Chaparral Students ‘Keep it Moving’ at JPL Design Contest

upside-down rubber band catapult pushed a spinning ball to the top of a 20-foot rain gutter ramp.

upside-down rubber band catapult pushed a spinning ball to the top of a 20-foot rain gutter ramp.

By Walnut Valley Unified

Congratulations to Chaparral Middle School sixth grade students Karissa Wong and Joshua Chou who won top awards in the “Keep it Moving” Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL) Design Competition.

The team brought home a 4th Place award at the regional contest last year and advanced to the finals.

The Chaparral students competed among 20 teams at the finals. Most were at the high school level, but that didn’t stop these determined middle school students.

Wong and Chou won 3rd Place and the Most Creative Design awards.

The objective of the Keep it Moving challenge was to invent a device to move a billiard ball between five to eight meters using three modes of transportation – gravity, any sort of spring, and a free choice of energy like a motor.

They designed an upside-down rubber band catapult to push the ball up to the top of a 20-foot long rain gutter ramp. The ball had to be kept moving (spinning didn’t count) the entire time during the contest.

The billiard ball rolled down the ramp by gravity until it was blocked by a servomotor arm, which moved back and forth to keep the ball moving very slowly for timing accuracy.

At a specific time, a computer commanded the arm to open up to let the ball continue to roll down and hits two triggering switches to turn on loud buzzers.   The entry also needed to initiate an audible sound as close to 20 seconds as possible, by the ball.

The Chaparral students clocked an impressive 20.218 or 0.218 second over the 20-second mark!

What was the best part of the experience?

“We liked the meetings and practices at Chick-fil-A best!” the pair exclaimed.

Quail Summit student wins national chess tournament

Quail Summit student Jonathan Chen beat first grade challengers from different states and won the title at the National K-12 Championship in Orlando.

Quail Summit student Jonathan Chen beat first grade challengers from different states and won the title at the National K-12 Championship in Orlando.

By Walnut Valley Unified

A six-year-old from Quail Summit Elementary has garnered the title of national champion. Jonathan Chen, a first grade student, represented his school during the National K-12 Championship held in Orlando, Florida.

Chen won the first-grade division with a perfect 7-0 score.The contest was held December 12-14.

Players with the same scores were paired against each other during seven rounds of competition. Each grueling round could last more than three hours.

“I am very happy and very proud of the biggest trophy and national champion title for my school!” Chen exclaimed.

Chen hopes to start a chess club so that next year he can bring a team trophy back to the school! The youngster from Diamond Bar has been playing chess for about two years.

His father introduced the game to him at age 4. He’s had a coach since he was in kindergarten and earned the youngest champion award in the 2013 American Open.

Last June, he won the 3rd Place trophy in the International Youth Championship, under 14-year-old division, held in Las Vegas.

A classmate asked Chen how he won all the games.

“I think it’s because I have more patience and more focus,” Chen replied.

Spark of Love program at Westhoff School

Second grader cowboys and cowgirls performed the story of “ Candy Cane Jane.”

Second grader cowboys and cowgirls performed the story of “ Candy Cane Jane.”

By Walnut Valley Unified

Westhoff Elementary presented its annual Spark of Love toy drive and holiday extravaganza. Students filled boxes with hundreds of new toys for needy children.

“For 22 years we’ve been making the lives of other children really special at this time of year,” said Principal Denise Rendon.

The Spark of Love toy drive is co-sponsored by Southland Firefighters and KABC7. Firefighters from Walnut Station #146 would later deliver the donations to needy children in the Los Angeles area.

Westhoff students loved the surprise snow delivered by Santa and his elves during the staff finale!

Westhoff students loved the surprise snow delivered by Santa and his elves during the staff finale!

“This holiday spirit restores the true meaning of Christmas. It shows us that everyone here has a chance to give to the less fortunate. And you’ve all truly done that here,” commented Captain Russell Blackschleger.

Each grade level took to the stage to perform a special holiday song. Westhoff parents and family members filled the school amphitheater for the school’s signature event. Kindergarteners wearing adorable oversized t-shirts, and red scarves and mittens opened the show with “White Christmas.”

First graders took the stage for “Christmas Conga” and second graders sang and danced with giant candy canes during “Candy Cane Jane.” Third graders joined the holiday program with “Christmas Cookies” followed by the fourth grade class singing “Rockin Around the Christmas Tree.”

Fifth graders showed their gymnastic, roller blade, dance, and baton talents during the high-energy “Big Time Rush.” Westhoff staff members performed a holiday line dance with Santa and his elves during the Walking in a Winter Wonderland finale.

Chaparral’s not “Frozen” out of Hour of Code in Diamond Bar

Chaparral Middle School in Walnut joined millions of students in over 180 countries to participate in “The Hour of Code.”  This year, the non-profit teamed up with Disney Interactive on a tutorial that lets young programmers help Frozen sisters Anna and Elsa make ice fractals and skating patterns using basic coding skills.

The Frozen tutorial will kick off the Hour of Code campaign designed to promote participation in computer science, especially among girls.

Hour of Code launched 2013 in an effort to introduce students to computer science, demystify coding, and demonstrate that anyone can learn the “basics” of coding.  Last year, Chaparral Cougars learned to code during this worldwide event and enjoyed engaging tutorials and lessons.

Some students even started a “coding club” as a result of their experiences, which remains a viable club on the Chaparral Middle School campus!

The school is excited about the problem-solving and logic building skills that the students will be developing this year as a result of “The Hour of Code”, and is confident that the lessons learned will build a foundation for their success in any 21stcentury career path that they may choose.

‘Lucky Cat’ author visits Walnut Elementary


By Walnut Valley Unified

Children’s author Sunny Seki introduced his tales ofJapanese folklore to Walnut Elementary students during a visit on Dec. 5. Before Seki was a published author, he was busy telling stories to his nine children at bedtime.

Over the years, as the stories multiplied and developed into slideshows, his wife Judy suggested that he write children’s books.  The couple eventually closed a successful photography business so Seki could pursue his dream of becoming a full-time author illustrator.

This idea for his first published book, The Tale of the Lucky Cat, was born when one of his children asked about the history of Japanese lucky cat. He couldn’t find any books on the subject, so he decided to write one.

“I’m the first one!” he said proudly of the award-winning book that retells the ancient legend of the humble toymaker who remembers a rescued cat by creating clay statues of a cat with a raised paw.

 Seki enlisted the help of a few Walnut Elementary students during a pantomime of the story. His wife narrated the book and showed slides during the assembly.

One student asked if he liked being an author. “I love it, so I can come see you guys!” Seki exclaimed.

He told the youngsters that creativity is the place where his stories begin. “Imagination comes first, then sketching, then a model (usually my kids), and then I start to draw.”

Seki shared the themes of his other published books Yuko-Chan and the Daruma Doll and The Last Kappa of Old Japan, along with his trove of vintage toy treasures. The author explained that the roly-poly Daruma dolls are a symbol of perseverance and good luck

“If you fall seven times, you get up eight times –and you never give up!”

The Seki Family was discovered bringing these creative stories to life with intricate shadow puppet shows and featured on the Disney Channel’s “What a Life!”


Another family was originally hired for the show, but they couldn’t act well in front of the camera.

“So, you never know what good luck is waiting for you!” the author said.

Diamond Bar High’s Acciani in finals for a Grammy

Diamond Bar High School Instrumental Music Director Steve Acciani

Diamond Bar High School Instrumental Music Director Steve Acciani

By Walnut Valley Unified

Diamond Bar High School Instrumental Music Director Steve Acciani has been named a finalist for the Grammy Music Educator Award. Ten teachers were selected from over 7,000 nominations around the country for their significant contributions to music education. Each finalist will receive $1,000 honorarium.

“We are extremely proud of the recognition that Mr. Acciani has earned from the Grammy Foundation. He is an inspirational music teacher and an integral part of who we are as a community. We are so happy for him!” said Principal Catherine Real.

This is Acciani’s 26th year teaching in the Walnut Valley Unified School District.

“I feel so fortunate to live and work in a community that recognizes the importance of the arts for our students. The school district and community continues to provide fantastic support for our programs, allowing us to do some pretty amazing things,” Acciani said.

While the Grammy ceremony is held to present artists with the recording industry’s most prestigious award, the Grammy Foundation and Recording Company will also honor one local hero. The winner will be announced during the 57th Annual Grammy Awards on Feb. 8.

For the second year, the Grammy Music Educator Award will pay tribute to a special teacher for his/her remarkable impact on students. The winner will be flown to Los Angeles to accept the award, attend the Grammy Awards ceremony, and receive a $10,000 honorarium.

On Nov. 11, Grammy honorary chairman and “American Idol” host Ryan Seacrest visited Diamond Bar High to congratulate Acciani on being named one of the 25 semifinalists for the award.

Diamond Bar High was named the 2014 National Grammy Signature School becoming the first high school in California to receive the prestigious award.

Mustang golfers sign college letters of intent

Walnut High senior Patricia Wong pledged to play golf and attend Pepperdine University

Walnut High senior Patricia Wong pledged to play golf and attend Pepperdine University

By Walnut Valley Unified

Two Walnut High School seniors, Serena Hou and Patricia Wong, signed letters of intent to play golf in college on November 12. “Congratulations to both of you – we’re proud and excited,” said Principal Jeff Jordan.

Their families, teammates, and coach were on hand for the lunchtime ceremony.

“I’m very excited,” said Hou, who will play at Southern Illinois University. “I’ve been working so hard all my life to reach this goal and my parents have been very supportive. And now we’re here!”

Wong will play at Pepperdine University next year. “My hand shook a little during the signing, but it’s a wonderful day,” the 17-year-old exclaimed.“I feel so blessed for this crazy opportunity!”

Pepperdine was also her first campus visit. “It went so well, I said ‘this is my last visit – I want to go here!’”

Wong said she couldn’t have achieved the dream without the support of her family.

The Mustang Girls Golf team with Coach Cecil Wood had a perfect 28-0 regular season. The team won the CIF Championship, CIF Southern Section championship, and competed in the state semifinals, explained Athletic Director Jerry Person.

Ryan Seacrest honors Diamond Bar teacher

American Idol host Ryan Seacrest, left, celebrates with Diamond Bar High music director Steve Acciani.

American Idol host Ryan Seacrest, left, celebrates with Diamond Bar High music director Steve Acciani.

“American Idol” star Ryan Seacrest visited Diamond Bar High on Veteran’s Day to honor Music Director Steve Acciani, a semifinalist for the Grammy Music Educator Award.

The event was hosted by KIIS FM, which kept the students and families entertained while they waited for the television star to arrive.

Seacrest is an honorary chairman for the Grammy Foundation. He took time from his hectic schedule to meet one of the 25 national semifinalists. Music Director Buddy Clements at Walnut High is also a semifinalist.

Photos: American Idol host Ryan Seacrest visits Diamond Bar High

The award recognizes outstanding music teachers who have made significant contributions to music education.

“I was surprised when they called me two weeks ago and said they wanted to come out to meet me,” Acciani said. “I think its great for them to help support our music program.”

The gregarious teacher had to fight his way through the crowds to get to the stage when Seacrest called out his name. It seemed like all 700 students in the Brahmas music program showed up for the event.

Read more in Rich Irwin’s story IDOL.

Ryan Seacrest visits Diamond Bar High for Grammy semifinalist

Please join American Idol’s Ryan Seacrest, The Grammy Foundation, KIIS FM, and the Ford Motor Company to celebrate Diamond Bar High School’ Steve Acciani being named a national semifinalist for the Grammy Music Educator Award on Tuesday, November 11.

Come and help support the Diamond Bar High School Music Program!

Diamond Bar High School will be participating in the Ford Motor Company’s Drive 4 UR School national test drive program to help raise money for the school’s outstanding music program.

GRAMMY Foundation Honorary Chair Ryan Seacrest will be on hand to join members of the Diamond Bar community who participate and support DBHS by test-driving a new Ford vehicle.

For every person over 18 who test-drives at this one-day event, Ford Motor Company and Fairway Ford will donate $20, up to $6,000, to Diamond Bar’s music education program.

The event will also feature all 700 DBHS instrumental music students performing, and be hosted by KIIS FM.

The event will take place on Tuesday, November 11, from 11:00am until 5:00pm, with Ryan Seacrest expected to join the celebration from 1pm until 3pm.

Food trucks will be on hand, so come spend some time enjoying an afternoon out with the community.

Diamond Bar High School is located at 21400 E. Pathfinder Road in Diamond Bar.

Quail Summit students mix it up in Diamond Bar

Students stepped out of their comfort zones to connect with other students during Mix It Up Day at Quail Summit Elementary.

Students stepped out of their comfort zones to connect with other students during Mix It Up Day at Quail Summit Elementary.

By Walnut Valley Unified

Quail Summit Elementary students joined the national Mix It Up at Lunch Day on October 28. The event provides students with an opportunity to move out of their comfort zones and connect with someone new.

And that’s just what they did! As the youngsters came out for lunch recess they visited three stations where parent volunteers passed out conversation starter cards.

“The best thing about today is that they are making new friends!” said parent Vivian Liao.

The cards had prompts like “Find someone who likes to play handball” and “Find someone who has ridden Space Mountain at Disneyland.”

After the boys and girls met a new friend that matched their inquiry, they received a puzzle piece, and a new card. When they earned four pieces to solve the puzzle, the kids received a green Mix It Up Day wristband, frozen treat, and hand stamp. They could also join the Cupid Shuffle dance party hosted by teachers Jessica Cabral and Erin Ruhl.

Several 5th graders volunteered to help with younger students during the primary grade lunch.

“I remember doing this in 1st grade!” recalled Asha Longsworth. She buddied up with second grader Whitney who liked being with her new big friend.

The innovative activity helps to create a school environment where respect and inclusiveness are core values. Quail Summit was designated as a Mix It Up Model School in 2013.