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Mars Rover Team
  • Campus Life
  • Education
Rachelle Garbarine

Aspiring student engineers are building a replica of NASA's Mars Rover and, at the same time, having fun, involving the entire school community, and establishing a legacy.

It is a bold undertaking: Build a replica of NASA’s Mars Rover and give it such Gibbons touches as a name, voice, and arm. A team of aspiring student engineers accepted that challenge and have been creating the rover over the last five months while having fun, involving the entire school community, and establishing a legacy.

Essentially, the rover will be completed this month, in time for it to be part of Astronomy Days, January 26 and 27, at the NC Museum of Natural Sciences. Its voice and arm, however, will be added in the near future.

The idea for the rover started last August when Gibbons Science Educator Diane Ripollone spotted an item in a NASA newsletter. It detailed how the agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) released plans for a rover would-be astronauts could build using commercial parts and following an instruction manual.

Ripollone, Gibbons parent John Toebes, her co-moderator of the school’s Robotics Club, and Principal Jason D. Curtis, jumped at the opportunity, which The Cardinal Gibbons Fund made possible for students. “The added hope,” she said, “is that the rover will be part of the school community forever.”

To build the rover, JPL’s plans call for a simplified version of the original journeying around the red planet.

 Still, Ripollone said, the rover the students are building is a finely detailed model made of metal with 3-D plastic parts and a head with a LED-lighted face that students can control or program to run.

The students, members of the robotics team or the physics and space explorers’ clubs, are enjoying the real-world experience of building the rover. Learning in such an environment creates instant engagement, Ripollone said, adding that while a dozen students are involved in the construction, the project is reaching hundreds, including alumni.

Students also are going beyond what is required by hopefully adding voice and an arm to their rover, which they jokingly say will bring Mr. Curtis coffee. They also have been revising portions of the instruction manual, “to document our process in working out problems … and to help other students,” noted Mihir Nagaraj ’19. He, Peter Jackson ’19, and Jonathan Heinske ’21, lead the student rover team. The trio will post revisions, helpful hints, and suggestions on an online forum for students in other high schools to follow.

Building the rover comes with challenges, which have included dealing with the wiring and electrical systems as well asprogrammingg code. Yet, all involved with the project agree, there have been far more rewards. Among them are seeing the project evolve from thousands of pieces to a functioning rover; as well as exploring a possible career path. All three student leaders are contemplating studying engineering in college. The collaboration that has taken place along the way is another plus.

A key goal of the rover project has been to involve as many school groups as possible. For instance, tech theater students built a mock Mars terrain to test the replica’s mobility and functionality. And Gibbons’ academic team is sponsoring a rover naming contest.

In the afternoon of January 9th Ripollone will skype with JPL Data Scientist Michael Cox, an architect of the build-a-rover-plan, reinforcing the real-world lessons students have experienced since beginning the project. She also plans to reinforce those lessons by bringing the science they are learning into the classroom. Mindful of that, she is working with the Arizona State University Advisory Board to develop a lesson plan that blends the physics of the rover with the geology of Mars.

Ultimately, the hope is to share the lessons learned from the building process with Gibbons’ Catholic middle school partners by incorporating the rover into the curriculum for robotics camp this summer. Other outreach efforts include taking the rover to area middle schools, with one of the first planned stops at St. Mary School in Goldsboro.

So, what message does the rover project send? “It shows that if you put your mind to it, “said Jonathan, “you can accomplish almost anything you want to do.” Mihir added, “it is cool to see what can happen when Gibbons comes together as a community.”  “And,” Peter noted, “it showcases the opportunities Gibbons offers its students.”

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  • alumni
  • Campus Life
  • educators
  • Gibbons Education
  • Only at Gibbons
  • Physics
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Celebrating Registrar Annette Jay
  • Campus Life
  • Education
  • Faith
Rachelle Garbarine

Registrar Annette Jay will retire in December after 40 years of dedicated service. To celebrate her retirement, we retrace her time at Gibbons and the impact she has had on the school as a faithful servant leader.

Editor’s Note: Registrar Annette Jay will retire from Cardinal Gibbons on December 18 after 40 years of dedication and service. In celebration of her retirement, we retrace her time at Gibbons in the story below as well as the impact she has had on the school as a faithful servant leader and the impact Gibbons has had on her.

Walk into Registrar Annette Jay’s office and scattered about the room are keepsakes of her 40 years at Cardinal Gibbons. The bulletin board behind her desk is covered with photos of the children of current and former employees – her Gibbons family album. And amid service awards and citations neatly placed on the shelves of a corner bookcase, is a picture of Assisi in Italy, a favorite spot of Annette’s. There is also a print of Br. Michel Bettigole OSF, a former Gibbons principal who passed away last year, and who she lovingly describes as a member of her family.

To be sure, family is a word Annette used often during a recent interview when talking about what she has loved most about Gibbons and what has kept her working here for four decades, a distinction she alone can claim. With that distinction comes the unofficial title of school historian. Want to know about the daily life of the school in the 70s, whether a student truly graduated from Gibbons, or what certain alumni, now current employees, were like as students? The response is always - ask Annette.

She is also the first person many say they met when they arrived at Gibbons. Not surprising since she has held varied positions since 1978 when she accepted the part-time position of office secretary. Back then, Gibbons was much smaller, 200 students and 23 educators, notes Annette who was one of three people running the day-to-day operation of the school then administered by the Sisters of Notre Dame. “There were many jobs to do and hats to wear,” Annette says, adding by way of explanation, “everything the principal didn’t do, I did, but I loved being at the school -immediately.”

"...From students to alumni, and educators to their children, everyone knows that Mrs. Jay will welcome them with open arms, give wise and thoughtful advice, and leave them feeling loved and valued. What a blessing Annette is to all of us, and what a loving legacy she will leave for generations of Gibbons families to come,” notes Principal Jason Curtis.

Gibbons, for its part, loved her back. In addition to knowing facts and figures about Gibbons, Annette also knows its mission and its ministries. How? Mainly, because she has experienced every aspect of the school’s culture, from attending retreats and leadership conferences, to chairing committees and serving on academic boards and strategic planning groups. She has also interacted with and cared for its people – in good times and bad.

She is the person who sends out birth announcements about future Crusaders, updates about members of her Gibbons family who are sick, and notices of loved ones who have passed. At the same time, if you need to discuss a plan or policy, seek advice, or just talk; you head straight to Annette. For some, the trek from their offices to hers is a daily ritual.

Anyone with a connection to Gibbons has a memory of Annette. Just ask Principal Jason Curtis. “Even when my children were very young, Annette’s office was always their first stop on campus. From students to alumni, and educators to their children, everyone knows that Mrs. Jay will welcome them with open arms, give wise and thoughtful advice, and leave them feeling loved and valued. What a blessing Annette is to all of us, and what a loving legacy she will leave for generations of Gibbons families to come.”

And here is what Director of Outreach Ministry Gary Meyerl ’82, an alum turned employee, has to say: “She was the first person to welcome me when I transferred into Gibbons as a student in 1980. She was an anchor of support during my first year teaching in 1986. And through the years, Annette has remained a cherished friend who I can turn to for a listening ear and prayerful support.”

While current students may not know her personally, they know of her. Annette is the person they see at halftime during the Homecoming Football game crowning the king and queen, and at graduation offering help, from replacing lost tassels to distributing programs. Graduation 2019 is sure to be different.

Annette has seen quite a bit of change during her decades-long tenure. Beyond more students and more buildings, she says the participation in clubs and athletics, a passion of hers, has been amazing. “To see how far we’ve come since the 70s … doing so well in all these current sports … and moving all the way up to 4A has been very rewarding,” Annette notes.

There are moments during our Monday morning interview when the memories are overwhelming, and her eyes fill with tears. Taking time to recall the favorite, of what she says are scores of wonderful memories, she tells this story: “When I came here, I hadn’t had a birthday cake in years, suddenly my birthday rolls around and they bring in a cake for me and make a big deal out of my birthday.”  The point, she notes, is that, “I have always felt people at the school cared about me and each other, that’s what makes a community… having Christ at the center of the school is why it is warm and welcoming.”

That is also why she stayed. Of her time at Gibbons, she adds: “…This is where I belong. I feel God gave this to me as my ministry and I am thankful it was here and not someplace that wasn’t as much fun... It all has been a blessing ... Gibbons is part of my family and I have been proud to be associated with it.”

That association will continue even after she retires, Annette stresses, pointing out that she will be around at athletic events as well as dance and drama performances. That is in between the time she intends to spend with her family and to travel – a trip to the Canadian Rockies by train already is on the horizon.

As the morning light casts shadows on her desk, Annette ponders one last question: What does she want people to remember about her? After a short pause she replies, “That I loved the school and always will.”

  • Campus Life
  • educators
  • Gibbons Education
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  • Registrar Annette Jay