CVU’s School Board News

In an effort to raise money for Special Olympics, CVU had a team of over 74 students, faculty and staff participate in the annual Penguin Plunge into Lake Champlain. The CVU Redhawks team raised over $27,000!

Five students—all from Shelburne—were awarded prizes in the annual Scholastic Arts and Writing Awards. In art, Natalie Puma won a Silver Key, Sophie White received an Honorable Mention, and Emma Hamilton received an Honorable Mention. In writing, Megan Kloeckner won a Silver Key and Matt Killkelley won an Honorable Mention. The art work will be on display at the Brattleboro Art Museum from Feb. 9 to March 2.

CVU Engineering – A Focus on Making and Doing

Ask CVU design and technology teacher Olaf Verdonk about engineering education at CVU and he’s got a lot to say. And his message is timely. Verdonk’s passion about applying the math and science theory that students learn in their traditional coursework intersects perfectly with Governor Shumlin’s recent remarks about the need to ramp up statewide STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) learning for the economic wellbeing of Vermont.

What is engineering? Surprisingly, according to a Harris Poll, 62% of Americans cannot answer that question. An oft stated definition, however, is that engineering is applied math and science. Professor Mike Rosen of the UVM College of Engineering and Mathematical Sciences feels that this definition is necessary but insufficient and has described engineering as a three-legged stool, whose legs represent math and science theory, creativity, and the ability to make and do; He expressed concern that engineering education has traditionally done a poor job of addressing the latter. This is where the vision of the CVU technology staff shines.

Take the UVM TASC Engineering Competition, for example. CVU students have traditionally done very well in these hands-on competitions, and this year was no exception. Students who take the course are asked to research, brainstorm, collaborate, delegate, prototype, test, optimize, schedule, set goals, build consensus, and constantly problem solve. At the beginning of the course, students submit a resume outlining their “skills” and courses taken, and, this year, two teams were created comprising a computer aided design (CAD) expert, fabricator, and someone with electrical experience. Those who desire to serve as team managers must also provide a cover letter explaining why.

Engineering Club is another example of CVU’s focus on bringing engineering to life. Offered for the past six years, Verdonk, the club’s advisor, has charted a new direction for the group. For the first time ever, CVU will field a team in the FIRST Robotics Tech Challenge, an international robotics competition that provides an intense real world engineering and problem solving experience for high school students. The “RoboHawks” consist of 15 students who spend 2 1/2 hours every Monday and Thursday after school with Verdonk to work on robotics, mechanical construction, programming, planning, web design, presentation and collaboration – all for no credit (and no advising compensation). These students are perfect examples of great education in action – collaborative, hands-on, self-driving, teacher supported (not led). In order to raise funds to participate in the FIRST competition, they have had to obtain corporate sponsors. UTC Technologies, BioTek, and Microstrain are local companies supporting the RoboHawk team.

What’s next? Verdonk believes that it is important to get students doing and making at an earlier age. And, he believes there is a need to draw more students outside of the student population traditionally drawn to tech classes and engineering. Verdonk provides a clear, compelling, and exciting definition of engineering. “Students don’t understand that their entire built environment is the work of engineers, which profoundly drives human behavior and quality of life everywhere. In short, engineering is essential to our health, safety and happiness. If more students could see that link, a more diverse representation of students might choose to get involved in engineering,” he said.

Upcoming Events of Interest:

CVU will soon be looking for community panelists for Grad Challenge presentations on May 24. Contact MaryAnne Gatos for more information: or 482-7196.

Save the date for CVU’s production of “The Miracle Worker” on March 15, 16, and 17.

Shelburne Representatives to the CVU School Board:

Susan Grasso 985-0604

Susan Holson 985-2452

Joan Lenes 985-8515

CVU Liaison to the Communications Committee:

Robin Lauzon –


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