Sequoyah robotics team 49th in world competition

05/24/2011 07:06 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – After passing qualifying rounds in November, four robotics teams from Sequoyah High School participated in the VEX Robotics Design System World Championship in March where one of the teams placed 49th.

“It didn’t kick in until the second day, but I finally remembered that this was world and there were teams from all over the world,” said Sequoyah junior LaDonna Ballard. “There were teams from China and Indonesia, pretty much everywhere. So it was a really big thing. It was a really big experience.”

The VEX Robotics Design System offers students a platform for learning about areas with career opportunities in science, technology, engineering and math. Beyond science and engineering principles, a VEX robotics project encourages teamwork, leadership and problem solving among groups.

“We added the VEX component because we found that our robotics students needed to practice their skills and have the opportunity to learn more hands on in the fall because first robotics only takes place in the spring, and so we had all of this down time in the fall where the kids could be learning,” said Daniel Faddis, Sequoyah robotics team leader.

This was the team’s first year participating in the world competition, which took place in Orlando, Fla. There were 15 students on the Sequoyah team that participated, along with a team from Claremore.

Sequoyah’s team consisted of Alia Willie, Jerilyn White, Shelbi Blackman, Martha Hardbarger, Shadow Hardbarger, Christie Tiger, Ballard, Shannon Orcutt, Patricia Sourjohn, Hope Harjo, Stacie Campbell, Taylor Goodrich, Dennis Chewey, Keiron Marshall and Laramie Fixin.

“We had a design period of about two weeks of just coming up with ideas and brainstorming,” Ballard said. “The actual building and working on it was about three or more weeks.”

For scoring in the competition, the teams had to design a robot that was able to grab tubes and place them on pegs at different levels and heights. Extra points were given during a bonus period if the robot was able to climb a ladder and stay there.

“As far as the competition is was what we are used to except a lot larger,” Faddis said. “One of the key things I think we did while we were there was we got to carry the Cherokee Nation flag in to represent us as a sovereign nation, and it was pretty moving to the kids because we were behind Canada and in front of China, and so when you’re in between two major countries of the world like that it’s pretty impressive.”

The robotics team started at Sequoyah four years ago. The team has participated in different competitions in Oklahoma and won several awards.

“One of the reasons we started the robotics program at Sequoyah is that it is a hands on way of learning,” Faddis said. “It’s not just a text book. It’s not just papers. The kids are in there and it’s hands on and they actually learn through actually doing things. There are a lot of statistics and stuff out there that show that the kids comprehend I, but one of the things I find neat about it is that the fact that the way our Cherokee elders used to teach their children and stuff. It was a hands on way of teaching, and so to me robotics brings traditional teaching methods to a modern science.”

During the offseason when the team isn’t building for competitions, members meet two days a week. During the building season, they meet four or five nights a week.

“For VEX, it’s in the fall from starting around late September through the beginning of December, and for first robotics it starts in January and goes for six weeks and we mingle in stuff in between. The competition is usually around spring break,” Faddis said.

Along with Faddis, coach Jacob Tanner Jr., Debra Nelson and Dr. Calvin Cole lead the Sequoyah robotics team.• 918-453-5000, ext. 6139


Senior Reporter – @cp_wchavez
08/25/2016 04:00 PM
BROKEN ARROW, Okla. – Broken Arrow High School senior Jacob Taylor recently attended an engineering experience camp hosted by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Office of Engineering Outreach Program. Taylor’s late July visit to Cambridge, Massachusetts, was his second visit there in two years. In June 2015, the 17-year-old Cherokee Nation citizen traveled to MIT with fellow Broken Arrow students to present their idea for producing less costly food for tilapia fish farms that help sustain communities in developing countries. Taylor said during his weeklong visit in July for the outreach program, students were invited to take courses such as electronics, aerospace engineering, computer science development or underwater robotics. He chose aerospace engineering. He said he studied calculus and physics and made small rockets using water bottles to calculate how high they would travel. He said he also learned about financial aid opportunities, applying for college and what to look for in a college. Taylor said his only cost was paying for the flight to Cambridge. “So it was a very good experience and opened up our college options and seeing that we could go to a college as big as MIT,” he said. Taylor said his has aspirations include mechanical engineering and continuing mission work like he did this summer in Kenya as part of his school’s InvenTeam. He and four other students traveled to Kenya in June to share research that helps Kenyan children living in an orphanage improve their diets. With the help of their teacher, the students created a better and more cost-efficient food for tilapia that are grown to feed the children to help against protein deficiency. They also worked on ponds for algae and duckweed to grow in and built pens for the meal worms as well as worked on ways to dehydrate those ingredients on a reflective surface outside. They also worked on a machine that makes fish food pellets from the ingredients. “We were able to build some things we imagined and shared with the Kenyans what we thought they could do to solve their (fish food) problem,” Taylor said. In high school, he’s taken advanced placement courses in chemistry, physics and calculus for college credit. He participates in the school’s robotics team, is a National Honor Society officer and plans to stay active in student and leadership events. He also wants to learn more about his Cherokee heritage and culture. <strong>A Student Spotlight features Cherokee Nation, United Keetoowah Band or Eastern Band students whether they are in grades kindergarten through 12 or higher education, excelling in school or doing something extraordinary. To recommend a student, email <a href="mailto:"></a>.</strong>
Senior Reporter – @cp_wchavez
08/22/2016 08:15 AM
BROKEN ARROW, Okla. – Broken Arrow High School student Jacob Taylor has a heart for mission work to help the less fortunate and recently helped solve a food problem for children in Kenya, Africa. The 17-year-old Cherokee Nation citizen, and four other Broken Arrow students who are part of the school’s InvenTeam, traveled to Kenya in June to share research that is helping children living in an orphanage improve their diets. “It all began with my teacher, and she had a connection with this man named Bill Lester who lives in Oklahoma City, who went to Broken Arrow High School back in the (19)60s. He has a big heart for missions and mission work, and he began an orphanage named Generations Children’s Home,” he said. The home is located in central Kenya and accepts orphans and children whose parents could no longer afford to raise them. “The problem with a lot of kids in this region is that they don’t get enough protein in their diet. My environmental science teacher has been teaching on subjects like this. She knew about the issue of protein deficiency in children, so she decided she wanted to try out this new trend going on in east Africa called aquaponic systems or artificial ponds for fish,” Taylor said. Four years ago, environmental science teacher Donna Gradel took Broken Arrow students to Kenya and built 20-foot-by-40-foot ponds and a greenhouse. The ponds were used to raise tilapia fish to help solve the protein deficiency. “But it became a problem because the fish food they were purchasing from town cost about $3 or $4 a day to feed all the fish, in this region where people make less than a dollar a day. So the problem was how expensive it was and the sustainability of that kind of fishery because it (fish food) was being shipped from China. It (fish food) was filled with tons of non-natural ingredients for the tilapia to eat like...ground-up pieces of dead fish,” Taylor said. “Plus that food was being shipped 1,000 miles from China, and it just cost too much to get there.” In 2014, Gradel attended a seminar at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge after she submitted an idea for producing less costly fish food for tilapia farms. “She came back and we had to write a grant proposal to MIT by October (2014) for all the things we were going to build and what we were going to do and why it was important,” Taylor said. “We decided we were going to make a new kind of fish food out of natural ingredients in the diet of the tilapia, which are algae, duckweed (an aquatic plant), meal worms (the larvae form of beetles) and filler ingredients like ground-up banana leaves.” That October, the Broken Arrow team began working to create sustainable fish food for developing countries after it won a Lemelson-MIT Program grant, which provides funding for projects to help sustain communities. From October 2014 to May 2015, the group spent 500 hours in the lab working on tilapia food. They worked on ponds for algae and duckweed to grow in, built pens for meal worms and worked on ways to dehydrate those ingredients on a reflective surface outside. They also worked on a machine that made fish food pellets from the ingredients. “We had a lot of trial and error and failure, but we ended up coming up with a clear idea of what we wanted to do, so by the time we got to June 2015, we got to propose all of our ideas (at MIT),” he said. “Ours was unique because we had a set place (Kenya) where we wanted to solve a problem.” Taylor said the process decreased fish food cost by 90 percent. Some students on the project in 2015 graduated high school, but the remaining students took the endeavor to Kenya this past June to share it with the orphanage. “We were able to build some things we imagined and shared with the Kenyans what we thought they could do to solve their (fish food) problem,” Taylor said. “We will probably go back to check on how it’s doing next year.” For two weeks the students stayed in the Kenyan village. One thing Taylor said he appreciated about his visit was that he learned some Swahili, the Kenyan people’s language. “We got to try to talk to people on the streets and say ‘hello, how are you.’ And we got to play soccer with some of the kids and got to go to their church. All of those experiences were pretty amazing,” he said.
08/15/2016 02:00 PM
OKLAHOMA CITY – The Oklahoma Advisory Council on Indian Education voiced its concern regarding the impact of reduced education funding on students at its July 20 meeting at the American Indian Cultural Center and Museum. Dwight Pickering, director of American Indian Education with the Oklahoma State Department of Education, said the more than 130,000 Native American students enrolled in Oklahoma’s public schools are experiencing the same difficulties as all children in the state. “In some instances, our tribes across the state are helping those districts that are in their tribal jurisdiction,” said Pickering. “The partnership the tribes have created with the schools is so important.” An example cited in an OSDE press release was a $4.7 million donation the Cherokee Nation made to school districts in its jurisdictional area in February. The donation went to 106 districts and originated from tribal car tag fees, 38 percent of which went to education. OSDE officials also said they are providing opportunities for tribes to give feedback on public education as part of the federal Every Student Succeeds Act, which replaces No Child Left Behind, at <a href="" target="_blank"></a>. In other discussion, Jim Parrish, a Choctaw Nation representative, said U.S. Senate Bill 2842 was introduced by U.S. Sen. James Lankford, which would provide for increased student count in the Johnson-O’Malley Supplemental Indian Education Program as well as increased per-pupil funding to $125. Also, school districts receiving more than $40,000 for Title VII will be required to hold tribal consultations, Pickering said. If the district has more than 50 percent American Indian student enrollment, it may be required to hold tribal consultations. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex and national origin. Dode Barnett, Native American Juvenile Justice Task Force chairwoman, said more tribes other than the Cherokee, Choctaw, Muscogee Creek, Chickasaw and Seminole nations need to be involved by developing juvenile justice codes. She said tribal governments need the codes to support their young citizens holistically, and it is important that students stay focused on education even if they are in custody. Also, the Muscogee Creek Nation is promoting a promising literacy program, Pickering said. Information about the Myron reading program will soon be available on the OSDE’s website, <a href="" target="_blank"></a>. Other tribes sponsoring special reading programs include the Chickasaw, Choctaw and Cherokee nations. And Phil Gover, director of the Sovereign Schools Project, said tribes could now sponsor charter schools through state legislation. Gover said his organization is expecting three tribal-sponsored charter schools to be created in the coming year.
Reporter – @cp_sguthrie
08/11/2016 08:15 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Cherokee Nation and United Keetoowah Band citizen Melessa Kelley, 41, who was scheduled to graduate Aug. 9 from Florida Atlantic University with a doctorate in nursing, recently presented her dissertation “Native American Early Adolescents Prevention for Obesity.” She said her study focused on UKB citizens. “Obesity and diabetes is really big in this area, so we’re really trying to work on prevention more than anything and teaching them early on to prevent it,” she said. “What I ended up doing was I tailored Dr. (John) Lowe’s (her professor) Talking Circle Intervention for my study.” Kelley said it was important to highlight UKB citizens because it’s a way to “give” back. “I think it’s very important to work with them because giving back is the one thing that’s really important,” she said. Kelley said after years of work she would be one of 22 Native Americans to graduate with a doctorate in nursing in North America. She said this means a lot to her as someone who graduated from Oaks High School in Oaks. “Everybody actually from Oaks is like very proud that I finally finished. It took awhile. It was a long bumpy road, but I finally got it all finished,” she said. “That says a lot about that little community. Not very many people from my high school have anything past a master’s (degree).” Kelley said her next step in life would be to move with Lowe to Tallahassee, Florida, and start the first Indigenous Native Nursing Research Center at Florida State University. She said the center is important because “it’s the first of its kind.” She added that they would also conduct research with Natives “globally and internationally.” She said doing this would act as her postdoctoral fellowship. “The thing is with nursing you can never stop learning,” she said. Kelley said the encouragement from Lowe helped her get to where she is today. “I can’t say enough about what he’s done for me,” she said. “When you do a program like that you have to have that support and encouragement.” She said with her accomplishments she hopes to act as a “positive” role model. “That’s what our people need. They need the positive role models,” she said. <strong>A Student Spotlight features Cherokee Nation, United Keetoowah Band or Eastern Band students whether they are in grades kindergarten through 12 or higher education, excelling in school or doing something extraordinary. To recommend a student, email <a href="mailto:"></a>.</strong>
08/10/2016 04:00 PM
LONGMONT, Colo. – First Nations Development Institute on Aug. 5 opened the application period for the third year of its First Nations Native Agriculture and Food Systems Program that aims to encourage more Native American college students to enter the agricultural sector in Native communities. First Nations will award 10 scholarships of $1,000 each to Native American college students majoring in agriculture and related fields, including but not limited to agribusiness management, agronomy, animal husbandry, aquaponics, environmental engineering, fisheries and wildlife, food production and safety, food-related policy and legislation, food science and technology, horticulture, irrigation science, nutrition education and sustainable agriculture or food systems. Complete information and a link to the online application can be found at <a href="" target="_blank"></a>. All applications must be completed and submitted by 5 p.m. Mountain Daylight Time on Oct. 5. To be eligible, applicants must: • Be a full-time undergraduate or graduate student majoring in agriculture or an agricultural-related field, including food systems, • Be Native American (citizen of a current or terminated federal/state tribe) and be able to provide documentation, • Have a grade point average of at least 3.0, and • Demonstrate a commitment to helping his or her Native community reclaim local food-system control. Applicants will be asked to complete an online application and provide other required information, including proof of tribal enrollment, college enrollment verification, unofficial transcripts, a letter of recommendation from a faculty member and a short essay submission of 250 to 500 words. First Nations believes that reclaiming control over local food systems is an important step toward ensuring the long-lasting health and economic well-being of Native people and communities. Native food-system control has the potential to increase food production, improve health and nutrition and eliminate food insecurity in rural and reservation-based communities while also promoting entrepreneurship and economic development. The Native Agriculture and Food Systems Scholarship Program’s aim is to encourage more Native American college students to enter these fields so they can better assist their communities with these efforts. For more information, visit <a href="" target="_blank"></a> or call 303-774-7836, 216 or email <a href="mailto:"></a>.
Reporter – @cp_sguthrie
08/10/2016 09:15 AM
WILBURTON, Okla. – Cherokee Nation citizen Zana Johnson, 19, a sophomore at Eastern Oklahoma State College, on July 8 released her first gospel album titled “We Praise.” Johnson, a vocal performance music major, said she had a CD release party at her college. “That was really fun. I gave a little concert, and I was able to invite quite a few people,” she said. “I had probably about 40 people come out, and I got to sing all my songs and sign CDs. That was really cool, to be able to sign everyone’s CDs.” She said she began singing at 14 while participating in organizations Oklahoma Kids and American Kids. “It’s a performing arts organization, so I sang in that for a long time, and I was a (American Kids) national performer of the year for that organization in 2012,” she said. “I sing like all over the place. I’ve sang in New Mexico, Texas, Florida at Disney World. I performed at the Grand Ole Opry.” Johnson said in 2015 she won a contest through a partnership with “American Idol” producers and StarMaker Interactive. She said contestants posted a video of them singing and others voted on their favorites. Johnson said officials took the top 11 contestants. She said although she didn’t win the contest the opportunity gave her “a lot” of exposure. “I really learned a lot from that experience,” she said. “I didn’t make it on the TV show (‘American Idol’). I wasn’t really upset about it because everything happens for a reason, and it just wasn’t the right time for me to do something like that, and I think that it really made me grow into what I am now.” She said the opportunity lead her to sign with Tate Music Group in Mustang. “I mean, I was able to sign with this label and get a CD and be able to spread the word through my songs,” she said. “I really feel like this is just what I’m meant to do. I’m just answering the call that God is giving me.” Johnson said in the future she hopes to sing at a church in Dallas. “I’m trying to get into a lot of churches, so I figure I’ll be doing that. Maybe like a mega church in like Dallas or something,” she said. “That would be pretty cool.” <strong>A Student Spotlight features Cherokee Nation, United Keetoowah Band or Eastern Band students whether they are in grades kindergarten through 12 or higher education, excelling in school or doing something extraordinary. To recommend a student, email <a href="mailto:"></a>.</strong>