North Springs excels in business

North Springs Charter High School’s Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA) chapter took home six top 10 awards, including four first-place finishes, at the State Leadership Conference held recently at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Atlanta.

Madhuri and Chaitanya Tondepu and Hairtha Viralli placed first in business presentations, and Connor Ciepluch placed first in business law. The four Sandy Springs residents will represent North Springs and compete at the National Leadership Conference in Anaheim, Calif., June 24 to 29.

Seven North Springs students received Business Achievement awards. The chapter won the Chapter of the Year and Membership Achievement awards.

“Even to be in the state finals is monumental,” said Chris English, the FBLA adviser at North Springs.

Woodruff honors Riverwood teacher

Riverwood International Charter School visual and performing arts teacher Ron Marstall was one of five honorees celebrated by the Woodruff Salutes Georgia Arts in Education Leaders program April 25.

Marstall is a 25-year veteran educator, spending the past nine years at Riverwood in Sandy Springs.

He is a member of the Association of Curriculum Development, Phi Delta Kappa, the Georgia Art Educators Association, the National Art Educators Association, the High Museum of Art and Spruill Arts Center. He also takes classes at the Savannah College of Art and Design and Spruill Arts Center.

Woodruff Salutes Georgia Arts in Education Leaders recognizes Georgians who have demonstrated the ability of the arts to positively affect young people from pre-kindergarten to 12th grade. The Woodruff Arts Center Education Committee received more than 120 nominees.

Marstall received $2,500 to contribute to the arts program of his choice.

‘Mayors for a day’ rev up environmental approaches

Linda Colbaugh’s fifth-grade class at Mount Vernon Presbyterian School spent part of Earth Day on April 22 just down the road at the Sandy Springs headquarters of Porsche Cars North America (PCNA).

The luxury automaker challenged the 16 fifth-graders to write legislation they would try to pass if they were mayor to make Sandy Springs more environmentally safe.

All of the students joined Colbaugh, Lower School Principal Kelly Hilton-Green, parents and Porsche employees for an awards luncheon at the PCNA building.

Porsche judges selected three winners: Caroline Clements, Ansley Gross and Katie Ryan, who read their essays at the luncheon.

Caroline proposes a dramatic reduction in pollution from gasoline exhaust by mandating the use of electric cars, electric school buses and electric MARTA buses. Her resolution includes more carpools, tax cuts for companies that offer telecommuting and staggered workdays, lower gas prices in the morning so people hit the pumps when the air is cleaner, and more aggressive enforcement of the speed limit on Ga. 400.

Ansley would have the government build shopping/entertainment/recreation centers every 15 miles so that people could get everything they needed or wanted without driving too far. She foresees apartments atop the stores at the centers and puts in plugs for recycling and drive-in theaters.

Katie proposes a partnership between the city and a bank that would make low-interest loans for people to buy energy-efficient home improvements, fuel-efficient cars and trees to shade their homes. The resulting energy savings would be enough to pay back the loans.

Welcoming the students to his headquarters was PCNA’s president and CEO, Detlev von Platen. “I especially like your idea of low-interest bank loans for people who buy energy-efficient cars,” he said.

To read the full essays from Caroline, Ansley and Katie, visit and go to the education news.

Riverwood wins world title

Riverwood International Charter School now is home to a world championship team.

The Sandy Springs high school’s RoboRaiders robotics team won the FIRST Tech Challenge world title at the Georgia Dome, coming out best among 100 teams competing April 16 to 18. The teams came from as far away as Norway and the Netherlands.

“Our robot’s performance, the drivers’ skills, excellent strategizing and game play won us the championship,” said physics teacher Rama Balachandran, the team sponsor. “There were tense and exciting moments during the final, and it was a championship well deserved.”

The RoboRaiders went undefeated in six qualifying matches and were ranked third out of 50 teams in the Edison Division. Another 50 teams were in the Franklin Division.

A total of 24 teams advanced to the For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST) finals. They were cut to eight, then the Riverwood team emerged as the champion.

A student team under the leadership of captain Stanley Vergilis designed, built and operated the robot.

“The robots are built to play a game,” Vergilis said. “Each year the organizers announce a game for the year’s competition, then you build a robot to compete in a 12-by-12-foot arena.”

This year’s game involved retrieving hockey-style pucks from a stand and putting, one at a time, into cylindrical bins for 3 points and into a triangular prism bin for 5 points.

“For the first 30 seconds of competition, your robot moves only with pre-programmed movements,” Vergilis said, “then the next two minutes are wireless control from a program the team has written.”

“The program works with time, distance, wheel revolutions and how long the body motors are running,” robot driver Eric Corwin said. “Each team has one robot, unless a team has lots of members and money. The competition entrance fee is $1,000, and parts for the robot are $2,700. The basic parts come in a kit, and parts are reusable the next year.”

The RoboRaiders qualified for the world competition by winning the regional Tennessee State Championship at Tennessee Tech University in February. In was the second regional title in the team’s two-year existence.

“We got past the learning curve last year, which got us ready,” robot driver Bradley Goldstein said. “The judges use match performance, observations made during interviews and in the pit area, the team’s engineering notebook, and performance on the playing field.”

Balachandran said the robotics club operates like a sports team. She has watched the club grow from three to 16 members: Vergilis; Corwin; Goldstein; programmer Josh Williams; engineering notebook keeper Liya Lomsadze; analyst and Web master Nir Levy; chief analyst Colby Watts; Don Armento; Sam Miller; Gia Lomsadze; Michael McGrael; Aaron Bhole; Sanjay Sridharan; Leo Rossignac-milon; AJ Shirey; and Anne Carlin.

Leah Mock, Cathy Solmson and MaryAnn Meyers were the Robogirls, who assisted in managerial duties and cheered.

“The team showed great team spirit and enthusiasm and delegated responsibilities during the tournament,” Balachandran said. “Outside the tournament, we have team members involved in designing and building the robot, maintaining the engineering notebook, programming, fundraising, getting the team Web site ready and so on.”