SOTAbots Robotics Team

SOTAbots Robotics Team

It is no easy task to turn your aspirations into reality. SOTAbots team 2557’s incessant devotion to engineering and club management has made them successful in this pursuit of their goals. The combined group of students from SOTA, SAMi, and iDEA defines dedication and self-sufficiency through the robots they build from scratch, and the mark that they make on the Tacoma community.

In 2007, robotics teacher Ken Luthy of SOTA started the club with about 10-15 students. Now, the numbers of members who meet in SOTA’s downtown Tacoma 1950 building have risen to about fifty, with every individual using their skill sets to best suit the company. Most arrive as freshmen or sophomores and leave only once they have graduated. Sara Siemens-Luthy (SAMi Outdoor Ed teacher and Luthy’s wife) has also joined the team as a coach. I was unable to speak with either coach, but several team members, and mentor Dafydd Rhys-Jones (known also as Bishop), were very willing to tell me about the goings-on in the club. 

Adventures & Applications (A&A)

Adventures & Applications (A&A)

Fridays at Sami, Sota and Idea are host to two one-of-a-kind classes: Mentor group, and Adventures and Applications. A&A works to broaden the individual student’s perspective by offering a deeper look into a topic of their choice. 

After lunch ends at 1:20, we make our ways to our chosen A&A classes where we will stay until school lets out at 3:20. (However, seniors , juniors in their second semester, have Junior/Senior Breakouts in place of an A&A.) While it is much like mini and microterm, this Friday-only class takes place almost exclusively at the student’s home school. Popular SAMi A&A’s include Makerspace, creative shop class lead by Johnny Devine, Superbridges, a mentorship program for high school students to get to know elementary school students, and any one of the political science or psychology courses taught by Matthew Sherls. A number of other classes are one shots with students who fit into a certain niche in mind. These include topics such as video game design, mathematical art, and exploration of the outdoors. Even if none of the descriptions on the course catalogue appeal to a student, there is always the chance to expand your horizons.

Miniterm at SOTA, SAMI, and IDEA

Miniterm at SOTA, SAMI, and IDEA

After the craziness of December finals, January at SAMi, SOTA, and now iDEA comes with a complete change of course for students and staff alike: Miniterm. This month-long extensive course takes place at any of the three Elements of Education campuses. Comparable to the week-long “Microterm” at the end of the school year in June, Miniterm offers both a break from the usual, and extensive concentration on a unique subject of the student’s choosing.

Traditionally, science-focused courses took place at SAMi, while art-focused courses took at SOTA. Now we have iDEA thrown into the mix. This new school serves to fill the gaps that its successor schools’ facilities could not. Its workshops provide an alternate location to the SOTABots team and several other shop-oriented classes. iDEA teachers have also teamed up with teachers from their sister schools to combine their expertise into a single course. (E.g. The Sports Science of Lacrosse and Golf, The LEGO Miniterm, and Who is Telling Your Story? among others.)

Outdoor Education

Outdoor Education

One of the most unique classes I’ve taken at SAMi so far was Outdoor Education. Every Tuesday and Thursday of the fall semester my freshman year, I hiked the trails of Point Defiance Park with 20 other students, led by teacher Maria Jost. This course is one that only SAMi has to offer. It provided me, and many others who have taken it, with an enhanced respect for our park and its flora.

The Importance of Mentor Groups

The Importance of Mentor Groups

I first met my mentor group (Carol Brouillette’s “Brouilletians”) at camp of my freshman year. All of the older students intimidated me at first. While almost none of us are very big in size, every one of the upperclassmen I saw looked so much more mature, in one way or another, than the students I’d met in middle school. Some were loud, some were quiet, some seemed gentle and others abrasive. They all formed a cast of characters of a type I’d never seen before. By the end of those three days of camp, however, I felt included. I did not share the same memories and experiences as the upperclassmen did, but I began to connect with them. In my cabin were the two other freshman girls in my group plus a sophomore girl, and I got to know them more by talking with them during cabin readings and before bed. I left for home still feeling anxious about the upcoming year. However, I left feeling just a bit less alone. 

Diversity at SOTA

Diversity at SOTA

I’ve been to eight different schools since elementary school, in different states, but SOTA is the only school that I have attended that has no separation no matter gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, religion, and ability. Often in schools today, students with a disability, or any form of being different, are put in different classes. Even though they are working on their developmental skills, being put in these classes they are deprived of the ‘social experience’ a kid should have. Not only does this affect their social skills amongst peers, this can also affect their social life during adulthood.

Bees at SAMI

Bees at SAMI

Behind the portables at Camp Six in Point Defiance Park, there sits a small, roofless, wooden shed. Inside of this shed is where SAMi’s newest neighbors are hard at work: Three individual hives are home to a grand total of around 150,000 bees, each playing their part in contributing the hives’ success. This apiary began as the senior project of Max Mayo, a graduate from the class of 2016. SAMi teacher Lauren Anderson lent a hand in the development of Max’s project by leading a spring A&A course on beekeeping, where students helped to construct the hives and to introduce its inhabitants.

SAMI's Orientation to Point Defiance

SAMI's Orientation to Point Defiance

We all know that Tacoma is a beautiful city. Its proximity to a large body of water, and flare for both the new and the old-fashioned make it a dynamic place to live. Here at the Science and Math Institute, 400-plus students are attending classes amidst the grandeur of arguably one of the most beautiful places in Tacoma – Point Defiance Park

Beginning Guitar with Dustin Blatnik

For those who don’t know, SAMi is currently going through a transition of location and its portables are now hidden in the woods of Camp 6 at Point Defiance Park. To get there one must get on a big yellow school bus at the park entrance and bump along 5 Mile Drive to the hidden site. Here, in portable G, Dustin Blatnik’s Beginning Guitar class meets on a Thursday. It’s a small room, hot and crowded with students holding guitars, cases, papers, and chairs spread out over every square foot, and the cacophony can be heard from either end of the camp. There’s method to the madness, though; while Blatnik listens to students play individually, lessons of every kind are being learned simultaneously throughout the room. Some work solo, others in groups, all of them supporting each other. They share tuners, sheets of music, and advice. “Life’s too short to not have capo” one student is heard saying.