Saturday, December 27, 2008


From the Chicago Journal-Cityside
Lorraine Swanson

Rookies of the year
Congratulations to the Howard Area Leadership Academy Alternative Experience robotics team. The team made history by becoming the first alternative high school team in Illinois to compete in the FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Tech Challenge Competition. Students took part in the mid-level statewide robotics competition at the Illinois Institute of Technology on Dec. 13. Alternative Experience placed fourth out of 28 teams, an astounding achievement for a rookie team.
Team members designed a robot that played hockey against other teams, and won five of their six matches. We hear Alternative Experience's robot had a pretty good slap shot. After two exiting matches, the team won their seed and moved on to the semi-finals, where they went up against the top-ranked Motorola Team, which eventually won the entire competition.
The team also secured a $6,000 grant in November from the NASA Robotics Alliance Project. Alternative Experience will use the grant to purchase a kit to build a 5-foot-tall, 120-pound robot, in preparation for the FIRST Robotics Competition in February. (Do we sense another Wayne Gretzky in the making?)
For anyone who hasn't visited Howard Area Leadership Academy, the school is inspiration in motion. Since 1996, Howard Area Leadership Academy has taken diamonds in the rough and turned them into polished gems. The school provides positive opportunities and second chances for students who have had limited success in traditional high schools. The Rogers Park-based alternative high school is a program of the Howard Area Community Center.
Alternative Experience still needs more financial support to build its robot, so show the team some love and contact teacher Veronica Galvalisi at

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