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Swimming in New Opportunities

The Jersey Hammerheads Swim Team is not your average swim team; all of the swimmers on this team have one thing in common that unites them but makes them ultimately completely different: they are all autistic. Michael and Rosa McQuay, who have an autistic son, started the Jersey Hammerheads. These parents saw so much more potential in him than what was being given to him through school, and knew that other parents of autistic children must be feeling the same way. Although these children are autistic, they can find ways to succeed on other levels and become dedicated, skilled, and motivated through other mediums. One of these perfect opportunities happens to be a swim team. 

The Jersey Hammerheads now has a total of seventeen swimmers, all of which have worked to learn how to swim and happily join a team where they can bond with other teammates on a much more personal level. In school, these children are often seen as “different”, but at practice and in the pool, they are one and the same all working to achieve the same goals: to succeed at national and international levels. Michael McQuay speaks of how they have already had swimmers compete in the Special Olympic Trials and win Special Olympic medals; a huge feat and success for these kids who deserve to be praised more often for their larger-than-life accomplishments. No longer do these kids have to feel ostracized and held back; they have each other as a team and are competing for gold medals like any other swimming enthusiast.

The video article highlights one swimmer in particular named Robert. Robert is in the eleventh grade, but he is at a fourth grade comprehension level. His mother, Rosa, describes her frustration and agony with Robert’s schooling because she feels like it is difficult to adequately prepare someone with autism for a real world job. She wants to see him do something more than restocking shelves at a Walmart, and she knows that he is capable of doing so. Robert is an inspiration and a motivator for the whole team; he has taken over the role of “captain” for the swim team and takes that responsibility seriously. He loves to have team meetings and pep talks to inspire the other swimmers that they can win gold medals too! Robert now talks of becoming a swim coach or instructor when he grows older, which would prove to be a great fit for him and a fun and successful career.

One of the sweetest moments is when Robert is showing off his new letterman jacket that he has acquired for one of his three swim teams. He proudly wears the jacket that represents the typical popular jock, but Robert defies all those stereotypes with his jacket, and he should be proud to represent such an accomplished group of people. The Jersey Hammerheads have opened up doors and opportunities for people who do not have to be smart in the classroom to be successful. Though a large part of our society is based on schooling, there are still plenty of activities and careers that are hands-on and active, and this is the kind of stimulating environment that some students, like these autistic children, need.

Click here to watch the full video of Robert's story featured in the New York Times article on the Jersey Hammerheads. 


--Jessalyn Kieta

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Birthday Brainteaser

Most math riddles rattle your brain for a bit, but in the end, you are always able to find an answer. This math riddle, however, proved to be much too difficult, even for adults. Teacher Mr. Kong originally presented a riddled math problem to fifth graders in a Singapore classroom. The young children agonized over figuring out Cheryl’s birthday, trying to prove they “were way better at math than everyone else.” In truth, the math problem was actually from a math Olympiad test for high school students.

What is this mysterious advanced math problem, you ask? Well, it has to do with trying to find out Cheryl’s age! Here is what the problem was:


The math problem is not worded the best in the first place, but still is a math problem meant for mathematicians well beyond fifth graders.

The problem was eventually solved and explained through another article put out by the Times. This explanation looks at the dialogue exchanged back and forth between Albert and Bernard and the subtle indications that have been given based on the information that one man received and comparing it to dates and months that have multiple options. As you can see, there’s a lot more thought that has been poured into these responses even though they are extremely vague!

Try putting yourself to the test; do you think that you could fare with this classroom of fifth graders and figure out the math problem?

There are a lot of assumptions made in riddles, and a lot of “why?” questions. For example, if Bernard and Albert both claim that they know Cheryl’s birthday, why didn’t they just reveal their information instead of hiding their answer? Also, we must make an assumption that Albert and Bernard are actually telling the truth about knowing the answer. After working on these assumed truths, each exchange of dialogue brings the mathematician one step closer to Cheryl’s birthday by eliminating doubled options in different ways.

If you are interested in learning how to solve this math problem, you can read this follow up article about how to solve Cheryl’s birthday.


--Jessalyn Kieta

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Energy Efficiency Meets Aesthetics

The redundant 9-to-5 workdays can seem to drain the life and energy out of you, even though you’ve only been sitting at your white plastic desk with your gray cubicle walls and squeaky roller chair to haunt you for eight hours. However, architects are working towards eliminating the workplace from equivocating a boring place. They are making moves to build more working environments that are beautiful, eco-friendly, creative, and sustainable.

There are six different spaces mentioned in an article posted on inhabitat.com, which go into more detail about some of the best-built working spaces around the world. The first one is Selgas Cano’s woodland glazed office in Madrid. The glazed office is literally in the middle of a forest, with huge earth to ceiling windows to expose oneself to the beauty of the nature they are working within. The streamlined design gives the building a sleek neutral look that contrasts to the rough nature surrounding it. However, the immersion of this workspace in the middle of the forest has given workers a beautiful scenery, nature, and wildlife to accompany them with their work and inspire them.

The article then mentioned the genius architecture work of Camenzind Evolution in developing Google’s new collaborative office in Zurich. There was a local brewery in Zurich that was then transformed into a fun workspace with pool tables, slides, lounges, and other creativity to make Google’s EMEA Engineering office an innovative space.

Next on the list was the Cuningham Group’s LEED Gold office in Culver City, with an astounding combination of recycles products, other eco-friendly designing, and indoor gardens. The Cuningham Group worked with REThink Development to create this gorgeous green workspace with natural light and ventilation (just for a taste of the outdoors when indoors!), shipping containers tastefully turned into offices, and indoor food farming. When you’re stuck behind a desk day after day, you don’t realize how much less you’re getting out of the air you breathe because it is recirculated air within a building. This workspace is bringing that fresh natural air that we all need a bigger helping of and putting it indoors! Not only that, but their recycled pieces add style and ingenuity to a space that is also cost effective and healthy.  


Continuing on that note of healthy, eco-friendly workspaces, we have a new workspace that, when redesigned by Clive Wilkinson Architects (CWA), cut their energy consumption literally in half! Macquarie Bank’s headquarters in Sydney, Australia underwent a change of energy in order to acquire this beautiful conducive and collaborative workspace. The greatest feature of this building is the natural sunlight streaming through the ten-story atrium of the building, accompanied by the 26 ‘meeting pods’ situated on various floors that promote good communication amongst co-workers within their space. Also, the open space eliminates that drab, closed-in feeling of a cubicle. It was time to ditch that space!

Finally, we have a new workspace designed by the worldwide sustainability cooperative Excerpt. They turned an abandoned shipyard into offices in Amsterdam by making the office space double as a greenhouse. Workers can interact with nature and be inspired by nature without leaving this green space. The offices are filled with lush hydroponic modules that grow plants and food indoors.

These gorgeous, eco-friendly buildings are living proof that we aren’t doing enough to amp up our workplaces and make them more acquainted with the environment and our surroundings. Providing more environment-inspired workspaces gives workers a fresher start to each and every day and brings work and play together through nature. We are hoping to see more buildings and offices that can accommodate for their workers in such ways, and sometimes at a decent cost as well if recycled products are used. Even though large businesses are killing the environment with their high intake of energy, we can flip those statistics around with these amazing indoor eco-friendly work places.

This blog post was inspired by this article posted on inhabitat.com.


-- Jessalyn Kieta

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Harper Lee's Comeback

In little Monroeville, Alabama, there’s a huge fan base that is rebuilding over the announcement of Harper Lee’s second book in the making, “Go Set a Watchman.” Being Lee’s hometown, there has always been much pride and celebration over “To Kill a Mockingbird” in this town, and they take it as an honor to be associated with such an impactful American author.

During April and May, Monroeville is busy with tourists traveling from all over the country for “play season,” a time when Lee’s novel is reenacted into a play on the weekends, bringing in huge revenue for their little town. There are people that have literally traveled from all over the south, as well as international visitors. Fans have flocked from Texas, Indiana, Florida, and Louisiana, as well as a group of dedicated fans coming from Sweden. The drama takes place in front of the courthouse, much like the one that is mentioned in the book. The amateur actors enjoy putting on an impactful and influential show.

Performances sold out faster than ever this year, with 4,000 tickets gone in just five days. This excitement and hype from Harper Lee fans is probably due to the announcement of “Go Set a Watchman” in February. Monroeville shop owners are expecting a continuation of excitement in their town for the upcoming months, and the small businesses, bookstores, and restaurants are preparing for the flood of Mockingbird fans.

Due to the popularity that “Go Set a Watchman” has already gained, bookshop owner Spencer Madrie has preordered 5,000 copies of “Go Set a Watchman,” and is expecting to have a total of 15,000 copies ordered by July. There is such high demand for this book in Monroeville because each book will have a special gold-plated stamp indicating that the book was purchased in Harper Lee’s hometown.

Considering that this is just the excitement that one dedicated town holds, the turnout for Lee’s novel in the rest of the nation, and even the world is something to be looking for in upcoming months. Being a banned book that has now been made accessible in classrooms throughout the United States, there’s a special charm and admiration for the lessons taught in this coming-of-age novel that make it unique and valuable. Lee has managed to create a strong respect and honor for herself through the publishing of one book and following up with “Go Set a Watchman” is sure to stir up people’s ideals. 

Book reading and the purchasing of books is something that has declined significantly since new advances in technology have made books available to us at our fingertips. On top of that, the average person is expected to be so much more productive in their day to day work than in the past, leaving many little to no time to pick up a favorite book or two for even just an hour every day. Possibly the last time there was an incredible turnout for a novel was the releases of the Harry Potter books.

As an advocate for reading books recreationally, "Go Set a Watchman" will hopefully respark new desires for reading novels and brings value and meaning back to the traditional style of reading.


Based on the New York Times article "'To Kill a Mockingbird' is a Stage Hit at Home in Monroeville, Ala."


--Jessalyn Kieta

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Low-Budget Library in South Africa Turns into a Success

The hardship of funding building companies to create educational facilities in third world countries has had a breakthrough—with the new SEED library built in South Africa. The building of this library ran out of funding before they completed the structure, so the Johannesburg-based Architects of Justice turned to recycled materials that would still function as a high quality space for learning while also being interactive. 

The Architects of Justice used large shipping containers from trucks that were placed perpendicular to each other to create a larger internal area. There is an upper container that has study rooms and an open deck for reading, creating a brightly colored environment for children to study and learn in.

This incredible feat will bring joy and education to many children in South Africa, and hopefully there can be a continuation of these types of buildings that are built on a low budget. The use of recycled materials for a building is genius; perhaps architects will learn to stretch their money provided so that they can build more with what they have been given. Even the architects commented that this building could serve as a prototype for other buildings that are running on a low budget or have similar design requirements.

What is most interesting about the SEED Library is how colorful and interactive it seems to be than most buildings; this library really embodies the idea of providing a structure that is made for the children specifically. Nowadays, the modern chic look is what most architects are striving for, but maybe more educational buildings should be built on a friendlier level to make children feel more at home. The ingenuity of the shipping containers and the colorful walls in the SEED Library encourage imagination and creativity, something that should be kept alive in the minds of children.

The SEED library was recognized with many awards, including the Gauteng Institute for Architects Merit Award, and a silver at the Loeries, as well as being shortlisted for the Corobrick South African Institute of Architects Awards of Merit and Excellence.

To view more photos of the SEED library, follow this link:



--Jessalyn Kieta

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Portraits Around the World

Artist Tobias Gutmann has created his own portable portrait booth, in an effort to bring more abstract art around the world. Gutmann calls his creation the "Face-o-mat," where customers sit in front of the small window on the portrait booth and let the magic come to life. 

While seated in front of the small window, Gutmann sits on the other side and observes the face that he sees. He then takes into account if the portrait is going to be black and white or color, natural or facelift, classical or avant-garde. Gutmann then illustrates their faces in under three minutes! Abstraction styles of painting and drawing do not always have to take much time anyways; especially with the techniques that Gutmann is practicing.

What is truly amazing about these abstract portraits is Gutmann’s ability to break down someone’s face into the most basic elements and lines, and it still somehow embodies the portrait of that person. In his photos of his customers holding their completed portraits next to their smiling faces, there’s just a little something present in each abstract that makes it easy to break down and interpret it as the face of the happy portrait owner. The simplicity and exquisite accuracy of these portraits must be what has made them so popular all around the world.

Yes, all around the world! Tobias Gutmann hauled his Face-o-mat some 25,000 miles for the last few months, stopping in different cities to complete portraits in each! He has been to Stockholm, Milan, Dar es Salaam, Tokyo, and London; he’s even gone far enough as to repaint the façade of his Face-o-mat at each new location with the correct language for the city that he’s stationed in. There have been a lot of artists that have traveled in the past for the sake of finding new subjects and scenery, or because they weren’t making money and needed to find work. However, Gutmann’s travel appears to have been more of a personal challenge. He has documented his travels with Face-o-mat on his Facebook and Tumblr (on Think Faest).

It is refreshing to read about artists pursuing their fashion in an eclectic and adventurous manner; Tobias Guttman has given hope to a lot of the artists around the world who are struggling with finding ways to make their art unique, successful, and enjoyable.




--Jessalyn K.

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Medieval Doodles Found in Unexpected Places

Whoever thought that doodling was just a modern day class distraction probably hasn’t seen these doodles yet! Book historian Erik Kwakkel discovered small sketches and doodles made by scribes in books that dates back almost 800 years ago. 

Kwakkel is a medieval book historian who was interested in the “pen trials” found on the sides of the pages because it leads us to ask questions about the situation—which Kwakkel believes to be a way for the scribes to show a part of themselves in a different way. The scribes who made copies of books would sometimes make marks on the sides of pages just to test their pens while copying, or would sometimes become bored and therefore draw little doodles. The sketches are similar to “fingerprints” or clues given to us about some of the interests that these scribes had.

The sketches are related to universal topics such as love, morals, and religion, but what possibly drives these scribes to draw these sketches may be true boredom, or simply the love of art. Kwakkel was also interested by the additions of sketches and drawings made long after the book was copied; this means that even readers would take their pen to the margins. The drawings could almost be comic relief, or just a break from the monotony of textbook readings or lectures. Though it is important to pay attention in school, we can see that it has always been a struggle to maintain focus for long periods of time, as the creativity and expression of self must flow at some point!

Kwakkel has taken many photos of the medieval books he has found with special pen trials in them and placed a good deal of these on his Twitter account, Tumblr, and his recently established blog called Medievalbooks

--Jessalyn Kieta



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The Wondrous Tree Library - "Livre échange"

Didier Muller, a French designer for the collective House Work has innovated the art of going to the library. He has installed perspex huts that hang from trees in the square of Saint-Étienne, where people can donate and borrow books from this hanging library. 

Muller's idea in attracting people to read and share books in this fun and innovative way is truly an ingenious work of art. Since the concept of going to a library may bore some people, especially those of the younger generation, Muller's suspended library introduces a fresh new concept to get people interested in book-sharing and reading paperback books again.


Posted by: Partrick N.

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The Astonishing Tower of 15,000 Abraham Lincoln Books

Currently on display at the Ford's Theatre Center for Education and Leadership in Washington, DC, this unbelievable 34-foot tower of books is stacked with 15,000 titles written about the United State's 16th president, Abraham Lincoln. Made from fireproof bent aluminum with books glued individually by hand, this staggering tower includes histories and biographies about Lincoln, as well as books on his speeches and quotations.


Posted by: Nina A.

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Empowering the Next Generation of Women Scientists


There are numerous groups and organizations that are dedicated to getting more girls interested in math and technology during early education in order to encourage and support them in pursuing careers in engineering and science. Programs like TechBridge and STEMconnector are offering girls the opportunity to get hands on experience with quality equipment and projects within STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math). It is crucial to interest students at a young age and show them anything is obtainable if you fearlessly pursue your goals. 

The TechBridge after-school program and STEMconnector are teaming up with companies like Chevron and The Fab Foundation to encourage girls in middle school and high school to pursue interests in the fields of math and science. They offer many mediums for the students in the program to explore technical trades as well as careers in math and science. They also provide hands on experiments and teach the students how to construct things from hair dryers to biomass-burning stoves. Fabrication labs, known as “fab labs," feature 3-D printers and soldering irons that provide the students with hands on experience, specially designed to appeal to the students' imaginations and interests. This program shows girls of all ages that they can pursue any career and hobby that they choose and that their gender should not inhibit their potential or guide their interests.

Encouraging more women to pursue science, technology, engineering, and math can open many new career opportunities. The founder of TechBridge, Linda Kikelis said it best, “A kid shouldn’t be limited by where they are born or what gender they are.” Every girl should be able to dream about what she wants to be and have the resources available to make her way toward fulfilling those dreams.



Posted by: Partrick N.

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