The king's subjectS
Reflections by the People of TKA
TKA is expanding opportunities for students to pursue engineering, within the curriculum and through co-curricular activities. What started with a few parent volunteers shepherding students interested in robotics in an after school program led to the creation of two FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) robotics teams (MidKnight Madness and MidKnight Mahem) plus engineering and robotics courses offered as electives in the junior high and high school curriculums. Moreover, TKA has plans to build a STEAM building with a state-of-the-art “makerspace,” a place where students can design, experiment, build, and invent as they deeply engage in science, engineering, and tinkering. To make this vision possible, God has been faithful in providing passionate mentors who are committed to exposing more students to the wonders of robotics and engineering.
TKA Robotics Teams Thrive Under Skilled and Dedicated Mentors
Betsy Atler was determined to bring robotics to TKA so her sons could continue to pursue their passion, and other students might discover a new interest as well. She knew there would be a demand, and indeed, it proved overwhelming. Thus, Atler recruited TKA parent and engineer, Randy Andrews, who has been a mentor to TKA’s robotics since it began in 2014. Both have remained committed to building TKA’s robotics program, even though their children have graduated from TKA.
A proud electrical engineering graduate of Georgia Institute of Technology, Mrs. Atler is currently a Design Controls Engineer at Intuitive Surgical, Inc., who brings fifteen years of marketing and engineering experience from working at Intel. She explains her commitment to robotics: “Robotics programs demonstrate to students what real-world engineering is all about: diagnosing issues, solving problems, selling ideas.” Mrs. Atler’s dedication to improving many aspects of The King’s Academy experience resulted in an invitation to serve on TKA’s School Board, where she has been a member since 2012.
Mr. Randy Andrews fondly recalled that as a child, he always liked taking stuff apart and trying to make things that worked. As a young adult, he studied mechanical and electrical engineering at MIT. His freshman advisor at MIT was legendary, Woodie Flowers, one of the co-founders of the FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC). Mr. Andrews went on to work at Hewlett Packard's corporate research lab doing robotics. He is the founder of Douloi Automation (1991), where he currently works full-time creating motion control technology.
Mr. Andrews is passionate about “using the creative aspect of God's image that's been given to us,” and having a "Genesis experience where a thought becomes a real creation and a breath (expressed as software with lots of typing) places a humble kind of life into that creation." While mentoring students in robotics, he sees students “move from being tentative and cautious to having the courage to take the initiative and exercise leadership.” He has enjoyed witnessing the evolution of student robotics competitions. The trend is for the devices to do more on their own as well as being driver-controlled. This robot autonomy requires much more software programming, so students learn both mechanics and software. “It is a marvel when it all comes together and works! When it doesn’t,” Andrews says, “students must become detectives and problem solvers.” His sense of wonder is evident in the enthusiasm he displays for coaching robotics. In 2017, at the NorCal Regionals tournament, Mr. Andrews won the Compass Award for his outstanding guidance and support.
This fall, a new mentor on the scene, Annette Lane, began teaching Robotics Engineering and Programming to junior high students, as well as Project Lead The Way (PLTW) Introduction to Engineering Design to high school students. Mrs. Lane earned her BS from the University of Puerto Rico and has extensive knowledge and expertise in robotics and engineering. A long-time industry professional with fourteen years at IBM, Mrs. Lane developed the Valley Christian technology curriculum and then started VC’s robotics program in 2004 with two junior high FIRST robotics teams. After retiring, with fourteen years of service at Valley Christian, Mrs. Lane got a call from Mrs. Atler, whom she had met through robotics competitions. In fact, when starting TKA’s robotics, Mrs. Atler sought out Mrs. Lane as a mentor. Mrs. Atler informed her that TKA had been praying for a robotics/engineering teacher. God had answered prayers!
Mrs. Lane is inspired to “bring kids to Christ through robotics” and to “teach students organization, business, teamwork, focus, graphic design, inventory systems, machine shop and more, so they can have a career in whatever field they choose.” She stresses to students that “excellence is never achieved, only pursued. The goal is to get better every day. In Christ, we achieve perfection only when we die.”
Mrs. Lane’s vision for TKA is eventually to have one FIRST Lego League Team (FLL), one or two FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) teams, and a FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) team.
One example of the impact of TKA robotics can be found in Andrew Hartley (11th grade). Andrew secured an internship last summer with OhmniLabs (a 3D printer robotics company) after learning about it on a field trip with the robotics team. Andrew wrote his mentors to tell them about his summer:
The skills I have learned from robotics have been extremely helpful at work, from presenting ideas to rapid prototyping and quick solutions. Communication with teammates has proven to be very important. During robotics, the meetings in which we established our objectives for the day are similar to the quick, objective engineering meeting every morning at work. My last project this summer has been designing and building a machine that can paint its own paintings. This has been my favorite project as it has required me to reach out for lots of help as I am not experienced with AI. To me, it has been a dream summer, and every day I think about how the skills we learned in robotics perfectly prepared me for my internship. I am so grateful that we have a robotics program at school, and I am very excited for another season with the team.
Another example is Cassidy French, Class of 2016. According to Atler, Cassidy was “our first business operations manager” during the first two years the team existed. She also contributed to hardware as she gained confidence. Cassidy decided to minor in IT, along with pursuing a business degree at Grand Canyon University (Phoenix, AZ) and credited her experience with TKA robotics for that decision.
The majority of the Robotics budget comes from individual and corporate donations, including company matching gifts for volunteer hours.
The following companies have provided either financial or material donations, and TKA is very grateful for their generous support: Intuitive Surgical, Inc., Google, Douloi Automation, Adobe, Intel, LinkedIn
For More Information
To learn more about TKA robotics, including details about the design process and each season’s results, please visit the robotics webpages at www.tka.org/robotics. For questions email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kriss Hayward, Director of Marketing & Communications
Like it or not, one of the trending questions that confronts us in our modern “post-truth” times is: Does truth matter? The answer to this question likely varies depending on someone’s worldview—the lens through which they view the world.
The person who is a relativist will, of course, respond that everyone has their own truth. From someone committed to scientism, the answer will likely be: Of course truth matters, contingent that it can be found only through scientific means. A third perspective may emerge from a committed pragmatist: Truth matters only if it advances your goals. The youth of today might even deny that truth exists as they become jaded by polarized views, misleading news, and less than forthright leadership.
There is a parallel question that seems utterly lost in the loud voices of today’s “post-post-Christian” culture: Does Christianity still matter?
If they even return your call, those same relativists and pragmatists might confess that Christianity could matter—if it works for you, then you can believe what you want, as long as it does not harm or offend others. The response from scientism might be,"Absolutely not"—religion is a distraction from knowing and following what is true and right. Are our kids even aware of these competing worldviews? How are they to make sense of any moral controversies in society like same-sex marriage, abortion, or euthanasia?
At TKA, there is a strong value of equipping students to confidently and logically confront these worldviews WHEN they are encountered (not IF they are encountered). When they are showered with worldview input from media, social media, neighbors, friends, and university dorm-mates, we want them to be able to contend for the faith (Jude 1:3) and to live freely by knowing truth (John 8:31) instead of being imprisoned by a lie. This means they should be inoculated against worldview errors instead of being isolated from them.
When our students hear the assertion that the Bible says, “There is no God,” we want them to acknowledge this is true, but to kindly and truthfully share the full Biblical context in response: “The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God,’” (Psalm 14:1). When our students hear that there are hundreds of contradictions in the Bible, they should ask those promoting the claim to please point them out, and ask for a definition of “contradiction.” When the atheist in the crowd asserts that there is no absolute truth, our students should be prepared to respond with a simple question: Is that absolutely true?
In my first career as a Marine Corps combat helicopter pilot, truth literally held the power of physical life or death. If it was true that your weapons were loaded with practice rounds, others would live. But if it was false, the results would have been tragic. In my second career as a Christian educator, the truth of the Gospel holds the power of eternal life or death. This holds consistently true while engaging in all areas of academics, athletics, and the arts. I would suggest we need to not let up on prioritizing the studies of logic and apologetics for our students so they can live freely, and be enabled to keep the fibers of truth and integrity unbroken, which assuredly are the very fibers that hold our society together.
Matt Nisbet, Director of Operations
"Success is peace of mind, which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming." - John Wooden.
Coach Wooden's philosophy on coaching was also his philosophy on life. A devout follower of Jesus Christ, he kept a small cross in his hand while coaching during a contest as a reminder of why he was there. He won a record 10 NCAA Championships at UCLA during his illustrious career (including 7 in a row from 1967-1973). However, Wooden said his highest satisfaction came from seeing his players go on to be productive members of society off the court.
At The King's Academy, we adhere to the same values and principles as Coach Wooden. Our coaches are encouraged to love their players, thus, building them up to become champions both on and off the field or court.
We have our own legendary coaches at TKA. Varsity football coach, Pete Lavorato (who just won his 7th CCS Championship in the past ten years, the last two with TKA), tells his football teams at the beginning of each season that his primary responsibility is to, "love you." He goes on to say that their primary responsibility is to "love each other." "If we do this," he adds, "we will accomplish great things!"
Coach Lavorato's heart is the sentiment of all of our coaches at The King's Academy. Building champions is our primary goal, not the pursuit of championships.
Greg Mugg, varsity baseball coach and two time CCS Champion with TKA (2018, 2019) shares, " . . . The emphasis here at TKA has never been on winning championships. Instead, it's about the process of improving yourself every day. Mentally, physically, and spiritually. You must have a destination, but the question is, how are you going to get there? Focus on the process of being the best version of yourself every day! Follow God's plan, and salvation will be your destination. Plan with a purpose and have a purpose with your plan!"
As reflected in our coaching philosophy, TKA's athletic motto is "I AM A CHRISTIAN! I AM A CHAMPION! I AM A KNIGHT!" Our goal is to train up athletes committed to living a life of excellence and becoming Champions in every aspect of their lives, working unto the Lord always. I invite you to read more about the vision and values of TKA's athletic program.
Joe Maemone, TKA Athletic Director
At the start of a recent TKA parent seminar, "A Well-Balanced Student," Ms. Coté, the speaker from Stanford's Challenge Success program, started by asking the parent-dominated audience what attributes were most important to being successful. "Self-sufficient," one parent shouted while others chuckled knowingly. "Caring," another parent answered. "Understanding," "Happy," "Confident," "Content," "God-driven," and "Resilient" were some of the other answers.
Ms. Coté smiled. "You know what children say is success? Money. Popularity. Grades."
It's true; I can attest to it.
It's interesting how differently parents and students define success. It sounds like students are more materialistic. But high school is the time for us to start thinking about our futures. Which college should I apply to? Will I get in? What should I major in? Will I find a job? Will I like my job? Can I support myself and my future family with my income? It's hard to be optimistic and spiritual when there is so much uncertainty. It's hard to value the spiritual when we have to think about material things every day.
I love the illustration of stress that was performed in a skit, where people representing a variety of stressors (several teachers, coaches, peers) crowd around and literally tug on a student until he is completely surrounded, pulled in different directions. Students have so much to do: classes, sports, instruments, clubs, and jobs, just to name the most common. It's always hard to accomplish it all with so little time, but sometimes a student like the one from the skit will really overcommit themselves and find themselves expected to do more than is physically capable. Social time gets cut. Sleep is sacrificed. Life turns into one never-ending race to beat the next deadline.
Our parents don't always seem to understand this. My mom loves to tease me about things I did as a baby. But parents need to remember that their babies grow up. The way they treated us ten or fifteen years ago won't work for us today. We need trust and some space to act on our own decisions. Prior to the seminar, TKA students participated in an exercise where they anonymously shared on index cards one thing they wished their parents knew. Some of the "I wish my parents knew..." examples really resonated with me:
- "Taking a break, or in their eyes 'being lazy,' is literally what keeps me going and is absolutely necessary."
- "I'm capable of making good decisions all by myself."
- "I can't always be perfect or try my hardest all the time."
- "They [parents] are the cause of my stress."
Ms. Coté gave a few suggestions. For example, parents can help their children to sort out their priorities, avoid overscheduling, and cut non-essential activities.
Ryan's mom is an example of one extreme (and harmful!) way of managing a student. High school isn't just about APs and grades. It is much better to balance academics and extracurriculars; after all, sometimes you learn as much from team activities and clubs as from books.
But the opposite extreme - not motivating students at all - can be just as harmful. Another of Ms. Coté's suggestions was to decrease pressure by not publishing college matriculation data and canceling award ceremonies, ostensibly to reduce the atmosphere of competition in schools. This is where I, sympathetic to fellow students as I may be, have to disagree. High school is the place where we prepare for our future. That future necessarily entails competition, and schools should not encourage students to ignore this truth just to avoid hurting some of their feelings. Workplaces are the sites of constant competition between coworkers. When a young adult graduates from college and finds work, he will go through performance reviews and be compared to his co-workers every single year. He will see that some people are rapidly promoted up the ladder, while others struggle to keep their jobs or miss promotions year after year. It is a school's job to teach him the skills and mindsets needed to survive in a work environment. Schools should not give young people the illusion that life is non-competitive. Instead, they should build a healthy environment for students to learn how to face challenges and failures, to strive for improvement and embrace competition.
If you are looking for the perfect school, The King’s Academy is not it for your child. Just like there is no perfect church or perfect work place or perfect spouse, there is no perfect school. But there are amazing churches, and amazing workplaces, and amazing spouses, and the common thread is: loving relationships that build up, the ability to adapt while remaining true to core values, the striving for excellence as a team set by a loving, all wise God. And, this has been our family’s experience while here at TKA in the past 9 years.
I don’t have to tell you that life here in the fast-paced Bay Area is full of stress and pressure. We did not enroll our boys in TKA as a shelter in a storm of the performance expectation that is the Bay Area. Instead, we enrolled them to find The King’s Academy staff and faculty to be partners with us in gaining wisdom in how to best grow our children to be wise in navigating and engaging our culture without becoming a product of it.
As a parent, I have been to many seminars that taught this mantra: more is caught than taught. And while I have been known to give too many unheard lectures to my teenagers, I have seen the value of the amazing faculty at TKA modeling what it means to honor God with an attitude of submission, sacrifice, and surrender without being a doormat. The children have many daily opportunities to observe the behavior of teachers: in class, hanging out in classrooms with teachers during lunch, speaking with them during advisory hours on Wednesday mornings, or after school or during brunch when they need some extra help, and on week-long service trips. My boys have been on every science camp and class retreat, traveled with TKA sports teams, and have gone to Washington D.C., New York, Mexico, Brazil, and the Philippines on service trips. On these excursions, they are firsthand witnesses to the many choices for staff to get stressed, be overly task-oriented, and become overwhelmed with the responsibility of caring for a crowd of middle and high school students. However, my boys have always come back with a greater understanding of how to serve and make a difference, with Godly compassion, to the most marginalized in the world and amongst their classmates because their trip leaders modeled Godly man and womanhood.
I have been so impressed with the coaches and trainers that spend many hours with our kids at TKA. They not only emphasize unity with God, first priority effort towards academics before sports, and unity with other teammates as the recipe for becoming a Godly man or woman, but they model it. We have experienced such team unity in the 9 years we’ve attended, and it is a testimony to how much these coaches and trainers pray for these kids and model how they want the kids to think and act.
Speaking of prayer, I am the lead this year for a group of moms who meet every week to pray for each child by name who attends our school. Every mom with a child at our school is invited. Each week, we pray for a different department within the school, and we ask the teachers and staff in the department if they have any prayer requests. And though we are a strictly confidential group, I know they don’t, they can’t, share specifics about every prayer request or praise they have, but the ones they do ask us to pray give me great insight into how much these teachers and staff care for our precious children and how much they pray that the Lord gives them opportunities to make eternal impact on our kids. This care and great responsibility is not only exhibited by the praying college counselors as well as Science, Math, English, and Bible teachers, but also the men and women who serve the lunches, staff the student store, troubleshoot and monitor all the IT, tirelessly set up and tear down as part of the facilities team, and of course, staff all the support offices. We hear prayer requests from every department that reveal their hearts for serving the Lord and for serving our children.
My boys are teenagers, so it's natural that they come home with complaints about this teacher or that staff member, and yet they know—they feel—the undercurrent of care and partnership these same teachers have cultivated. And, my boys learn to adapt, learn to persevere. The King’s Academy culture has grown in both my boys the mature confidence to respectfully advocate for themselves, to boldly get early help from teachers and staff, and to seek out contacts and network. This has been an invaluable asset to my older one who is now a sophomore at University of Michigan which is a giant school and where he has navigated well because of these skills he has gained.
No, I am not saying TKA is the equivalent of utopia for middle and high school in the Bay Area. But if you are looking for a school peopled with staff and faculty who not only value and teach but model loving relationships that build up, who have the ability to adapt while remaining true to core values, and who strive for excellence as a team set by a loving all wise God, then welcome, The King’s Academy is that school.
Valerie Chiang, TKA Parent
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