Visitation school named finalist for science award

Visitation students Nick Owens, Greta Van Guilder and Alex Casale were excited to see the code they wrote working as part of the robotics unit of their computer science program. (submitted photo)

Visitation student Janna Fitzgerald is a member of the mechanical sub team of the school robotics club. The mechanical sub team's responsibilities include building a robot for competition against other schools. Last year Visitation was the regional champion of the FIRST Robotics Competition. (submitted photo)

Tekne Awards ceremony will take place Nov. 13

Science can be an exacting discipline, and so too, it seems, can the art of choosing the winners of science and technology competitions.

The Convent of the Visitation School of Mendota Heights was nominated for a 2014 Tekne Awards in the Education Technology Award category.

After a long application process and deliberation by Tekne decision-makers, it was recently determined that the private school for girls is a finalist for the award.

The winner will be announced Thursday, Nov. 13, at the Minneapolis Convention Center. Local meteorologist Paul Douglas will emcee the ceremony.

The school was nominated by an external source for the award. While there is no direct prize for the students, the award would be displayed by the school in the event of a win.

"We know these applied sciences are essential to the education of a 21st century graduate," said Dr. Dawn Nichols, Visitation head of school. "But for a Visitation student, there is something else that is equally essential — the idea that academic excellence is rooted in Catholic social teaching and a worldview that moves our students to want to know how to use those sciences to improve people's lives."

The robotics and technology team at the school, known as the Robettes, were the most excited about being nominated for the award, according to communication manager Jennifer Arriola. She credited the opening of Opus Hall, a new building on the Visitation campus designed specifically for science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) teaching.

"Up until a year and a half ago, they were having to rent space in Lowertown St. Paul, in an office building," Arriola said. "And so now they're able to have all their equipment, do their (robot) building and have their meetings here on campus."

The 4,000-square-foot addition features a machine shop, large and small engineering assembly areas, as well as a conference room.

The construction of the new building, as well as the growing reputation of the science and technology program, has led to even more girls enrolling in math and science classes. According to Arriola, the number of girls taking physics classes has doubled in the past couple years.

"Now, we've got the big open work area where they can come into class and get to work," she said. "That has really helped transform our science department."

This isn't the first time Visitation school has been recognized for its science achievements. Last spring Madeleine Logeais of Roseville, a junior at the time and co-captain of The Robettes, earned one of only 10 FIRST Dean's List awards at the Robotics World Championship in St. Louis, Missouri.

The distinction made her the first-ever Minnesota recipient of the prestigious award, which is selectively given to exceptional FIRST Robotics Competition participants based on their leadership skills and contributions to their team.

You can reach Tim Faklis at 651-748-7814, at, or on Twitter @tfaklisnews


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