High school is finalist in U.S. design contest

Minnetonka High School was one of five finalists -- and the only one from Minnesota -- in a national design competition to create technology that helps people with disabilities with their jobs.

The AbilityOne Design Challenge -- sponsored by NISH, which creates employment opportunities for the disabled -- has high school teams create a prototype in collaboration with a local nonprofit organization.

Minnetonka students created "the buckle box" that allows employees to assemble Blow-Darts for Wal-Mart at Opportunity Partners in Minnetonka. It increases productivity and allows additional employees to perform the job task.

Minnetonka and the other four finalist teams will travel to Washington, D.C., to compete for cash prizes of up to $5,000. A winner will be announced Feb. 15.


Free books event will feature author Kasza

The Carver County Library and Community Education of Eastern Carver County Schools will host the eighth annual "Hooked on Books ... and the Arts, too!" on Saturday. The free event for elementary-age children will give away books and features author and illustrator Keiko Kasza.

The event will go from 9 a.m. to noon at Chanhassen High School. Kasza will appear at a special program for adults and children ages 7 and older at the Chanhassen Library at 2 p.m. that will include a presentation and book signing.


Students win state engineering contest

A group of Westonka School District students recently won a state engineering competition, sending them to Washington, D.C., to compete against students nationwide.

The students from Grandview Middle School in Mound won the state Future City Competition on Jan. 19 at the University of Minnesota, beating 43 teams statewide to win the title. They're coached by Jennifer Naslund, with help from community engineers Jeff Fish, Barry Robbins, Brian Naslund and Sarah Reinhardt.

They and their four students -- Jessy Cai, Maddy Bacon, Megan Heins and Brandon Ung -- will now go on to the annual Future City National Finals Feb. 15 to 19 in Washington. The program, hosted by the National Engineers Week Foundation, is developed for sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade students to use math, science and technology to design and build cities of the future. The winner of that competition gets a trip to the U.S. Space Camp in Alabama.


Choirs will perform for music educators

The Cantori and Bel Canto Choirs and the Chamber Strings from Robbinsdale Armstrong and Robbinsdale Cooper high schools, along with the Robbinsdale All-District Choir, will perform at the Minnesota Music Educators Association convention Feb. 15.

They were selected through a competitive, statewide audition to appear on this year's convention program, performing for music educators statewide. For more information, go to www.rdale.org.

3 qualify for national debate/speech tourney

Three Robbinsdale Area School District students have qualified for this year's National Debate and Speech Tournament in Birmingham, Ala.

Robbinsdale Cooper senior Celisia Stanton and Armstrong senior Claire Peavey and junior Tanner Berris competed in the National Qualifying tournament Jan. 25-27 at Eagan High School.

Stanton faced off against fellow Robbinsdale teammate Andrew Urevig to decide who was going to represent both the district and the state in Lincoln-Douglas debate, and edged her teammate on a 2-1 decision. Urevig recently became the Minnesota State High School League champion in the Lincoln-Douglas debate forum.

Partners Peavey and Berris competed against Chaska High School in the Public Forum debate and won on a 3-0 decision to qualify for nationals.

This will be the first time Robbinsdale Armstrong has qualified contenders to the national tournament and the first for Cooper since 2008.


School to hold free open house, carnival

Kids are invited to a free Community Carnival and Open House from 5 to 8 p.m. Friday at Our Savior Lutheran Church & School gymnasium, 23290 Hwy. 7 in Excelsior.

The free event is open to families with children of all ages, and will feature carnival games with prizes, face-painting, a bounce house and an inflatable obstacle course, among other things. Hot dogs, cotton candy and other food will be served.

For more information, go to www.oslcs.org or call 952-474-5181.


Valley View gets grant for AVID program

Bloomington's Valley View Middle School recently received a $2,000 grant from Wal-Mart for its AVID program, which aims to close the achievement gap by preparing seventh- and eighth-grade students for college.

The money will support AVID program materials, field trips to local colleges, parent nights and celebrations for student success.