Plant High School’s Mary Radigan wins Teacher of the Year

Students at Henry B. Plant High School are united by special needs instructor, Mary Radigan.

Radigan leads several programs for her students that teach more than academics. They learn work and social skills that are critical for life after graduation.

“The staff and the student body embrace this population and there’s so much acceptance to diversity,” Radigan said. “The whole world is inclusion.”

She was recognized as Hillsborough County’s Teacher of the Year in March for her work. Plant High Principal Robert Nelson is grateful to have her on his staff.

“She takes it to the next level,” Nelson said. “The patience she has for her kids, the kindness, and the way she advocates for them set her apart.”

Students learn basic work skills at a coffee shop on campus. They brew, sell, and deliver coffee right outside of their classroom.

They also built and now maintain an organic garden on campus. Soil and plants grown are studied by AP Environmental Studies students. The fruits and vegetables are used in the school cafeteria.

“I like it because of the exposure,” Radigan said. “They’re out there working and it promotes inclusion with the students walking by.”

Additionally, Radigan is a coach of the Unified Special Olympics teams. Plant High Special Olympics teams for flag football and basketball competed at the state level this year.

“To be a successful school you want to give them those extracurricular activities,” Nelson said. “You want to create that culture where kids are excited to come to school.”

 

 

Cobra’s Curse To Slither Its Way Into Busch Gardens

The new ride at Busch Gardens is living up to the park’s reputation for innovative roller coasters.

Cobra’s Curse gives thrill seekers a new experience by having the cart spin as it rides along the track. The snake-like curves will cause the cart to spin differently depending on rider size.

“If you have the vehicle loaded with a linebacker in one corner and a cheerleader in the other, then it spins like crazy,”Jeff Hornick, the lead engineer said.

One might think that a ride that sounds so intense is geared more toward young adults. This isn’t the case.

“For Cobra’s Curse, it’s a 42 inch height restriction. So kids probably around five or six can ride with the whole family,” Hornick said.

There are two additional aspects of the ride that are new for Busch Gardens attractions.

One is a vertical lift for the cart to reach maximum height rather than a ramp.

The other is a loading station that puts riders on a moving platform as they get in the cart. This will lessen line waiting time.

It is not just the new ride concept that makes this attraction one of a kind.

Accompanying the roller-coaster will be an air-conditioned indoor que that will house a live snake exhibit.

“As people are waiting to get on the ride they are being educated about a really cool species,” Associate Marketing Director, Stephanie Fred said.

Construction on Cobra’s Curse is still in progress. The ride officially opens this summer.

 

A dedication to competition

More than 30,000 participants gathered in downtown Tampa last weekend for the 2016 Gasparilla Distance Classic. Leading the pack was Joey Gibbs, a young athlete who has overcome paralysis to keep racing.

Gibbs was one of four racers in the 15K wheelchair division. These athletes started the races just five minutes before the running participants.

“Oh, yeah, he’ll typically outrun everybody at an event like this,” said Matt Gibbs, Joey’s father, when asked about Gibbs’ exceptionally fast pace compared to the running participants.

This claim was proven when Gibbs crossed the finish line minutes before anyone else in the race with a time of 34:57.

Gibbs was paralyzed in a motocross accident when he was 11-years-old. After losing the use of his legs, he pursued racing in other ways like cart and RC-car racing.

“I always had that mentality, that drive or that determination and it just stuck with me,” said Gibbs.

Gibbs embraced wheelchair racing when he joined the track team during his sophomore year at Vanguard High School in Ocala, Florida.

Since then, Gibbs has competed at an elite level all over the country; earning 48 medals over his career, including six state and seven national championship titles. Gibbs simply wouldn’t let his condition stop him.

His current goal is to compete in the 2020 Paralympics in Japan.

LEGO competition builds interest in STEM programs nationwide

An international robotics tournament geared toward promoting students’ interest in science and technology called FIRST LEGO League is holding a regional tournament in Winter Haven, Florida. Over a thousand participants came to compete for a chance to compete at the national level.

Students and their parents came from eight different counties in the region. The teams are composed of students between the ages of nine and fourteen.

We-Cycle is a team of gifted fifth-graders from Ormond Beach, Florida, that exemplify the type of students who attended the tournament. The students’ intelligence and determination shows on the competition floor.

“The first part of the season, they practiced maybe once or twice a week, but before the regional championship they practiced every single day after school about three hours,” said Steve Waterman, We-Cycle’s coach.

The main event is the robotics competition of the tournament. Teams have a set number of missions to complete using robots they have built in order to receive points within two-and-a-half minutes.

Additionally, teams were required to conduct a project that helps to solve a problem. Many teams geared toward recycling trash or lowering pollution. We-Cycle, for example, took used plastic bags and wove them into consumer goods like purses and floor mats.

The program has great influence on the children participating. Lead Programmer for We-Cycle, Matthew Monroe has been greatly influenced since getting involved with the FIRST LEGO League.

“I want to be a programmer. I want to program computers, games, anything really” said Monroe.

We-Cycle did not advance to the next level, but Coach Waterman was selected for the Coach/Mentor of the Year Award.