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Lake Monsters help at-risk students

Photo Credit: REVIEW PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Lake Monster team captain Kristin Taylor works with one of the groups mentors, Darrell Teagarden.Local students already were committed to making a difference for a school of at-risk students when they got the news that there had been a shooting near Rosemary Anderson High’s North Portland campus.

Now the tragic incident has made the project more meaningful.

The Lake Monsters Robotics team, with members from Lakeridge and Lake Oswego high schools, began a computer drive Dec. 8 for Rosemary Anderson High, collecting laptops, notepads and tablets. Four days later, four students were injured in a shooting just outside the school’s North Killingsworth Street location. Three people later were arrested.

“We just need to show our support, show that there are people out there who care about what’s going on at Rosemary Anderson,” says Nicholas Abbott, a Lake Monster and a Lakeridge High senior.

Kristin Taylor, captain of the robotics team, says hearing of the shooting was saddening for the group. “The computer drive becomes even more important to our team to be able to do something to help,” she says. “We hope that the computer drive can add to the supportive efforts happening every day at Rosemary Anderson.”

Photo Credit: REVIEW PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Lake Monsters Tristan Thompson, left, and Nicholas Abbott work on refurbishing donated computers.The drive came about soon after the 19 Lake Monsters discovered there was a vast need for computers at Rosemary Anderson.

None of the almost 400 students who attend the school has a laptop at home, says Joe McFerrin II, president and CEO of Rosemary Anderson High. The 190 students on the main campus have access to about 20 working computers.

“It’s almost like being on a basketball team and not having the proper equipment,” McFerrin says. “If a kid on a basketball team receives the proper equipment, all of a sudden their confidence level increases tremendously, their self-esteem grows. By presenting students with a laptop, they get a sense that people actually care and believe that they can achieve academically. And you raise the bar because there’s an expectation that comes with having the technology.”

The Lake Monsters will have the chance to grow academically as well, finding out how to wipe a hard drive, install a new operating system and add software, says Vicky Thompson, communications mentor for the team.

“For students, it seemed like a good opportunity to learn how to refurbish a computer,” says Thompson, adding that it’s an important skill in the tech industry.

Her son, Tristan Thompson, is a Lake Monster and Lakeridge junior who is serving as a project manager on the team, and he says students also gain leadership skills. “I’m really learning how to be a manager,” he says. “It’s been a big learning experience for me. It’s been very helpful.”

Photo Credit: REVIEW PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - LOHS student Eli Morris and Lakeridge High student Annie Choo work together on their robot.When it comes to the computer drive, Lake Monster Riley Henne says she’s enjoying putting all she’s learned “to use for something greater.”

The drive, which continues through Jan. 9, is linked to a crucial principle of the group, which is also called Lake Oswego Robotics FIRST Team 2635. FIRST Lego League participants build a robot, pit it against other teams’ creations, learn to work as a team — and give back to the community.

Lake Monster Owen Kaufmann says giving back is the right thing to do in Lake Oswego, where many people have more resources than in the average community.

“So much has gone right for me, and I can spread just a little bit of that around to people who don’t always have things go right,” says Kaufmann, a Lakeridge sophomore.

The team brings together students from two schools on either side of Oswego Lake, and these students get to know each other well, spending every day together building complicated robots and equipment.

“I consider them my second family,” says Taylor, a senior at Lakeridge.

Retired engineer Bill Miller, one of 10 mentors for the Lake Monsters, says he loves working with these tech-savvy teens.

Photo Credit: REVIEW PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Lakeridge High students Julia Seydel and Nicholas Abbott work on programming.“For me, it’s like drinking from the fountain of youth,” Miller says. “They keep me young and on my toes. They’re all eager to learn.”

Former Lakeridge High physics teachers Matt Price and Sarah Alt-Price founded the Lake Monsters in 2008 at Lakeridge, and the team still can be found at the home of the Pacers.

Since then, Lake Monsters has earned a pile of trophies, winning the First Robotics Championship-Oregon Regionals in 2009 and receiving the Judges Award in 2014 in a Pacific Northwest district event.

“Our team learns a lot about engineering by building robots for competitions, but the computer drive program is a way for robotics students to directly help other students through technology,” says Owen Griffiths, a physics teacher at Lake Oswego High School and coach of the robotics team.

Contact Jillian Daley at 503-636-1281 ext. 109 or 503-636-1281 ext. 109.

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