Students' aeronautics site flies high - Catholic Courier

Students’ aeronautics site flies high

Do you believe the moon landing in 1969 really happened, or do you think it was a hoax filmed in the American desert?

Did you know that plants that grow straight and tall on earth will instead grow small and wild in space because they are unable to determine which way is up?

You can ponder these and other questions when you visit an award-winning Web site created by four 2004 graduates of St. Margaret Mary School, a pre-kindergarten-to-sixth grade diocesan school in Irondequoit.

The Web site can be found at, and is titled “The History of Space Travel and Flight.” It was produced for ThinkQuest, an international Web-site competition, by Cole Shaughnessy, Louisa Grizard and Maggie Bates, all currently seventh-graders at Siena Catholic Academy in Brighton; and Colleen Moonan, a seventh-grader at Dake Junior High in Irondequoit.

The students all recently returned from ThinkQuest Live, a Dec. 6-10 conference sponsored by the Oracle software company. The event featured a ceremony honoring student winners of the ThinkQuest competition, including the St. Margaret Mary graduates, who took first place in the ThinkQuest competition’s category for ages 12 and under. The four students, who traveled with their parents, said they all enjoyed their trip to San Francisco.

“It’s great to see all sorts of computer people who were really great in technology,” Louisa said.

“We got to interview older people, and they really cared what we thought and stuff,” Colleen said.

The children said they were able to meet other award-winning students from such places as Singapore and Hong Kong, and see the sights of San Francisco as well. Cole said he enjoyed the awards ceremony because the trophy was “crystal,” and added that participating in ThinkQuest piqued his interest in computer design. Maggie said she enjoyed the conference as well as San Francisco’s famed cable cars.

On the morning of Dec. 15, Colleen and the three Siena students were honored with a reception at Siena, according to Timothy Leahy, the school’s principal. The budding computer geniuses were asked to tell the student body the story of creating their Web site, he added.

The St. Margaret Mary graduates formed one of 12 award-winning student groups out of 378 groups from 29 nations that competed in the ThinkQuest competition. They had been coached in their efforts by Richard S. Hartmetz, the school’s educational technology coordinator, who noted this was the third consecutive year that a St. Margaret Mary team placed in the ThinkQuest competition, and the first time a school team took top honors in the ThinkQuest competition.

“(The team members) worked many long hours over many months, spending time after school, on Saturdays and on vacations to complete the research and programming that made up their site,” he said.

He noted that the students’ site contains almost 500 separate pages, as well as 450 pictures, 20 sound files and 25 movies. The students even obtained information from former U.S. Sen. John Glenn, the first American to orbit the earth and, later, the oldest man thus far to go into space. Glenn answered all the questions the children sent him in a letter, and provided additional informational materials as well, Hartmetz said.

The students now possess a wealth of knowledge about air and space travel. Indeed, Colleen noted that when her science class covered the subject of space this year, she “knew all the answers.” Yet it seems the lesson the children really took to heart was how to cooperate on reaching a common goal. All four remarked that they enjoyed working together on the project.

“I liked working with a group as fast as I could, but as organized as I could,” Colleen said.

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