prosperous and reflective 2013 to everyone.