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Newsleader Sauk Rapids-Rice

Friday, Dec. 2, 2016

‘Building successful students one robot at a time’

Volume 2, Issue 47 Est. 2015

Town Crier

by Dave DeMars news@thenewsleaders.com

Red Cross urges those eligible to donate

The American Red Cross urges eligible donors to give the perfect gift this holiday season – a lifesaving blood or platelet donation. By rolling up a sleeve, donors can help ensure patients continue to receive treatment throughout the holiday season. Busy holiday schedules and travel plans make it more challenging for regular donors to give, and many businesses and organizations postpone hosting blood drives during the holiday season for these same reasons. This can lead to a decline in blood donations, but the need is constant. For more information, visit thenewsleaders.com and click on Dec. 2 Criers.

GNTC to hold auditions for Ernest in Love

Auditions for Ernest in Love will be held at the Great Northern Theatre Company headquarters, located in Rockville, just off Highway 23. Auditions are from 6:30-8:30 p.m. Monday and Tuesday, Dec. 5 and 6 with callbacks on Thursday, Dec. 8. No pre-audition materials are necessary. Come prepared to read a bit of script and sing a song. Visit our website for character descriptions. Show dates are Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Feb. 10, 11 and 12; Tuesday, Feb. 14 (Valentine’s day); and Thursday, Friday and Saturday Feb. 16, 17 and 18. For more information, visit thenewsleaders.com and click on Dec. 2 Criers.

Anna Marie’s seeks holiday donations

Anna Marie’s alliance is a non-profit corporation dedicated to providing safe shelter, support and referral services for battered women and their children. The alliance also works with the community on systems change and violence prevention. Anna Marie’s Alliance is in need of items for their clients during the holiday season. Donations include the following: gift cards from Amazon or Target, women’s pajama sets, women’s underwear of all sizes, women’s socks, family board games and crafting sets. For more information, visit thenewsleaders.com and click on Dec. 2 Criers.

For additional criers, visit www.thenewsleaders.com and click on Criers.

Postal Patron

photo by Dave DeMars

Robotics team members are the following (from left to right): Raymond Nowacki, sophomore; Adam Iburg, junior; Brian Kahl, senior; and Tristen Tyson-Anderson, junior. They comprise Team A and here they are busy making adjustments and tweaking their “bot” in the hopes some issues can be solved.

At 4 p.m., the wide corridors of Sauk Rapids High School meander in circular squares past mostly dark and silent rooms. But listen closely and follow the sounds of excited human voices to room NW226 and you will find groups of students slavishly tinkering with strange-looking contraptions. They share and connect ideas as easily as they connect the arrays of wires and erectorset parts, then disconnect and reconnect again in a different way. You have stumbled onto the Robotics Lab. In one area of the room surrounded by a small group of students is fourthyear teacher and advisor Adam Johnson. He does not teach directly so much as facilitate

learning and inquiry by asking thought-provoking questions. “It’s obviously incorporating STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics),” Johnson said. “We also work on teamwork and responsibility.” Johnson and two mentors, Aaron Johnson (high-school robotics mentor) and Jeff Jaschke (elementary-school robotics mentor) teach using a variation of the engineering-design process: ideate, create, solve and refine. Of course before those steps can be put into practice, students must be certain they understand the problem they are trying to solve, and it helps to know what others have done that can help in creating a solution. If that sounds a bit like research, it’s because it is. Robot • back page

Sauk Rapids council addresses disgruntled citizens by Dave DeMars news@thenewsleaders.com

During one of three public hearings, the Sauk Rapids City Council heard the displeasure of several citizens in reference to how storm-sewer assessments were being made on residents who lived on Fourth Avenue North – and the extent of those assessments. The public hearing was held

to consider approval of assessment rolls 407 (unpaid water bills), 408 (for grass-cutting and maintenance), 409 (for Eighth Street North, Second Street North and Third Avenue North improvements) and 410 (for water-service repair). Costs associated with these four assessment areas will be added onto the tax bills of the properties and charged a 3.1-percent interest rate. Unpaid water bills attrib-

uted to the various properties amounted to $41,003.73. Assessments related to grass-cutting amounted to $120. Assessments for curb-and-gutter and storm sewer along Eighth Street North, Second Street and Third Avenue North amounted to $213,999.72. Water-service repair (410) assessments were not disclosed but will be charged to each property owner. Rich Macdonald and his

wife, Tracy, who reside at 103 Fourth Ave. N., questioned why they were being assessed when the 409 assessment dealt with Third Avenue N. “We are being assessed for storm sewer,” Macdonald said. “We live on Fourth Avenue North, and I believe there are eight parcels that are being assessed for storm sewer. We haven’t been able to detect any Citizens • page 3

Salvation Army rings bells to help less fortunate by Dennis Dalman editor@thenewsleaders.com

Salvation Army bell-ringers are ringing for a good cause and reminding one and all of the admonition “There but for fortune go you or I.” The bell-ringing goal this Christmas season is to raise $429,000 overall, with about $200,000 of that raised directly from kettle donations. The rest of the funds come from generous business, corporate and individual donations sent via the mail or online. Last year’s amounts raised were similar, just a tad lower. People who come for help

to the Salvation Army shelter, food shelf or community-meals program are all hurting in one way or another, most often because of a situation beyond their immediate control: loss of a job, inability to find a job, a personal trauma like divorce or a death in the family or any number of circumstantial difficulties. The good news is those people – the overwhelming majority – do well once they have had a helping hand, and that is what they get thanks to the Salvation Army – a helping hand. For example, of the people in the Salvation Army emerBells • page 5

contributed photo

Salvation Army volunteer Arlin Pocklington puts food items on the shelves of the Food Pantry food-shelf service, which distributed more than half-a-million pounds of food in the first 10 months of 2016.

www.thenewsleaders.com


Sauk Rapids-Rice Newsleader • www.thenewsleaders.com

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Friday, Dec. 2, 2016

Rice City Council wrestles with direct-deposit issue by Dave DeMars news@thenewsleaders.com

Payment of wages by direct deposit to firefighters and other city employees became an issue of contention at the Nov. 21 meeting of the Rice City Council as council members wrestled with the question of whether it should be mandated or employee choice. Mayor Dale Rogholt led off the discussion by stating as he understood it, the issue had been resolved and passed in December 2014 as a consent-agenda item. There was no discussion, and a resolution to initiate direct deposit was passed. Rogholt clarified further, saying for some unexplained reason that resolution was never made clear to employees nor was it implemented. Rogholt proposed a compromise position. “What I would recommend is that this year, we write the checks manually as we did in the past, but beginning one-one-seventeen (Jan. 1, 2017), we will follow this (the 2014 resolution) to the ‘T,’” Rogholt said. “No, Dale,” said council member Allen Voigt, “we did have discussion on this reso-

lution.” Voigt continued, saying it may have been on the consent agenda, but he remembered specifically asking about it because he was under the impression it was for the six full-time employees. “I said, if they want it, they can have it, but they don’t have to have it,” Voigt said. “I was led to believe that that was not a problem.” With that understanding, Voigt said he had been willing to approve the direct-deposit resolution. Now he was asking what the present position outlined by Rogholt would replace. Rogholt explained the recommendation he made replaces nothing. The resolution had been passed unanimously and the date he had referred to (Jan.1, 2017) was simply an implementation date because the resolution had not been implemented even though it had been passed and should have been implemented earlier. Voigt took issue. The resolution went through on the consent agenda and the people affected had no say in the decision at the time, Voigt said. “They still don’t because

on Jan. 1, 2017, we are going to implement this resolution,” Rogholt said. “You don’t need it,” Voigt said. “It’s common knowledge we have to pay people.” Rogholt said the fire chief had said he wished the city had direct deposit. That’s fine for him, Voigt said, but some people don’t want it. Let’s just leave it as you can have it (direct deposit) if you want it, but you don’t have to have it if you don’t want it. The issue is some city employees are concerned that bank-account numbers will be compromised in the process. Those employees want some sort of guarantee. “How many times has there been a compromise?” Rogholt asked. “I’m one of the affected people and I have no concern the city is going to give out my account number.” “I don’t know,” Voigt said, “but that is not the point. What happens if something should happen to that number. Is the city responsible?” Council member Paula Kampa said with a check that was issued, there was a time limit to report a check had bounced or was misappropriated. The comment was appar-

People Andy Lupinek, Sauk Rapids, will participate in the annual Christmas in Christ Chapel worship services Dec. 2-4 hosted by Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, Minn. The Storm’n Sabres varsity hockey team defeated Fergus Falls High School 4-1 during the Nov. 22 matchup. After a scoreless first period, Molly Mahowald got the visiting Storm’n Sabres on the board with a beautiful shot off the crossbar. She was assisted on the goal by

Lizzy Minnerath and Alexa Paulson. Minnerath added a tally of her own with help from Mahowald and Bre Hess. The third period saw Paulson net her first career goal on a deflection of Allie Hemmesch’s shot. Libby Asper put the game away with going top shelf for her first career Storm’n Sabres goal on a beautiful feed from Ellie Hansen and Cami Doman. Chloe Stockinger picked up her first career win in goal with 19 saves.

The Storm’n Sabres varsity hockey team defeated Bemidji High School 8-0 during the Nov. 26 matchup. Brooke Walters led the way with two goals and three assists, and Bria Ferns had four assists. Alexa Paulson had two goals and an assist while Grace McCabe had two goals. Megan Cook and Molly Mahowald both had two assists. Other goal scorers were Lizzy Minnerath and Allie Hemmesch. Chloe Stockinger registered a 19-save shutout in net.

ently meant as a reference to a time in 2014 when the Rice city clerk was charged with theft by swindle for issuing an extra check to herself for her personal use. Voigt worried direct deposit would allow for that type of crime and there would be less ability to track the swindle. At least with paper checks, bank-account numbers aren’t an issue. The paper can be traced. The whole of the issue is some city employees do not want to give their bank-account numbers to the city treasurer. “They don’t trust us – they don’t trust the city? Rogholt asked. “Look at what happened with trust before (current city clerk) Stephanie (Fischer) got here,” said Voigt, referring to a former employee (before Fischer) who swindled money via checks from the city. “Look what happened to our trusting before.” Voigt maintained his position, saying payment should be made in the way in which the employee is most comfortable, but there should be no mandated method for payment using direct deposit. Payment could be made by check just as easily. He maintained he had talked to employees, and they were strongly opposed to having to use direct deposit. Employees should be given the choice, he said. Council member Chris Scheel said that would be a duplicate payment system and a waste of time and money. Kampa said she had not had a chance to talk with people, and she wanted to poll those who would be affected. In order to do that, she asked the issue be tabled. For the time being, the issue was tabled and is expected to be an agenda

item at the next meeting. In other council business: • Council authorized a Request For Proposal for a civil-engineering company. Proposals may be presented to the city between now and Wednesday, Dec. 21 so they can be reviewed by council members for discussion at the Jan. 3 meeting. • Authorized an RFP from companies wishing to develop a comprehensive parks plan for the city of Rice. Cost of the plan will be up to $15,000 as discussed at previous meetings. RFPs are due in by close of business on Friday, Dec. 30. • Approved the gambling permit for the Church of the Immaculate Conception to hold its raffle Jan. 29. • Approved Tri-County Insurance of Sauk Rapids as the insurance carrier for Rice. • Authorized council member Kampa to work with Police Chief Ross Hamann to solicit donations for the city’s portion of the electronic speed-limit sign. The city’s cost will be $3,500. The police department won a matching OSHA grant but needs to raise funds to meet obligations. • Heard report from city clerk Stephanie Fischer on receiving evidence dealing with investigation of former clerk. Material included computer hard drives, cell phone and a Toshiba laptop computer. Discussion concerned whether to dispose of the material, how to dispose of it and whether any city department had use for the materials. • Council authorized sending a signed fire contract to Watab Township for two years of coverage with no changes other than dates. The contract would become operative upon the township signing and returning the contract to the city.

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Call the Sauk Rapids-Rice Newsleader at 320-363-7741 if you would like to be in the Business Directory. Published each Friday by Von Meyer Publishing Inc.

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Friday, Dec. 2, 2016

Citizens from front page creation of a storm sewer on Fourth Avenue North.” Macdonald referenced an email sent by a former council member Paul Weber to the council asking for clarification on the construction of the Third Avenue North project and the assessments that would be levied. “The Third Avenue North portion of the project does not include any storm-sewer improvements,” Macdonald read aloud, quoting a feasibility report presented to the council on Oct. 26, 2015. “Let me repeat, ‘does not include any storm sewer improvements.’” He referenced the feasibility report that said the “Up the Hill” project (Second Street North) did include storm-sewer catch basins at the intersection of Third Avenue North and Second Street North, and there are storm sewers on First Street North but that drainage on Third Avenue North would remain generally as it had in the past. “So the question is how did we get assessed for something that wasn’t ever done?” Macdonald asked. It was left to Sauk Rapids City Engineer Terry Wotzka to answer the question. He explained in determining the storm-sewer assessment, the city looks to the areas that drain to the improvements. In this case, even though the Macdonald property is physically located on Fourth Street, it drains downhill to Third Avenue. Wotzka went on to further explain that so long as the property drained to the street, and even though there was no necessity to install services midblock, so long as the property drained down the street to the storm sewer, property owners all along the route would be assessed so the city could recapture the cost of installing the storm sewers. The storm sewer is a benefit to the property owners and because of that, they should pay their fair share. In this instance, Fourth Avenue drains down to Third Avenue and Second Street.

CUSTODIAL Saint John’s Abbey is accepting applications for a full-time (32-40 hours per week) benefit-eligible custodial/housekeeping position. This position is responsible for cleanliness and laundry duties in the Abbey Guesthouse, Abbey Church, Monastery, Retirement Center and Health Center.

Applications accepted online only at:

http://employmentosb.csbsju.edu

Sauk Rapids-Rice Newsleader • www.thenewsleaders.com “We don’t necessarily put storm sewer on every block, but we look at it as an area-wide benefit,” Wotzka said. Wotzka explained to the mayor and council that costs for work done on Second Avenue and First Street had not been fully recovered and that the proper way to look at the issue is who derived benefit from it. Mayor Brad Gunderson interjected there was benefit from the drainage of water from the property. Macdonald asserted the improvements were done years ago, but the council was simply trying to pay for work done at some other time. Gunderson asked if there were others in the audience to speak to the matter. Bruce Thrall, a neighbor to Macdonald, spoke to the council echoing Macdonald’s objection to the assessment. “I don’t see where I’m benefiting from this at all,” Thrall said. “All I am getting is a bill out of this. And now you are telling us you are not even going to do anything for that, so when you do, who is going to be billed for that?” Thrall said the assessment cost on his property would be $2,500, and that his property value did not go up that much and was concerned he would be assessed again if work were done on Fourth Avenue. Two other speakers questioned the assessment. One questioned whether he had been notified correctly since he had just taken ownership of the property. It was suggested notification of pending assessments should have been made known at the property closing and that he should check with the closing company in that regard. Ruth Moeller said she believed she was being assessed too much in comparison with her neighbor whom she believed had a similar-sized lot, but she was shown the service provided and size of the two lots were quite different. After the hearing was closed and during discussion, council member Kurt Hunstiger questioned whether the time frame for the assessment might not be extended so it was not such a hardship. Upon learning it was possible to extend the assessment time frame, Hunstiger moved to extend the assessment time period

for the Eighth Street North, Second Street North and Third Avenue North improvements (409) from the present five years to seven years. The motion carried, and Hunstiger then moved to approve the rest of the assessment rolls, 407, 408, 409 (including the amended time frame), and 410. The motion was approved. In a second public hearing the council considered and approved a change in the platting of 10 patio home lots to re-plat them as eight single-family lots in the Villas of Creekside development. With no public input and on the recommendation of Sauk Rapids Community Development Director Todd Schultz, the council approved the re-platting. In the third public hearing, the council considered the vacation of a portion of Seventh Street South, east of Ninth Avenue South located in the Park Addition. After hearing the concerns of Jim Henry, a property owner adjoining the property, the council approved the vacating of the property. Under consent agenda items, the council took the following actions: • Approved a resolution for a joint-powers agreement with the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension • Approved attendance at the 2017 annual Institute for Building Officials • Approved hiring two new probationary employees for the fire department • Approved an amended development agreement and planned-unit development agreement for Creek Side Plat 3 In the regular agenda and with Schultz’s recommendation, the council approved the hiring of Duffy Engineering to evaluate improvements to be made to the Old Municipal Park Building with a cost limitation of $1,400. Council member Steve Heinen suggested perhaps it would be wiser to apply the money to building improvements and dispense with the engineer evaluation. The council approved the improvements in a 4-1 vote with Heinen voting no. Sauk Rapids City Administrator Ross Olson advised the council of an upcoming vacancy

Winter Extravaganza

Sunday, Dec. 11 from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. St. Stephen City Hall • 2 6th Ave SE St. Stephen Fire & Rescue will bring Santa to City Hall

Sleigh rides with real reindeer! Cookies • Crafts! In lieu of admission, please bring a new, unwrapped toy or food shelf item to donate to the Giving Tree.

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on the council since Hunstiger will assume the position of mayor in January. Olson sought direction as to how the council wanted to fill the position. A special election would cost $5,000 to $6,000, or the council could create a process to fill the position. The council generally

consented to fill the position through a process. Sauk Rapids Police Chief Perry Beise highlighted snowmobile laws and rules for operating a snowmobile in the city of Sauk Rapids. Specifics can be found at the city website under the City Code, Section 6.02.

Blotter

If you have a tip concerning a crime, call the Sauk Rapids Police Department at 320251-9451 or Tri-County Crime Stoppers at 320-255-1301 or access its tip site at www. tricountycrimestoppers.org. Crime Stoppers offers rewards up to $1,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for crimes.

Sept. 27 3:58 p.m. Gas drive-off. Second Street N. Police were dispatched to a local gas station for a report of a customer who had driven off without paying for fuel. Upon arrival, officers spoke with the caller who is the assistant manager. He stated an elderly male had pumped gas and driven away without making an attempt to pay. The description of the car as well as the license-plate information was obtained through a security video. The man was contacted and stated he thought he paid via credit card, but apparently his transaction did not go through. He agreed to call the gas station and make a payment over the phone. No further action was taken. Sept. 28 12:25 a.m. Suspicious ve-

hicle. Osauka Road N.E. Officers observed a vehicle parked on the shoulder of the road. The vehicle was unoccupied and parked legally. The area was cleared. Sept. 29 12:36 a.m. Traffic stop. Second Street N./Ninth Avenue N. A vehicle was observed that had expired registration. A traffic stop was initiated, and the driver stated he had recently purchased the vehicle and had new tabs at home but did not know how to put them on. Driver was verbally warned for this offense and encouraged to put current registration before being cited. Sept. 30 10:07 a.m. Welfare check. Second Avenue N. Police were notified by the Sauk Rapids Public Works that they were in the process of re-connecting the water in a residence that had poor sewer pipes. There was a concern that children may be living on the level of the home with the plumbing issues. Police were able to confirm only adults lived in the residence and they were on a safe level of the house.


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Sauk Rapids-Rice Newsleader • www.thenewsleaders.com

Friday, Dec. 2, 2016

contributed photo

A press conference at Sartell Pediatrics Nov. 15 spelled out the crisis caused by a canceled insurance contract by Blue Cross/Blue Shield. From left to right are Sarah Gill, single mother of three and kindergarten teacher; Dr. David Smith, owner-operator of Sartell Pediatrics; Jill Smith, clinic administrator for Sartell Pediatrics; and Jeff Turner, president of Integrity Health Network.

Canceled insurance devastates mother of three by Dennis Dalman editor@thenewsleaders.com

Kindergarten teacher Sarah Gill, a single mother of three, was devastated when she learned recently that Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota will no longer pay for treatments for her 2-year-old son at Sartell Pediatrics. As an Oak Hill Elementary School teacher, Gill’s insurance carrier is Blue Cross/Blue Shield. The payments for Sartell Pediatrics’ care will cease starting Feb. 1. And Gill is not alone. The decision by Blue Cross/Blue Shield will affect 1,500 patients of Sartell Pediatrics. That is because that insurance giant contracts with Integrity Health Network, which in turn contracts with 20 clinics in Minnesota, including Sartell Pediatrics, to cover the cost of patient services. Gill shared her dilemma at a

Nov. 15 press conference held at Sartell Pediatrics with fellow speakers being Dr. David Smith, owner-operator of the clinic; Jill Smith, clinic administrator; and Jeff Turner, president of Integrity Health Network. The Blue Cross/Blue Shield decision was a bolt from the blue. The only reason it gave for the contract termination was a two-word explanation, “business decision,” according to Sartell Pediatrics. In the meantime, the Smiths sent a letter to all of their patients to inform them since many had no idea of the cancelation. Even though Blue Cross/Blue Shield apparently made its contract cancellation in late August, it made no attempt to notify clinics or patients of the decision, according to the Smiths. The decision ended 18 months of negotiations between Blue Cross/Blue Shield and Integrity Health Network. The Smiths, too, were devas-

tated about the news because they know how it will affect so many of their patients who will suddenly feel desperate, at loose ends. That is why the Smiths are informing people and raising widespread awareness about the problem. People are now in the midst of the enrollment period for choosing a health-care insurance plan through Internet exchanges or elsewhere, Jill Smith noted. The Smiths want people to know Blue Cross/Blue Shield has dropped its contract with Integrity Health Network and will not be covering services at Sartell Pediatrics or many other clinics. Too many, Smith said, will choose that insurance plan and be completely unaware of that lack of coverage. She is recommending people choose a plan that will definitely cover their families. For example, Sartell Pediatrics, to name one, will accept insurance policies that include Medica, HealthPartners and Preferred One, to name three. “It’s not right,” Jill Smith said of Blue Cross/Blue Shield’s silence about its decision. “We wanted to inform all our patients. We didn’t want them walking in here Feb. 1 only to find out they are not covered anymore.” When choosing insurance coverage, people should be

sure it will cover the physician and clinic they need and want, Smith advises. The Blue Cross/Blue Shield decision was especially disappointing, Jill Smith said, because Sartell Pediatrics provides care at lower costs. In October, the clinic ranked as the fifth-lowest cost of similar clinics in the state.

Gill and Aden

Sarah Gill, 34, has been a kindergarten teacher at Oak Hill Elementary for nine years. Two years ago, her husband died, leaving her to raise three children – Eli, 6; Sophie, 5; and Aden, 2. Aden was born with congenital diaphramatic hernia and had only a 50 percent chance of surviving. He spent 102 days at University of Minnesota’ Masonic Children’s Hospital. Now nearly 3, he is doing “wonderfully,” his mother said, although he needs lots of follow-ups, including ones at Sartell Pediatrics. “We love the Smiths, and we love going to their clinic,” Gill said. Now, with insurance coverage for Aden’s treatments gone, Gill does not know what steps to take. As if that weren’t bad enough, she also recently discovered the contract between Fairview Hospital (where

Aden goes) and Blue Cross/ Blue Shield was also terminated. “I think I’m in denial at this point,” she said. “But I’m going to start looking around.” She has written Blue Cross/ Blue Shield about her plight but is not overly confident of a good outcome.

Write letters

In her letter to patients of Sartell Pediatrics, Jill Smith explained the problem and then encouraged them to write letters to the following to raise awareness and to ask for positive outcomes: Mr. Michael Guyette, CEO Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota 3535 Blue Cross Road Eagan, Minn. 55122-1154 m i c h a e l . g u ye t t e @ b l u e crossmn.com Dr. Ed Ehlinger Commissioner Minnesota Department of Health P.O. Box 64975 St. Paul, Minn. 55164-0975 health.commissioner@ state.mn.us Mr. Mike Rothman Commissioner Minnesota Department of Commerce 85 Seventh Place E., Suite 500 St. Paul, Minn. 55101 general.commerce@state. mn.us


Sauk Rapids-Rice Newsleader • www.thenewsleaders.com

Friday, Dec. 2, 2016

Bells from front page gency-housing shelter since January 2016, 181 people who were at the 69-bed shelter during that 10-month period found some sort of housing that was considered suitable for themselves, such as rental units or being able to move in with a family member, friend or someone else. Of those people, almost all of them had jobs (full- or part-time) during the time they needed a place to sleep and assistance to help them get back on their feet. From January through October 2016, there were 400 people who stayed at the emergency shelter at one time or another, some longer than others. Of that number, 347 were men, 53 were women. There were 30 families at the shelter, with a total of 102 children, said Karla Rolfzen, SA program coordinator. The shelter is more than just a bed for the night. Residents of the shelter are offered an entire range of classes that cover topics such as financial fitness, how to do a job interview, how to find and keep a rental unit, and other pertinent information that helps residents transition with confidence from homelessness to a secure place to live and a job to support themselves and their families. For more about programming, see “Programs” below in this story. The emergency shelter, however, is only one of many SA programs that helps people get back on their feet and find productive ways to live. The following are some of the other SA services:

Gifts/Toy Shop

The SA gives holiday toys and other gifts to economically-strapped families, and donations of gifts are always welcome. This year, as every year, there is a shortage of gifts appropriate for teen-aged boys and girls. Such gifts can include make-up, flat irons, curling wands, perfume, cologne for boys, nail polish, ear buds, headphones, basketballs, soc-

cer balls, skate boards and wallets. Toys and gifts can be brought to the SA headquarters at 400 U.S. Hwy. 10 S., St. Cloud, Minn. 56304. For more options, see “How to donate” at the end of this story.

Community Lunch

The SA Community Lunch program has served 30,815 meals so far in 2016. One relatively new feature of the lunch program is called PhilanthroFeed during which an area company foots the bill for a lunch, and then some of its staff and employees actually serve the meal in the SA lunch room. People need not be staying at the emergency-housing shelter to partake of the daily noon meal. Anyone can just show up and enjoy a hot, nutritious dinner. Volunteers are always needed.

Food Pantry

In the first 10 months of 2016, the SA Food Pantry distributed 506,064 pounds of food to 5,241 people. That number includes 1,871 children. There is a need for volunteers to help at the Food Pantry.

Learning programs

The SA works in close conjunction with outreach programs to help people who need a boost in their lives beyond the immediate needs of shelter, food and clothing. There are the rental and financial fitness courses mentioned above, but in addition there are parenting classes (through St. Cloud School District), a Rebuilding Lives program (through Tri-Cap), weekly case management and goal-setting sessions to help with accountability, dentists who visit through “Operation Grace,” doctors and nursing students who visit the SA to address medical needs, a SMART Kids program for children in the shelter, a VA social worker who visits weekly to meet with veterans at the shelter and a veterans’ transitional-housing program.

RE . TO WN.. TH S O W T E N8 . .m A N E TO BY O a M 0 CA H BA t1 a O 10

! G N NI E P O ND, Dec. A GR rday

SPECIAL DRAWING!

Hatch the new toy craze in your crib by registering to win one with a $10 purchase. Deadline to participate is Thursday, Dec. 22.

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DRAWINGS (2) $50 Gas Gift Cards (1) Pre-lit Christmas Wreath Several Gift Certificates

2016 Veterans Drive Centennial Shopping Centre St. Cloud, MN 320-774-3638

Handmade Diaper Gift Baskets • Napping Babies • Baby Shower/Holiday Gift Baskets • Avon Products

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There are also on-site resources at the SA headquarters, such as a room with computers and resume assistance, as well as help for applying for jobs online. For more immediate needs, there are clothing vouchers available, school supplies for children and the Christmas gift program mentioned above.

New managers

The new managers of the St. Cloud Area Salvation Army are Major Mike Parker and his wife Cindy. They began their jobs at the SA last July after working for the SA in Mankato for seven years. “I am so impressed with what’s going on here (at the St. Cloud SA),” said Major Mike during an interview with the Newsleaders for the story above. The Parkers have four children and 11 grandchildren.

How to donate

One obvious way to donate is to put money and/or checks into the red kettles of the bellringers. However, people can also mail checks to the Salvation Army, 400 U.S. Hwy. 10. S, St. Cloud, Minn. 56304 or drop them off at that address. Toys, gifts and non-perishable food items can also be dropped off at SA headquarters at that address. It’s across Hwy. 10 from the Cash Wise store and near Michael’s Restaurant.

photo by Dennis Dalman

Ken Ramler of Sartell rings a Salvation Army bell on a warmweather day, Nov. 28, in front of the Coborn’s Superstore in south Sartell. Ramler, who has rung the bell in previous years, is one of dozens ringing this year to help make the holiday season happier for the less fortunate. contributed photo

Major Mike Parker and his wife, Cindy, began working at the St. Cloud Salvation Army last July after heading the one in Mankato for seven years. They said they are very impressed with the St. Cloud facility and its staff and volunteers, as well as its success in helping people get back on their feet after experiencing hard knocks.

Volunteers needed

There is always a holiday need for SA bell-ringers. Call Shannon Smithers at 320-252-4552 if you, your family or a club or organization are willing to spend a few hours bell-ringing at area stores. Other volunteers needed yearround are people to work in the Food Pantry food shelf and at the Community Luncheon to help with serving meals and clean-up. Money can also be donated by calling 1-800-SAL-ARMY or online at the SA website: salvationarmynorth.org. There is also lots of information on that website about volunteer options and about the SA and its programs.

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Sauk Rapids-Rice Newsleader • www.thenewsleaders.com

6

Our View

Opinion

Friday, Dec. 2, 2016

Was Kennedy killed by accident? Beware of Russian propaganda as weapon against democracy

News about Russian interference in the American election process is becoming more and more disturbing. A new kind of “Cold War” has begun, except this one could be dubbed a “Cyber War.” The latest revelation is that Russian propagandists distributed thousands of fake news stories via social media, such as “alt-news” sites and other means in the months and weeks leading up to the Nov. 8 presidential election. The fake news stories were mostly aimed at candidate Hillary Clinton, especially bogus stories about her failing health, portraying her as a woman who would collapse time and again if she were elected president. Other fake stories played up her email server, her and her staff’s supposed efforts to rig the election, her supposed machinations as U.S. Secretary of State and the so-called undue influence of the Clinton Foundation. The Russian-invented stories were, of course, filled to bursting with bloated exaggerations, vicious slanders and lies, lies, lies. An analysis by the Center for Cyber and Homeland Security and another one by PropOrNot (a propaganda tracker) identified more than 200 websites that featured Russian-made propaganda seen by 15 million Americans, with the fake stories viewed online more than 213 million times, according to a story in USA Today. The propaganda stories were in addition to other efforts by Russian manipulators to throw tons of wrenches into American democracy and its foundation – the voting process itself. There was a steady stream of hack jobs of Democrats and Democratic organizations such as the Democratic National Committee. The hacked information was then leaked selectively, usually woefully out of context, to smear Democratic candidates. There are even charges that Russian stooges might have dickered with electronic voting machines in some places. Some Russians have long been masters of propaganda. The Soviet Union, in fact, was founded largely on propaganda and grandiose myth-making. Vladimir Putin himself, as an officer in the Soviet Secret Police, used propaganda constantly as a threat and a weapon against supposed “enemies of the State.” With the advent of social media, those sinister manipulators now have a new “toy” to play with. And it’s a dangerous toy that has the potential to undermine our democratic process and our faith in it. These fake news stories have also targeted some individuals and groups in the Republican Party. Ultimately, the aim of these propagandists is to undermine our democratic way of life, period. Did the fake stories alter the election outcomes? Who really knows? It’s virtually impossible to prove. However, the election is over; Russian attempts to whittle away our faith in the democratic process is not over. It’s only just begun. It’s something every American should worry about. We’ve got to fight it with every means at our disposal. One of the best ways is to become educated and to learn to think critically about information and so-called “news” that has become such a big part of social media. People have to learn to become aware of where their information comes from and to be skeptical about claims that sound far-fetched. There’s the old saying, “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” The same holds true for this: “If it smells and tastes fishy like rotten Russian caviar, don’t eat it, and if you do bite into it, spit it out.” Russian propaganda (and other lies) won’t “work” with people educated to be wise to their dirty tricks. Beware!

The ideas expressed in the letters to the editor and of the guest columnists do not necessarily reflect the views of the Newsleaders. Letters to the editor may be sent to news@thenewsleaders.com or P.O. Box 324, St. Joseph, MN 56374. Deadline is noon Monday. Please include your full name for publication (and address and phone number for verification only.) Letters must be 350 words or less. We reserve the right to edit for space.

Was President John F. Kennedy killed by accident 53 years ago? Did the sniper miss? Is a missing page from a little green book the big clue to the killer’s intention on that grim day in Dallas, Texas – Nov. 22, 1963? I was 15 when JFK was killed, having skipped school that overcast, chilly day. I was home with my feet propped up on the kerosene stove in the living room, reading Thornton Wilder’s great play, Our Town, when I heard the news on the radio. My family had no TV at that time; it was in for repair. That afternoon is as vivid to me as yesterday – or today. The news was so shocking it was like being hit in the gut by a sledgehammer, knocking the wind out of me. I’ve “relived” that day hundreds of times via documentaries, magazine articles, books, newspapers and even during a visit to Dealey Plaza where Kennedy was struck down on that dark day – a day that was ironically sun-drenched with crowds cheering Kennedy as he glided along smiling, waving in the limousine with the open top. As soon as the shots were fired, theories abounded. As intriguing as all the sinister theories were, I have always believed Lee Harvey Oswald almost certainly acted alone, just as the official investigation concluded. The conspiracy concoctions were tangled webs of bizarre connect-the-dot speculations – everything from a cabal of scheming Cuban exiles to a “hit” ordered by the Mafia. Some of the theories hold some traces being believable in a weird way. That is because there were so many strange coincidences surrounding the assassination, before and after. As someone wisely said, the bigger the death, the bigger the conspiracies (recall Elvis Presley and Marilyn Monroe). I’d never heard of the “little green book” theory until just yesterday, Nov. 23, when a friend emailed me a column written by

Dennis Dalman Editor James Reston Jr., published in the Los Angeles Times last week. The following is a summary of that column: After Oswald was nabbed by police, a Secret Service agent, Mike Howard, was dispatched to Oswald’s apartment. There, he found a little green address book. On page 17, under a heading “I WILL KILL,” there were four names: • James Hosty, an FBI agent, who had apparently given Oswald’s wife a tough interrogation after their return from the Soviet Union. • Richard M. Nixon, vice president under President Dwight Eisenhower before Kennedy was elected. • Edwin Walker, a right-wing general. Oswald is suspected of trying to kill Walker by shooting a bullet into his Dallas home seven months before Kennedy’s killing. • John Connally, soon to become Texas governor, whose name was at the top of the “kill” list. Through Connally’s name, Oswald had drawn a dagger covered with dripping blood. Connally and his wife, Nelly, were in the limousine on that fateful day with the president and First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy. Connally was wounded but survived. Back to the little green book: Agent Howard turned it over to the FBI. It eventually came to the attention of the Warren Commission, which studied the assassination. Later, Howard learned the death-threat page had been torn from the little book.

Flashback to 1959: Oswald had been discharged honorably from the U.S. Marines. Apparently radicalized toward a Soviet persuasion, he moved to the Soviet Union where he intended to defect. He met a Russian woman, Marina, whom he married. They soon had a child. Disillusioned with life in the Soviet Union, Oswald and family returned to the United States. Meantime, the Marines learned about his intention to defect and downgraded his honorable discharge to “undesirable” discharge. Because of the stigma and his ninthgrade education, Oswald had a difficult time finding a job. He wrote a plea to Connally, head of the U.S. Navy Department, begging him to help reinstate his honorable-discharge status. Oswald received back a “brushoff” letter, with Connally’s smiling face on the front of it, a campaign-mail pitch touting his candidacy for Texas governor. Oswald – ever the disaffected loner – began to seethe with hatred toward Connally, blaming him for his bitter disappointments and personal miseries. Many acquaintances at that time, even Oswald’s wife, said his rage was aimed at Connally, not JFK, whom Oswald had once praised for his efforts for détente with the Soviets. Why the missing page? Reston Jr. offers two possible explanations: One: FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover squelched the information because it may have implicated the FBI as a cause of Oswald’s rage (the Hosty connection). Two: President LBJ may be a reason for the missing page because he did not want his best friend, Connally, to be embarrassed and guilt-ridden as the unwitting catalyst for the crime. Did Oswald miss? We will never know. Just one more theory to ponder about that awful day that haunts us all.

Is the Electoral College outdated? With several states on a knife-edge, and the popular vote total favoring Clinton over Trump, much talk has occurred during the last few weeks about whether the Electoral College still has a place in today’s America. The Electoral College, made up of 538 electors, is still the formal body, not your vote, that elects the President of the United States. During the founding of our republic, the Founding Fathers were debating how best to structure the presidency and how it would be elected. If the president was elected by the Congress, powerful factions would end up controlling it. On the other hand, if pure popular vote was to decide, the founders feared swings of popular opinion could put an unqualified or malevolent person into the office. For those reasons and some others, the system of electoral votes was created. Each state would receive as many electoral votes as representatives in Congress. The electors would be chosen by state legislatures or political parties but had the freedom to cast their own votes. It was hoped this system would spread out the power among the states and reduce the influence of larger or more powerful groups within the country. Today, this process continues in a similar way. When the people of a state cast their ballots, they are not voting directly for the candidate of their choice, but for the slate of electors that that candidate’s party has chosen. Minnesota, with 10 electoral votes, picked Hillary Clinton for the presidency. That means the Minnesota Democrats’ 10 electors are the ones who will formally cast the state’s votes on Monday, Dec. 19. In theory, these electors can choose any of the candidates, but the tradition is they will vote for the winner of that state. In this

Connor Kockler Guest Writer way, our national election is in a sense 51 separate elections, including the District of Columbia, that then cast the electoral votes for the winners of each of their states. The national popular vote is record of how many people voted for who across each of these separate contests. The argument made for the popular vote is a fair one. Why shouldn’t the person who gets the most votes win the presidency? The Electoral College counts states, not people, so how is that fair? The problem is the popular vote was never really supposed to factor into the national election. The votes cast in each state reflect the general issues within them, and the founders hoped the Electoral College would keep one region from having too much power over another. That creates the problem of swing states in our modern elections. States like California and Texas get almost no attention because their citizens consistently lean toward the Democrats or the Republicans. It doesn’t matter how large the margin a candidate wins a state by; they get all of the electoral votes in all but two states if they succeed. This leaves “purple” states such as Ohio that change their votes more frequently in the sights of the political parties, as they just need to win a certain number of these to get over the top and win the Electoral College. An argument can be made that this leads to the

candidate with the most states winning and therefore having a mandate from the majority of the regions of the country. While the most-states-wins theory has its advantages, there are several points undercutting it. First, in a theoretical situation, the 11 most populous states alone could carry a candidate to victory. Though highly unlikely, this could leave the other 39 states without a voice. There have also been three elections in American history where the candidate who won the most states did not win the Electoral College, so this situation does not always occur. In the end, the 2016 election is also notable that despite Hillary Clinton’s lead in the popular vote over Donald Trump, she does not have an absolute majority of the votes of the American people. Somewhere around 52 percent voted for Trump or someone else. If we went to straight popular vote, would we be comfortable having a president who won an even smaller majority of the popular vote, like John Quincy Adams did with only 30.9 percent of nationwide votes in 1824? The Electoral College isn’t perfect, just like everything else, but it has provided a way to balance the desires of the states and the people. Out of 58 presidential elections, the electoral vote and the popular vote have not lined up only five times. Although I dislike these inconsistencies, this is a 91-percent accuracy rate. Until we can figure out a system that beats this number and keeps good representation for all regions of the country, the Electoral College might still be our best bet. Connor Kockler is a Sauk Rapids-Rice High School student. He enjoys writing, politics and news, among other interests.


Friday, Dec. 2, 2016

Sauk Rapids-Rice Newsleader • www.thenewsleaders.com

7

Community Calendar

Is your event listed? Send your information to: Newsleader Calendar, P.O. Box 324, St. Joseph, MN 56374; fax it to 320-363-4195; or, e-mail it to news@thenewsleaders. com. Friday, Dec. 2 Benton County Historical Society, 10 a.m.-4 p.m., 218 First St. N., Sauk Rapids. 320-253-9614. mnbentonhistory.org. 55+ Driving Improvement Program (four-hour refresher course), noon-4 p.m., Whitney Senior Center, 1527 Northway Drive, St. Cloud. 1-888-234-1294. Christmas on the Home Front, 1-8 p.m., Charles A. Lindbergh Historic Site, 1620 Lindbergh Drive, Little Falls. 320-616-5421. St. Joseph Winter Farmers’ Market, 3-6 p.m., 27 W. Minnesota St., St. Joseph. www.stjosephfarmersmarket.com. Arts and Crafts Sale, 4-8 p.m, Church of St. Joseph (Heritage Hall), 12 W. Minnesota Street. 320-3637505. St. Joseph Winterwalk, 6-7:30 p.m., Tree Lighting at Bello Cucina, all other events following will be in the St. Joseph Catholic Church. A Mosaic of Joy, presented by Great River Chorale and guest musicians, 7:30 p.m., St. Mary’s Cathedral, 25 Eighth Ave. S., St. Cloud. Saturday, Dec. 3 Brass Day, 8 a.m.-5 p.m., Stewart Hall, St. Cloud State University. Quality Craft and Bake Sale, 9 a.m.-2 p.m., Park Fellowship Church, 32932 C.R. 4, Sartell. Cookie Walk, 10 a.m.-noon, First United Methodist Church, 1107 Pinecone Road S., Sartell. 320-2510804. www.fumcsr.org. Sartell Winter Farmers’ Market, 10 a.m.-1 p.m., Sartell City Hall, 125 Pinecone Road N., Sartell. www. marketmonday.org. WANTED TO BUY: Basswood and Birchwood by truckload delivered to Dodgeville,WI. Bark intact, harvested in dormancy, delivered FRESH cut. Pre-arranged purchases only. Call Al Ladd at 608-935-2341 ext.333 (MCN) AU TO M O B I L E S / M OTO RC Y C L E S WANTED MOTORCYCLES: TOP CASH PAID! For Old Motorcycles! 1900-1979. DEAD OR ALIVE! 920-371-0494 (MCN) EMPLOYMENT/HELP WANTED CLASS-A CDL Regional Driver. Good home time. Great pay and benefits. Matching 401k. Bonus’s and tax free money. No touch freight. Experience needed. Call Scott 507-460-9011. Apply on-line WWW.MCFGTL.COM (MCN) MAKE $1,000 WEEKLY! Paid in advance! Mailing Brochures at Home! Easy pleasant work. Begin Immediately! Age unimportant! www.homemoney77.com (MCN) ADOPTION Birthmothers, Planning an Adoption? Unique Adoptions can help. We have an excellent Adoption program. Choose from open or closed, select adoptive family. Financial Assistance. Ask about 4-day recovery packages. Call 24/7 to speak to an adoption specialist. 1-888-637-8200 (Void in IL) (MCN) PREGNANT? CONSIDERING ADOPTION? Call us first. Living expenses, housing, medical, and continued support afterwards. Choose adoptive family of your choice. Call 24/7. 855-3906047 (MCN)

Toys for Tots Drive, 10 a.m.-2 p.m., Sauk Rapids Fire Hall, 408 N. Benton Drive. Live Nativity Scene, 10 a.m.- 4 p.m., Coborn’s parking lot, Sauk Rapids. Craft-Vendor Sale, 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Sal’s Bar and Grill, 109 W. Minnesota St., St. Joseph. Sauk Rapids Family Fun Day, 11 a.m.-8 pm., Kids Bingo from 11 a.m.-2 p.m., Silent Auction from 11 a.m.-7:30 p.m., Santa and Mrs. Claus from 2-3:30 p.m., VFW, 901 N. Benton Drive, Sauk Rapids. Percussion/electronics concert by guest percussionist Patti Cudd, 3 p.m., Recital Hall, Performing Arts Center, St. Cloud State University, Holiday Parade of Lights, 5 p.m., along Second Avenue, Sauk Rapids. Christmas on the Home Front, 1-8 p.m., Charles A. Lindbergh Historic Site, 1620 Lindbergh Drive, Little Falls. 320-616-5421. Gingerbread Festival, 2-4 p.m., First United Methodist Church, 1107 Pinecone Road S., Sartell. 320-2510804. www.fumcsr.org. Sunday, Dec. 4 Breakfast, sponsored by St. Joseph Knights of Columbus, 8:30 a.m.-noon, Heritage Hall, St. Joseph Catholic Church, 12 W. Minnesota St. Christmas on the Home Front, 1-8 p.m., Charles A. Lindbergh Historic Site, 1620 Lindbergh Drive, Little Falls. 320-616-5421. A Mosaic of Joy, presented by Great River Chorale and guest musicians, 4 p.m., Bethlehem Lutheran Church, 4310 C.R. 137, St. Cloud. Monday, Dec. 5 St. John’s Prep Discovery Day, Collegeville. 320-363-3315. Benton County Historical Society, 10 a.m.-4 p.m., 218 First St. N., Sauk Rapids. 320-253-9614. mnben-

tonhistory.org. Arc Midstate Annual Christmas Party, for individuals with special needs and their families, 6:30 p.m., Moose Lodge, 1300 Third St. N., Waite Park. Rice City Council, 7 p.m., council chambers, Rice City Hall, 205 Main St. E. 320-393-2280. Sauk Rapids Planning Commission, 7 p.m., council chambers, Sauk Rapids Government Center, 250 Summit Ave. N. 320-258-5300. ci.sauk-rapids.mn.us. Sauk Rapids Riverside Lions Club, 7 p.m., Jimmy’s Pour House, 22 Second Ave. N., Sauk Rapids. eclubhouse.org/sites/srriverside. Yoga Gingerbread House Competition, today-Dec. 10, Courtyard by Marriott, 404 W. St. Germain St. www.stclouddowntown.com. Tuesday, Dec. 6 Sauk Rapids HRA Board, 6 p.m., council chambers, Sauk Rapids Government Center, 250 Summit Ave. N. 320-258-5300. ci.sauk-rapids.mn.us. Walk-In FAFSA Workshop, get help completing a FAFSA application for state and federal financial aid, 4-7 p.m., Miller Center, St. Cloud State University. 400 Sixth St. S., St. Cloud. 320-308-2022. Watab Township Board, 7 p.m., 660 75th St. N.W., Sauk Rapids. watabtownship.com. Benton Telecommunications channel 3.

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Friday, Dec. 9 Benton County Historical Society, 10 a.m.-4 p.m., 218 First St. N., Sauk Rapids. 320-253-9614. mnbentonhistory.org.

Sunday, Dec. 11 Children’s Christmas Pageant, 9:30-10:30 a.m., First United Methodist Church, 1107 Pinecone Road S., Sartell. 320-251-0804. www. fumcsr.org. Dashing Through the Snow Softball Tournament, 10 a.m., Whitney Recreation Center, 1527 Northway Drive. 320-650-3051. www.ci.stcloud.mn.us.

Saturday, Dec. 10 Winter Market, 10 a.m.-1 p.m., Sartell City Hall, 125 Pinecone Road N. marketmonday.org. 55+ Driving Improvement Program (four-hour refresher course), 10 a.m.-2 p.m., Miller Auto Plaza, 2930 Second St. S., St. Cloud. 1-888234-1294. Central Minnesota Chapter of the Federation of the Blind of Minnesota, 12:30 p.m., American Legion, 17 Second Ave. N., Waite Park. Winter Wonderland, 1-4 p.m., Lake George, St. Cloud. www.

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stclouddowntown.com. Winter Blast, sponsored by Capital One, 2-5 p.m., 30 Seventh Ave. S., St. Cloud. www.stclouddowntown.com. House and Business Front Lighting Contest, 5-9 p.m., Sauk Rapids. jessi.brinkman@gmail.com. Jedi Tree Lighting, 6-7 p.m., corner of 10 Avenue and W. St. Germain. www.stcliuddowntown.com.

Wednesday, Dec. 7 Introduction to the Gale Family Library, presented by the Minnesota Historical Society, 9:15 a.m.-10:15 a.m., Gale Family Library, Minnesota History Center, 345 W./Kellogg Blvd., St. Paul. Benton County Historical Society, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday-Friday, 218 First St. N., Sauk Rapids. 320253-9614. mnbentonhistory.org.

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Thursday, Dec. 8 Coffee and Conversation, a senior discussion group, 9 a.m., Country Manor, 520 First St. N.E., Sartell. Sartell-Sauk Rapids Moms’ Club, 9-10:30 a.m., Celebration Lutheran Church, 1500 Pinecone Road N., Sartell. Jesus Cares Bible class, 6:30 p.m., Petra Lutheran Church, 1049 First Ave. N., Sauk Rapids.

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Sauk Rapids-Rice Newsleader • www.thenewsleaders.com

8

Robot from front page Johnson is happiest when students do more reflection on the process rather than simply solving the problem. “I’m happier if they get awards for showing their documentation and showing what they are really learning than about them getting a first-place trophy,” he said. Not every attempt to solve a problem ends in success. Ask nearly any of the budding engineers in the room, and they will tell you a good share of what they do is trial and error. They adhere to the old adage, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” On a normal day, Johnson will have 20 to 25 students involved with the design-andtinker process. Students range from elementary level to seniors in high school. There are two robotics teams at the high-school level. The older students help the younger ones; the experienced help the inexperienced. “This is just about a yearround program,” Johnson said. “We are a co-curricular program.” Students begin to learn the robotics/engineering process early in the school year and continue to build and refine and compete in head-to-head robotics competitions with other schools throughout the year, Johnson said. Each year the teams are given specific tasks the robots they design will have to be able to complete, Johnson explained. This year the task is to design a robot that can lift a star-shaped object and a cube-shaped object about two-and-a-half feet in the air, and place it on the other side of a fence. Teams are graded on whether they can place the object in a near zone or a far zone in relation to the fence. More points are awarded for placement of objects in the

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far zone. It seems like a simple enough task until one has to design a robot that can perform the task again and again without fail. One of the challenges was to create a robot that was stable enough to lift the star without tipping over backward. The problem was solved by adding a counterbalance stabilizer extending about six inches in back of the main robot frame. It may all seem like a lot of fun, but students learn more than just robotics in the program. “I’ve had plenty of students who have gone off and done business,” Johnson said. “In a lot of ways we are a team that designs our own brand, basically our own brand name. We are fundraising and doing all kinds of sponsor opportunities and tours of facilities and things like that to raise funds for the competitions, and to buy the parts and things we need to compete.” This year the program has 20 corporate sponsors. Johnson allows students to decorate their robot products with the decals and names of the corporate sponsors just like NASCAR drivers decorate their cars with sponsors’ names. “We put our sponsors all over the robots, and our banners and pit areas at the competitions and things like that,” Johnson said.

The value to kids

Johnson also pointed out it’s not just students interested in technology who join the robotics team. “Not everybody is going to school post-secondary for engineering just because they are in robotics,” Johnson said. “A lot of kids start doing it and it gets a little addicting, I think.” Part of the attraction is it’s a way of forming relationships and friendships. Kids who graduated two or three years ago still maintain com-

munications with the group, Johnson noted. “It helps me work with other people, and it helps me to solve different problems at different processes,” said Adam Iburg in describing the value of robotics. “If I see a problem and there is no book to tell me how to solve it, I can figure it out on my own.” Iburg is a junior and plans to attend St. Cloud Technical College to study automotive technology. He said this is his second year in robotics, and he formed some fast friendships with students who graduated and are attending colleges in other states. One of only two females in the room, junior Tristen Tyson-Anderson, laughingly explained having a roomful of guys wasn’t what motivated her to get involved in robotics. “I joined more just to learn the process of how to do things on my own,” she said. “Being a girl and being underestimated all the time when it comes to mechanics, it’s kind of a nice learning curve for me to realize there is so much more for me to learn.” She has cemented her place on the A team and is a valuable team member in spite of the fact this is her first year. She said she’s learned to program, and the names of parts and how they all fit together and form the working robot. “I’m not going to lie,” Tyson-Anderson said. “When I started I had no idea what a wrench was. But Brian (her teammate) is the best teacher.” That is part of the larger goal Johnson has for the robotics program. “We’re working on building successful students one robot at a time,” Johnson said. “I try to get them all to remember that is our goal. We don’t really care if we get first place, but we are definitely going to be competitive when we compete.”

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Friday, Dec. 2, 2016

photos by Dave DeMars

Above: Members of the Sauk Rapid Robotics Team include the following (front row, from left to right): Adam Iburg, Jonathon DeMars, Lucas Brewers, Carson Lacina, Austin Bemboom, Ryan Peterson, Jack Luukkonen, Noah Kuehl, Andrew Asp, Ellen Jaschke, Hayden Zabinski and Adam Sundby; (back row) Sawyer Nash, Jack Brickman, John Hoeschen, Noah Ellefson, Brian Kahl, Sam Murray, Raymond Nowacki, Matt Kahl, Tristen Tyson-Anderson and Adam Johnson. Not pictured are: Aaron Johnson (high-school robotics mentor) and Jeff Jaschke (elementary-school robotics mentor). Below: The “bot” built by Team A seems to be performing as expected. It has been tasked with grasping the stars, picking them up, raising them up and putting them on the other side of the fence. The “bot” earns points for the team by placing the stars in close to the fence or pushing them further back from the fence. The further from the fence the stars are placed, the more points are earned.


Sauk Rapids-Rice Newsleader - Dec. 2, 2016