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Off the Beat City Schools: Teacher memorial; robotics club; woodworking fundraiser; summer gardening

  • Members of the Northampton High School Robotics Club driving their robot, Hal, at a recent post-season competition in Hartford, Conn. Photo courtesy of Whitney McMackin.

    Members of the Northampton High School Robotics Club driving their robot, Hal, at a recent post-season competition in Hartford, Conn. Photo courtesy of Whitney McMackin. Purchase photo reprints »

  • Members of the Northampton High School Robotics team pose with their robot Hal, at a recent post-season competition in Hartford, Conn. Photo courtesy of Whitney McMackin.

    Members of the Northampton High School Robotics team pose with their robot Hal, at a recent post-season competition in Hartford, Conn. Photo courtesy of Whitney McMackin. Purchase photo reprints »

  • Members of the Northampton High School Robotics Club driving their robot, Hal, at a recent post-season competition in Hartford, Conn. Photo courtesy of Whitney McMackin.
  • Members of the Northampton High School Robotics team pose with their robot Hal, at a recent post-season competition in Hartford, Conn. Photo courtesy of Whitney McMackin.

Friends and colleagues said Marsha Ciaschini, who taught second grade at Leeds School for 25 years, looked like a college student even after being diagnosed with a terminal illness.

Ciaschini died of pancreatic cancer in 2010 at age 59 after battling the disease for more than five years.

On Friday, the school community will hold a ceremony to unveil a memorial bench for Ciaschini at 3:30 p.m. on the playground at Leeds. Proceeds from a used book sale held earlier this year were used to create the memorial, along with donations from school families. It will be dedicated as Ciaschini’s last class of students, now in fifth grade, are preparing to move on to middle school.

A 2010 article in the Gazette described Caschini’s funeral this way: “The mass looked like one for a fallen police officer, as the faculty of Leeds School, both current and former, lined both sides of the steps at Florence’s Annunciation Church. “Colleague Nancy Harlow called the light in her eyes ‘a beacon of effervescence.’ ”

Ciaschini attended Northampton schools and Holyoke Community College. Members of her family will be present at Friday’s ceremony. For information, call the Leeds School, 587-1530.

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Robotics kudos

The Northampton High School Robotics Club’s second year involved fewer trophies than its inaugural year, when the group won a best rookie team award. Still, members said, this year has involved just as much learning and fun.

The 17-member team participated in two competitions with their robot, Hal — a First Robotics competition in Hartford, Conn., in March and a postseason “Battlecry” contest in May in Worcester. The challenge at this year’s First Robotics event was to create a robot that could throw frisbees into baskets and climb a small pyramid.

Club member Jonah Klein-Barton, a junior, took credit for naming the NHS robot.

“It had been being kind of temperamental so I named it Hal,” after the murderous computer in the movie “2001: A Space Odyssey,” he said.

Klein-Barton joined the club as a sophomore. The best thing about the experience is “learning to deal with unexpected problems as they arise and to work as a team,” he said.

Junior Johanna Rosenblum said the club is looking for new members — and not just programmers and engineers.

“We’re also looking to expand to more artsy people who can do design,” she said. “And we’re hoping to work more with people in the community” on business plans and other aspects of robotics. The NHS club will also be open in the fall to students from Smith Vocational and Agricultural High School, Rosenblum said.

Group members are working on a website that should be online sometime this summer. In the meantime, interested students can contact club mentor Whitney McMackin, a communications manager at UTC Aerospace Systems in Windsor Locks, Conn., at 860-654-3785.

•••

NHS woodworking club

The Northampton High School Woodworking Club is hosting a fundraising raffle for an end table designed by one of its members. Described in the school newsletter as a “takeoff of a classic Shaker design with a focus on simple elegance,” the table measures 30 inches high by 28 inches long. Raffle tickets are $5 or five for $20. Proceeds will benefit future club activities. Tickets are available by contacting NHS woodworking teacher Bob Melnick at 587-1344. A winner will be announced June 24.

•••

Summer garden help wanted

Jackson Street School is looking for some green thumbs to help keep the school garden going over the summer. The school will host two All Hands Needed Gardening Get Togethers on July 27 and Aug. 24 as a way of keeping teachers, school families and friends connected over the summer. For details, contact fourth-grade teacher Kathie Bredin, kbredin@northampton-k12.us.

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