The final parade at Randolph-Macon Academy is an event that everyone waits for eagerly. For the students about to graduate, it is a time of celebration of years of hard work and the official end to their Air Force JROTC commitments at R-MA. For the parents, it is a time of extreme pride and sometimes tears. For the underclassmen, it means that the school year is almost over and summer is just around the corner. For alumni, it is a time of nostalgia and friendships.
The graduating seniors always celebrate the end of their parade and their dismissal with the traditional hat toss, accompanied by air horns and Silly String® and, in recent years, decorated hats. This year’s hat toss almost seemed endangered as wind gusts blew across the fields, lifting cadets’ hats from their heads. (I have to admit, it was the most humorous parade I’ve seen in the 14 years I’ve been at the Academy, as a particularly strong gust took off about ten hats at once!) However, the Class of 2013 prevailed, somehow keeping their hats as they marched to the center and even as they sang along with the R-MA Alma Mater played by the band.
We recorded the last few moments of that final parade for you—but with the wind blowing so strongly, the sound isn’t the greatest. This takes you from the time the seniors gather at the side and march onto the field, through the alma mater, and through the hat toss. If all you want to see is the hat toss, you can skip the first 2:20!
The community reading program at Randolph-Macon Academy began seven years ago with the first selection of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon. This modern classic was an immediate hit with students and adults, and a large order of copies quickly sold out at our bookstore. Students and adults met that year in the library to discuss the book.
The mission of the Common Reader Program is to bring adults and students together in a common reading experience of intellectual value. As the program developed, we have moved toward nonfiction reading. Books are of cross-curricular importance and explore issues in science, philosophy, ethics, sociology, and history.
Students who read the selection over the summer are given the opportunity to earn extra credit in English class in the fall. In addition, students contact the author to tell them of our school’s reading and ask questions.
This summer, the Common Reader selection is The Right Stuff by Tom Wolf. The Right Stuff is the true story of America’s journey into space. Tom Wolfe writes, “This book grew out of some curiosity. What is it, I wondered, that makes a man willing to sit up on top of an enormous Roman candle, such as a Redstone, Atlas, Titan, or Saturn rocket, and wait for someone to light the fuse?”
We hope you will join us this summer as we explore The Right Stuff.
The idea of taking a new course in summer school or even a repeat course or two can be exciting if you find a summer school program that fits your schedule and has great teachers. At Randolph-Macon Academy, summer school is compacted into four weeks, allowing plenty of time before and after for family vacations, mission trips, or other camps and activities. Of course, in order to qualify for high school credit, students must receive instruction for a minimum amount of time, and fitting that into four weeks can be a challenge.
Randolph-Macon Academy’s Summer School is for students entering grades 9-12 (or recent graduates who might need one more credit to make that graduation official). Students spend 3.5 hours in class in the morning, and another 3.5 hours in class in the afternoon and they may take either one or two classes.
Students who are taking a core course for the first time spend the entire day in that one class, but while it is an intense program, every student loves finishing the summer school program with a full high school credit. The courses offered in this category are:
World History II
Students who are taking electives will choose two classes. Each one is worth a half credit:
Design Concepts for Engineering
Creative Writing Workshop
Students who need to repeat a class or two will have the following options:
World History II
Classes also meet on Saturday to fit in all the required hours within the four weeks. Saturday classes last only 90 minutes per class, so by noon the students are done with classes and lunch and are loading the buses for a trip to a major theme park.
There is also homework to be done, so after a half-hour of free time in the afternoons, students head to a study hall that lasts an hour and 15 minutes. From there students head to dinner and then enjoy an activity period. Some evenings this might be on-campus activities, such as basketball, softball, weightlifting, or a stroll around campus. The students might enjoy a swim in the on-campus indoor pool, or there might be a trip to the outdoor pool at the Northern Virginia 4-H Center right in Front Royal. The students might enjoy a movie or go bowling in downtown Front Royal.
In short, summer school at Randolph-Macon Academy is a lot of work, but there is plenty of fun as well. Curious about how it might fit your summer school needs? Come check us out online or call us at 800-272-1172!
This is the story of two boys, Adventurer and Homebody. Both will be entering the eighth grade this fall.
Homebody talked his parents into letting him stay at home all summer. He isn’t volunteering in the community, attending a camp, or even visiting relatives.
Adventurer asked his parents if he could attend Randolph-Macon Academy Summer Camp in Front Royal, Virginia.
One morning during camp, Adventurer woke up at 6:45 a.m. He got dressed, cleaned his air-conditioned room that he shared with a roommate from China, and then went to breakfast where he sat with his new friends: one from Haymarket, Virginia; one from Newburgh, New York; one from Winchester, Virginia; and of course his roommate from China. They laughed and talked as they ate a hot breakfast. Then they all went off to class.
Homebody was still sleeping.
Adventurer and his four friends were in Science Explorer, and that day they worked on building catapults. They learned about the physics needed for the project, then they set about building them together. They didn’t finish the project, but at the end of the second class hour, they had made a lot of progress and were already guessing which group’s project would hurl tennis balls the farthest.
Around this time, 11:05 a.m., Homebody roused himself from his bed to go get some cold cereal in an empty kitchen. He put his ear buds in to listen to his music as he ate.
Adventurer bid his friends goodbye as they headed off in different directions. One went to study skills, one to reading and writing, one to math, and one to digital media. Adventurer went to music technology. After a couple of weeks of learning the basics on the piano, today they began a lesson on music composition.
Homebody logged into Facebook to see if anyone in his neighborhood was awake yet and ignored the list of chores his mother had left for him to do.
Adventurer met back up with his friends at lunch where they talked about how awesome their catapult was going to be. Then they all went to mentoring. Adventurer’s mentor asked how things were going and gave them some tips on how to get along with their roommates.
Homebody stepped outside, but decided it was too hot to do much out there. Instead, he pulled out the Xbox controller and began playing Gears of War: Judgment.
There were a few activities going on at summer camp, and Adventurer and his friends decided to play flag football. Adventurer’s friend from New York scored the winning touchdown on a pass from one of their day camper friends from Front Royal. Adventurer hadn’t gotten to play a sport during the school year because his middle school didn’t offer many sports and he had been cut from the football team when he tried out. He was realizing that he loved being part of a team, and right then he decided to work hard that summer and try out again for football.
Homebody beat Gears of War and went on Facebook to share the good news. His next door neighbor was online, so they chatted for a while. His friend was waiting for another friend to pick him up. After they were done chatting, Homebody dusted and vacuumed the downstairs like his mother had asked.
During free time at camp, Adventurer played Ultimate Frisbee for the first time and managed to score a point for his team. “I think I found my calling in life,” he joked with his roommate as they settled in for study hall later on. He didn’t mind study hall. He was hot from being outside and the air conditioning felt good. Besides, his homework was to read the background information on their next science project—a giant hot air balloon.
Homebody finished vacuuming just before his mother got home. He gave her a hug, then set the table while his mother made dinner. “How was your day?” she asked. He shrugged as he answered, “Okay.”
Adventurer and his friends got back together for dinner and talked about the flag football and Ultimate Frisbee games they had played and the academic field trip to Mount Vernon they were going to take the next day. After dinner, they all loaded onto busses and went to the bowling center in Front Royal. As soon as he got back to the dorm he called his parents and told them all about it, and they promised to take him bowling when camp ended. His dad also promised to help him get in shape so he could try out for football again.
Homebody and his parents ate dinner a bit quietly. He wanted to talk about Gears of War and beating the game, but they wouldn’t understand, so he just ate his food. After dinner he went outside with them to help weed a garden. The evening had cooled off some, so they played a few innings of Wiffle ball, then went inside and watched a movie. Homebody realized that it was the happiest he had felt all day.
Adventurer finished his shower and climbed into bed. He and his roommate talked for a bit, then the lights went out at 9:45. They gave a few additional whispers of excitement over the upcoming trip to Hershey Park the next weekend, but when the dorm supervisor checked in on them, they decided to go to sleep.
Homebody went back on his laptop and poked around Facebook, exploring a few games. Nothing was grabbing his interest tonight. He chatted with a few friends until his mother stuck her head in. “Good night,” she said with a warm smile. “Don’t stay up too late.” He smiled back at her. “Okay.” He turned off his lights not long afterwards. As he fell asleep, he tried to think of what he might do the next day. Staying home for summer had been fun at first, but now, a month into not doing much, he was ready to go somewhere or accomplish something. If only he could figure out what…
Each year I ask a few staff and faculty members for their recommendations of seniors to do what I call “Senior Spotlights.” These are video interviews that I do with seniors and place on our web site. They started years ago when I realized that we couldn’t possibly profile all of our great graduating seniors in our boarding school’s magazine. (Even with these spotlights I still don't get to them all!) The graduation issue always features the valedictorian and salutatorian, and we have several opportunities for students to give speeches at the end of the year, so I try not to include those students in these videos, although there is sometimes a bit of overlap.
This year, by luck of the draw, my first two interviews of the series were with two boys that couldn’t have been more different if I tried. (And I really didn’t try—they just both happened to be TAs (Teacher Assistants) during the same period; since I try not to pull students out of class, I chose to interview them first.)
The first one was Marcus Williams. Marcus is the second of three children in his family who have attended R-MA. He came here in seventh grade because he and his family saw Randolph-Macon as an opportunity to receive a “balanced” education—a day and boarding school that focused on academics, but encompassed much more. Until this year, Marcus was a day student, as he is from Front Royal; he began boarding this year because of his position in cadre, the cadet corps leadership. Here’s what he had to say:
In contrast, Fahad Alsuhaibani hails from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. He has been here only two years, and also had bit of connection to R-MA in that a family friend had attended here and graduated in 2010. He somewhat sheepishly admitted during his interview that he wasn’t crazy about the idea of coming to a U.S. boarding school when his father initially brought it up. However, Fahad clearly made the best of his time at R-MA, and found to his surprise that this boarding school was a good match for him:
It is amazing to me that two students coming into the school from such different lifestyles and with such different attitudes can both find success. I guess that’s part of the fun of boarding school!
Finding the right summer programs for middle school students is critical. I don’t mean to sound overdramatic, but after working in a private school for the last 13 years, and having two children of my own, I have realized the importance of balancing fun and education over the summer.
For elementary school-age children, I tend to believe that a summer camp should lean more towards fun—it should keep the children active and away from the TV, computers, video games, etc. It should give them a chance to explore areas they are interested in and try new things. As they move into the higher grades (third, fourth, fifth), a bit of academics helps make the transition into the new school year easier, but to be honest, it was never on the priority list for my children until my daughter entered fourth grade. (If you want to know that story, check this blog.) That’s because at a young age, kids tend to be constantly learning just because the world is so new to them.
By middle school, however, students’ needs have often changed. This is the age where students who seemed to learn easily in elementary school may begin to struggle in classes—perhaps because the learning environment has changed so drastically, the classes are larger, or the material is harder. In addition, that natural curiosity they had as young children has to be fostered, or they’ll lose it. So having some academic component mixed into a middle school student’s summer programs is important. Yet at heart, they’re still children who want to have fun during the summer, and they need the opportunity to become more independent, make new friends, and try new activities.
As parents, it is important that we create a summer schedule that fosters all of this for our middle school “tweens.” There are many summer camps available, both residential (a.k.a. “overnight”) and day camps. Churches, Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts, private schools, colleges, 4-H centers, recreation centers, gyms/fitness centers, your local “parks and rec” department—chances are they will all offer summer programs that will fulfill one or more of these needs for your middle school student for 2013. Make a list of what you’d like your child to learn or experience this summer, and do some research with these local organizations. Another useful resource will be online summer camp directories—an online search for “summer camps” will bring up a slew of them. With a bit of research and work on your part, you can put together a fantastic summer program!
As for me, I think I’ll cheat this summer. Randolph-Macon Academy’s summer program for middle school students encompasses everything I think a middle school student needs—a blend of academics, fun, games, sports, community service and trips that will keep students engaged. It’s four weeks long, which works perfectly for my family’s schedule this year. So as I begin looking for summer programs in 2013, I’m going to start there!
by Shelby M. Sebring ’15
This winter, five R-MA cadets mastered the complex task of programming Lego NXT Mindstorms Robots. The Robotics Intramural began in November with “Domabots” -- a compact, rudimentary design designed by Damien Kee, an independent technology expert. The design is easy to build and easy to operate. Under the instruction of R-MA Aerospace Instructor MSgt Stephen Pederson P’13, ’15, USAF, Ret., the cadets learned how to use “building blocks” to write robot-specific files on NXT Programming, an icon-based program and were soon downloading new programming with lightning speed. Among a few of the simpler tasks, the Domabots could be equipped with various sensors enabling the machines to respond to touch, sounds, colors, and even to sense the distance from a wall.
Once the cadets had an understanding of the robots, they moved away from the elementary Domobot clones to the next assignment: the much more exciting Sumobots robot. The foundation of a Sumobot is the same NXT brick as in all other Lego robots, but Sumobots are built for competition at both the local and national level. Tournaments take place in which one Sumobot “wrestles” another and attempts to knock it out of the ring. This competition requires a sturdy design and a very complicated program; Sumobots need to know when to attack the opponent and when to turn around in addition to accounting for speed variations and the requirement to stay within the circle.
Along with the program, each cadet personally engineered his or her own Sumobot with the ultimate goal of winning the tournament. Many designs were considered to capture First Place making the group of five robots look quite the motley crew. Competitors “Fat Albert” and “Southern Fury” were designed with considerable weight for added momentum, “Barricade” sported a plow-like platform to easily relocate opponents, “Dombot” had the extra advantage of a wider wheel base, and the feared “Runaway” featured a violently spinning arm on the front.
After weeks of concentrated design and programming, the five Sumobots matched each other in the first R-MA Sumobot Tournament. Though the ‘bots were very equally matched and many of the intense scrimmages ended in ties, the cadets all knew that there could only be one winner. After three days of furious competition, Barricade finally emerged as the champion of the Sumobot Tournament.
The victory was short-lived, though, as another mission awaited the eager Robotics Intramural cadets. The Sumobots were quickly disassembled as the cadets readied themselves for their final project—seven NXT robots were to be built and programmed to act as a flight and perform the dreaded “Thirty Count.”
The Thirty Count Drill Sequence (30-Ct) is the standard Air Force drill card for USAF Junior ROTC. It consists of thirty commands in a specific sequence which must be performed with absolute precision. To have simple Lego robots act like a trained drill team is an incredible undertaking, but the cadets in the intramural met the challenge with determination and spirit. They had worked together to learn about Domabots and had competed against each other with Sumobots, but now they would have to accept separate responsibilities if they were to accomplish this demanding feat. One student tackled the structure design of the “Drillbots,” which must all be uniform in appearance and performance, while another cadet took on the position of Bot Commander. The remaining three students wrote the long and intricate program and performed hours of troubleshooting. Since all of the Drillbots must operate in perfect unison, each one must be individually-tuned, a grueling task which requires hundreds of minute adjustments.
Currently, the members of the robotics intramural are putting the finishing touches on their “Robo-Count” procedure. The expert flight of seven Drillbots will perform the routine at R-MA’s 2013 Spring Family Weekend, and they do hope all R-MA friends and family attending the weekend festivities will drop by to watch. Though their movements may appear to be simply “robotic,” the Drillbots (and their human counterparts) look forward to the spectators’ attention and expect to put on a great show!
This article originally appeared in the Winter-Spring edition of The Sabre, the Magazine of Randolph-Macon Academy. The full issue can be viewed online.
by Michael T. Turner, '86
It was the fall of 1984 and I was in my junior year at R-MA when my JROTC class took a field trip out to the Front Royal/Warren Co. Airport. After hearing that the airport offered flying lessons, I couldn't get the idea out of my head. I was 16 and just started driving months earlier and the thought of flying was very exciting. So, I went where most 16-year-olds go when they want something - their dad. In this case though, my dad was the President of R-MA, Col. Trevor D. Turner. He was intrigued and asked if there was interest among the other cadets. I said, "How could there not be?" Well, with the start of the spring semester in January 1985, R-MA had a new after-school elective - flying. I'm sure he approached the Board of Trustees with recruitment in mind and over 28 years later, how right he was.
The first couple of years the instruction was done by airport flight instructors H. "Brownie" Brown and Kevin Fifer. The first students were me, '86; Tareq Salahi '87; and Mickey English '85. I soloed and earned my private pilot's certificate and decided flying was what I wanted to do as a career. In the interest of having the highest safety standard during the fall of 85, my dad decided the academy needed its own aircraft: a new one to keep perfectly maintained. David Fridenstein, '86, (who also had his Private Pilot's Certificate) and I were flown to Ohio by David's dad (in his airplane) to pick up the academy's new Cessna 152. David and I even timed our arrival to fly over the campus during the cadet formation to show everyone the academy’s new plane before landing at the Front Royal airport - much to Col. Ivan Mieth's surprise!
As I attended Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (Daytona Beach campus) from 1986-90, several other improvements were made to the flight program at R-MA, including hiring an in-staff flight instructor, John Sheehy, a former Eastern Airlines pilot. After I graduated from Embry-Riddle with a Bachelor's Degree in Aviation in 1990, I replaced Mr. Sheehy as he headed back to the airlines. During my time as a Flight Instructor and later the Director of Flight Training from 90-93, the academy's flight program tripled in size. This growth included hiring additional in-staff flight instructors including Jay Cullen and John Angeny; purchasing additional aircraft including a multi-engine aircraft; and building an academy aircraft hanger at the airport. Following an Embry-Riddle style curriculum, R-MA's Flight Program had become one of the nation's premier aviation training schools for secondary schools. I am thrilled that the program has been so successful over all these years and has influenced so many to pursue aviation careers.
For me, I began my airline career in the summer of 1993 as a pilot for Atlantic Coast Airlines, a United Express carrier and in January 2000, I started at United Airlines. I have flown everything from turbo-props to international wide-body jets and have had the chance to visit, explore and have great experiences all over the U.S. and in many other countries. During the decade following 9/11, the airline industry endured many difficulties and I was furloughed (an involuntary leave). By using my aviation background, this setback became an opportunity and allowed me to experience another occupation including three years in public service as a Program Analyst for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. I have since returned to United Airlines and I am currently a pilot on the Boeing 757 and 767 flying to Europe, Hawaii, the Caribbean, and South America. I thank R-MA for giving me the opportunity to learn how to fly and I know many of my students from the early 90's love it as much as I do and feel the same way.
The flight program at R-MA now enrolls 30-35 students each year and encompasses a sumemr flight camp in addition to the flight lessons taught during the regular school year. There are two instructors on the R-MA staff: Laura Abraham, the flight director, and Ryan Koch. Lessons are still given at Front Royal-Warren County Airport, but now the students fly in one of two 2001 Cessna 172 aircraft.
Michael Turner, a 1986 alumnus of Randolph-Macon Academy, was inspired to write this look back at history by a recent article about pilots. The article was published in the most recent issue of Randoph-Macon Academy's magazine, The Sabre. You can read the article online, or view the entire magazine online.
I have been excited about R-MA’s Academic Summer Camp for middle school students since I arrived here at R-MA. With a few hours of class in the morning and a bunch of fun activities in the afternoon, I always thought that it seemed like the perfect summer camp. Talking with the “campers” only solidified this idea. I found that students who liked school had a ton of fun, and even those who did not like school discovered that they enjoyed learning during this summer camp, where the emphasis was on learning, not grades.
When my son was that age, he of course had the option of whether to attend R-MA’s Academic Summer Camp, but there were several other things that conflicted with the schedule and we could never seem to make it work. Since he was a straight-A student (well, almost—he had a B every now and then), I didn’t worry about the summer slump that was in the news at the time. I heard about it, and I believed it existed for some students, but my son didn’t seem to be one of them.
However, my daughter was a different story, as I learned this past fall. As an elementary school student, she participates in Accelerated Math, which was completely separate from the math section of her regular class day. In it, she could complete worksheets and quizzes and progress as fast and as far as she could. It resulted in her teacher giving her individual mini-lessons before the bell rang to signal the official start of the school day, because she was going through the lessons so quickly. By the time she finished third grade, she was halfway through fourth grade math in the Accelerated Math program.
Then summer vacation came. Long story short, my daughter didn’t do much math over the summer.
When my daughter arrived back at school in the fall, she spent the first two or three weeks extremely frustrated, because she had forgotten all of the math she had learned in Accelerated Math. Suddenly, instead of a child who had loved math for two years, I had a child who was almost in tears over her homework and had no patience with it. Sometimes it seemed like those weeks would never end…
Now, heading into the end of the school year, she’s back on track and even helping other students with their math during class. However, she hasn’t forgotten how she felt in the fall. She might only be in fourth grade, but she has already decided she wants to attend R-MA’s Middle School Academic Summer Camp and she knows what she wants to take when she gets there: math. She said she doesn’t ever want to be struggling at the start of the year like that again.
Obviously there was a difference between my son and my daughter and what they “lost” over the summer. That’s another thing I like about R-MA’s Academic Summer Camp, though: it’s not just skills classes like math. This year, Basic Math, Pre-Algebra, and Study Skills are all being offered, but so are History in Action, Science Explorer, Reading and Writing, Digital Media, and Music Technology. Interwoven throughout some of the courses will be this year’s theme of American Presidents—but if your child is a science lover rather than a history lover, have no fear. There’s no requirement to take the history course, and in science, exploring Thomas Jefferson’s love of all things scientific, Theodore Roosevelt’s conservation era, and the science of assassination attempts promises to keep even the most anti-history student entertained.
To learn more about R-MA’s Middle School Academic Summer Camp, visit us online.
by Ben Gillis '14, R-MA Flight Program Student
The Hudson River VFR (visual flight rules) corridor is a fun aviation experience. My dad, my brother-in-law and I flew through it this past summer. We took a day and flew up to New Jersey, stopped for lunch, and then continued on through the corridor. My brother-in-law is a pilot in the West Virginia Air National Guard and also a private pilot, so he flew us up there. He is part of a flying club at Chesterfield County Airport. The club has several planes one of which is a DA-40 which we flew in. It is one of the sleekest and most enjoyable aircraft I have ever flown in. It’s a G1000, glass cockpit, four seat, 180 horsepower airplane that performs in all conditions.
The morning we left, we went early to the airport, so we could get into the air sooner. We tookoff from Chesterfield County Airport, climbed to 7,000 feet, and picked up our instrument flight plan. From here on out it was switch frequencies and watch for traffic. The DA-40 autopilot held its own in a very hefty headwind the whole way to new jersey. We saw some cool sights the whole way up the coast: Philadelphia, Dover Air Force Base, and a few marshes and trees. We saw these from a distance of course because if we got too close to either without permission, we would be safley escourted to the ground by at least one F-15 fighter jet. This of course did not happen, and the fact we had an IFR flight plan helped immensly. The route up was pretty direct with few deviations from the flight plan. It took us about two hours to fly to Monimouth Executive Airport, about 30 miles south of New York City.
We landed there and and had the plane refueled while we went out to lunch. One of the airport staff recommended a little bar and grill named Mulligans, so we took him up on it and ate at Mulligans Bar and Grill. I had a french dip sandwich for the first time there, and it was amazing. I would recommend the sandwich and the resturant. After lunch we went back to the airport and got ready to takeoff. From Monimouth Airport it was only about a 15 minute flight to the mouth of the Hudson River.
The Hudson River VFR corridor is a vary narrow and small space, so its reccomended that whoever flies through it should radio their position at certain checkpoints. Mike, my brother-in-law, let me do all the radio calls once we got into the corridor. The calls were at cetain landmarks as follows: “Hudon River VRF, Dimondstar 77AlphaMike, Statue of Liberty, northbound, 1200 feet.” There are about ten or so landmarks at which a pilot should make radio calls, most of which are bridges and big landmarks easy to spot. One of the landmarks is pictured below, The Intrepid. We also were not alone in this area. We watched about eight tourist and news helicopters fly all around us. The helicopters were supposed to stay below 900 feet, but few actually did. It was exciting at first, but after a while I got used to the situation and started to enjoy the view. It was scary to think how close we were to some of those sky scrapers, and about the terrorists that crashed on 9/11/01. That was a
fleeting thought because there was always another radio call to make. We saw just about all of New York City--without the stop-and-go traffic. Now that’s a deal if I’ve ever heard of one! We saw the Statue of Liberty, the new Freedom Tower being built, the Intrepid, the Empire State building, the George Washington Bridge, the Tappen Zee Bridge, the Verrazano Bridge, and Sing Sing prison. Once we got to the north end of it we intercepted our IFR flight plan back home.
We had a pretty serious tailwind on the flight home, so it was less than two hours. At one point we had a groundspeed of 200 knots. On the way home our flight plan was changed a few times but we sorted it out and continued on. This was a day I will remember for the rest of my life.