Category Archives: Nordquist Blog

Stumper of the Week


I love a good brain challenge and am hoping you do as well!  Each week I will put a challenge problem on my blog page for a little exercise for your brain.  You can email me your answer if you would like to get it checked.

Ok, here goes…

#1  Add 2 lines to make this a true equation:

6  8  0  +  5   =  5

Happy Solving!


Quarter 1 Update

imagesThe leaves are falling, the smell of campfires fill the air, and conferences are here!  That must mean the first quarter is over!

We have had a busy, but fun first quarter.  Our focus has been on invention and innovation.  This is always a fun theme for students and proved to be true this year as well.  We had a variety of events and experiences that provided students with the opportunity to explore invention and innovation both inside and outside the classroom.

One such event was the Invention Convention Seminar in October.  This was open to all students grades 2 – 6 (at two separate seminars) and had a focus on the engineering profession as well.  5th & 6th grade students had the opportunity to create their own musical instrument, work through the reverse engineering process, market their invention, and look at improving the world through inventions all while creating an engineering notebook.  2nd – 4th graders worked through the process of creating electrical circuits and even got to put together a light up greeting card using a circuit they made.  It was exciting to see all of the innovative thinkers we have at Westside!

Math and Reading enrichment are in full swing now.  There are many opportunities available to students within the classroom during these subject areas.  Most of the enrichment options can be found through the EY blog.  Many of these experiences have the potential to lead into deeper projects/studies, so be sure to check with your student regarding opportunities they have chosen or plan to explore.

We continue to encourage all students to check out the EY blog regularly for enrichment opportunities in many interest areas both within their classrooms and beyond.  Please encourage your student(s) to explore the blog at home as well.  Like I always say…the blog doesn’t ever take a day off!

Thank you for making this first quarter a success!

A New Adventure!

back-to-school blog pic

As summer draws to a close, the adventure of a new school year awaits!  I am so excited for all that this year will bring!  From seminars and competitions, to small group meetings and blogging, there will be a lot of enrichment going on!

I will continue to be at Oakdale and Westbrook this year, and will split my days in order to be at each school on a daily basis.  This is exciting for me as I will be able to check in with students more consistently.  We are on a 4 day rotation this year, which is similar to the other specialists in the district.  If you would like more information, check out our EY calendar here.

The beginning of the school year is always exciting as so many opportunities await!  Students, please explore the blog and take advantage of the many seminar and event opportunities that will be presented.  Parents, please encourage your students to take part in these things and inquire as to what opportunities they have participated in.  Don’t ever hesitate to contact me with questions or concerns.  Together we will make this a fantastic year!


2015 Summer Opportunities



It is hard to believe that the last bell will ring soon and summer fun will commence!  The EY team will continue to provide a variety of learning experiences through our blog to keep those summer minds sharp!  We also wanted to pass along other opportunities available outside of our team and/or district.  We hope that these resources provide a starting point for your search into further enrichment opportunities.  Please note that these are suggested resources and are not endorsed or extensively researched by the Westside EY team.

TenMarks Online Math Summer Program                                                                                                   As you know, students lose an average of 2-3 months of math comprehension
over summer break. TenMarks offers a Free Summer Program that is proven to
reverse the loss.  Students that participated in the program last year not
only reversed their learning loss, they showed an 11% gain in math
This summer, TenMarks is making the Summer Math Program available to your
students for FREE! (previously $39.95/student)
Register at

Nebraska Association for the Gifted website list                                                                                         This list has various opportunities around the metro area and state.  Please be sure to contact the sponsor for availability and further information.                                                       

Metropolitan Community College – College for Kids and Teens

Arts For All is a nonprofit arts education organization dedicated to making the arts available and affordable for all ages throughout Metro Omaha. In 2013, over 1,500 students participated in Arts For All’s quality culturally-enriched programming.

Summer Kid’s Music Clinic 2015                                                                                                Sponsored By The Papillion LaVista Community Theatre  Contact MONIKA PETERS AT  for more information.

Camp Wonderopolis (online)                                                                                                                                 Camp Wonderopolis is headed to new frontiers this year with a theme of Mission to Wonder. Camp will enable programs, families, and individuals to customize their experience to their needs while campers explore different tracks of STEM-based exploration. Along the way they will build their vocabulary, background knowledge, and literacy skills

Leap Ahead in Math This Summer!  (online)                                                                                                    Research shows that students who are not exposed to stimulating, educational activities over the summer months easily lose a couple of month’s worth of math skills.  Instead of losing skills, sharpen skills and leap ahead in math this summer with LeapAhead!.          


More Than Just a Toy…


Do you love building things with your hands?  Can you spend hours putting together Legos?  Then this article is for you!  Just like you, Lasse Lauesen was a child who loved all things LEGO (and anything building related).  His childhood passion turned into a career with the LEGO company!  What is your passion and where could it take you?  We would love to hear your comments and who knows, you might inspire others too!

LegoWeek_620x70_01jbrMFBA2013_SatGH_LasseLauesenGrowing up in the Danish countryside, in the wild west of Jutland, I had no idea that I’d end up pursuing a calling in robotics engineering and development at Lego. I currently work with Lego Mindstorms, a programmable robotics construction kit that enables kids of all ages to make their own robots out of Lego.I really love my job, so I wish that I could tell you all about it. However, working in the domain of highly classified development hinders me from doing so. One thing I can tell you is about my journey up to this point, my maker story, which happens to involve quite a bit of Lego building.


Since as far back as I can remember, I’ve always been addicted to creating stuff. My father was a mechanic and my mother a florist, so I grew up with a large amount of creativity and craftsmanship. During most of my childhood we were renovating our house, and I was always there to give a helping hand, which is probably where I got my passion for building. I was introduced to Lego Duplo at an early age and quickly started creating high towers and houses.


I moved on to the Lego City sets, where you could make much more detailed models. I would follow the instructions for a model once just after I got them, but they would quickly be destroyed and turned into something else in combination with my other Lego toys. Even though I really enjoyed my Lego City sets, there was a need for something more, and that need was satisfied with the Lego Technic sets — the axles, the gears, the pneumatics, and last but not least, the motors. I was now able to make my Lego creations move, which opened a whole new world to me. With these sets I was able to replicate many of the farming machines that I was surrounded with.

Now, my childhood wasn’t all about Lego, growing up, I also enjoyed spending time outside. You could say that Lego was my evening and rainy day activity, so thankfully Denmark is a very rainy country. But when I was outside, I was playing in the woods and fields that surrounded our house. I enjoyed building cabins in the treetops with Tarzan tracks between them. My mom has this story she likes to tell people, which describes me pretty well. I once came running into the kitchen and asked her how far up in the trees I was allowed to climb. She gave me a response that she has regretted so many times, she told me that I was allowed to climb upwards as long as I was sure that I could climb back down. The next thing she saw was me hanging on to the very thin branches at the top of a tree where normally only birds would be found.


I Discover Lego Technic

In 1997 something very special happened with Lego that blew my mind: they launched one of their first programmable Lego Technic sets. Most of you might think that I’m talking about the Mindstorms series, but no. I’m talking about a set called the Code-Pilot. This set contained a programmable brick that could be programmed using an integrated barcode scanner. Along with the set came a big cardboard card with the barcodes that represented instructions that would be executed in the order they where scanned. This was truly amazing to me; I was now able to combine my Lego Technic bricks and motors with a programmable brick and sensors to make my Lego creations come to LIFE!


This set introduced a new concept to me, something called programming. All the play that I had with this set is really what shaped my passion for automation and robots. It created a hunger in me for technology, that just grew bigger and bigger. For some reason, I didn’t discover the Mindstorms series at that point, so instead I moved into the computers and left Lego behind.

Welding, Coding, and Mindstorms

I started welding and went crazy in our garage. I created stuff like horse wagons, trebuchets, and go-carts. I had also spent some of the rainy Denmark days teaching myself how to program websites with HTML, PHP, and MySQL. Back then websites were one of the easiest ways for people to learn about programming by themselves. Although I was able to weld, do electric circuits, and program websites, there was still something missing. In my eyes I had been creating cooler stuff with my Lego set in the garage.

There was more I needed to learn, so I signed up for a technical high school in Denmark. During that first year I was introduced to the Mindstorms RCX for the first time. This incredible toy brought back my love for Lego. I found a friend at the school that had the same passion for programmable Lego, and together we spent some of our weekends creating Lego robots and machines. With the RCX I was introduced to embedded programming using the C language, and I moved on to programming microcontrollers and creating my own PCBs during my studies.

I Study Industrial Automation and Computer Engineering

After high school I was sure that I wanted some work experience before I started studying engineering, so I enrolled in a four year Automation Technician program, working in industrial automation with machines and robots. The program gave me a lot of experience of designing control systems for industrial machines and robots. I traveled Europe setting up and configuring production lines, and I received two awards for my efforts during this study. This was very exciting, but I always felt that I was lacking the full understanding of what exactly was going on through the whole system.

Therefore I started studying Computer Engineering at the University of Aalborg in northern Denmark. This gave me deeper insights into computer systems, and I now had knowledge in all layers of automated systems. I’ve always found the best way for me to understand the theories and methods is to play with them and experiment, as I’ve never been good at reading thick theory books. Using Lego Mindstorms, that was exactly what I did. It helped me to play with a lot of the theories that I was being taught at the university.

Lego Notices Us

I was lucky enough that my Lego friend from back in high school also studied at Aalborg university, so we reunited and started creating amazing stuff with the Lego Mindstorms. We kept making robots and machines with Lego, and our creations started to catch the attention of some Lego employees.

quoteIn 2010, Lego reached out to us and asked if we wanted to create a model that we could show for Lego World in Copenhagen. We created a booth that included 8 Mindstorms robots out of our own Lego collection, and went without knowing what we had signed up for. Our booth was a model of a cargo terminal, where we had an automated conveyor belt and two autonomous cargo trucks. The booth also contained two Mindstorms forklifts, each of which was controllable by a joystick made out of Lego Mindstorms. This was a huge success at Lego world, and Lego quickly asked us for a list of parts we would need to make a copy of it.

Then they invited us to show off the cargo terminal at the Lego World event in Holland. This event opened our eyes to a whole new world, a world with others like ourselves, who had a passion for robotics and used Lego to bring their ideas to life. We both got included in a group called MCP (Mindstorms Community Partner), which is a group of selected adult Mindstorms users that discuss the product and its future with developers at Lego. Through this program, we also got the chance to be supported by Lego on our projects, so if we had a good idea, we could ask Lego for the pieces we needed and they would then send us everything, if they found the idea interesting. We felt like Charlie at the chocolate factory, as we now had a chance to realize some of the projects that we had always wanted to do. We also got informed about Lego’s plans to launch the third generation, now known as the EV3. In the closed forum we got access to pictures and videos of early prototypes and we were discussing different aspects of the product during the development. This was very exciting time for me, it made me feel very special to be a part of a select few that knew about the project.

Traveling the World with Lego

In this period of my life, the Lego sponsorship took my friend and me around the world with other enthusiasts to showcase our creations and inspire others. Among our destinations were the World Robotic Olympiad in Abu Dhabi (2011), Kuala Lumpur (2012) and Jakarta (2013); and the yearly FIRST championships in St. Louis, Mo. At these events we would mostly bring some of our bigger creation like the Lego Mindstorms Blimps. Those are flying Lego models that use helium balloons as the main source of lift and have propellers that enable control of lift, propulsion, and steering.

My Lego Internship

When we were at the event in Abu Dhabi, Lego called us in for a meeting with all the Mindstorms enthusiasts that they had sponsored to go there, and announced that they were looking for 12 people that would become the Lego Mindstorms Expert Panel. This would be a group that worked closely with Lego on the development of Mindstorms EV3 product. I got included in this select group, and started collaborating with Lego on the future generation of Mindstorms. Through this close collaboration with Lego, I was also able to get a Lego internship.

I had my first day in at the Lego headquarters in Billund on the 11th of April 2012, where my task was to investigate how to integrate the new Mindstorms product with smartphones. I really can’t describe the feeling I had that day when I sat down at my own desk inside Lego headquarters, knowing that I was going to be a big part of the team that created a new version of the product that had helped me throughout my whole life up to this point. Even better, it turned out that my manager was one of the creators of the Lego set that kickstarted my interest in robots, the 8479 that I mentioned earlier. During my internship, I created a lot of different prototype apps, two of which are what came to be the official Lego Mindstorms Robot Commander app.

Designing the DINOR3X

Even though I was working full time at Lego during my internship, I was still a part of the expert panel of fans that also got different tasks. One of the big tasks that we were asked to work on was to create bonus models. This would be models created by fans but posted on the official Lego website and promoted by Lego as extra models that could be built with the new Mindstorms EV3 set. I had, as I bet most who have played with Lego, always dreamt of being a Lego designer, so being asked to do a model for Lego was like a dream come true. When I had to decide what the model should be, I was very determined to create a walking four-legged robot. And I even had a specific walking mechanism that I really wanted to implement using Lego: Theo Jansen’s “Strandbeest.” This mechanism has always fascinated me, as it has such a lifelike movement to it. The biggest challenge was to build this mechanism using the limited parts that came with the set, but after a lot of trial and error, I managed to make it work. With this mechanism I created the DINOR3X bonus model.

My internship eventually ended and I had to go back to the university for my final exams, but I got a part time job at Lego so that I could continue the work I had started there during my internship.

When I got my degree, I was hired as a full-time employee. My work in computer engineering on Lego Mindstorms involves working with our existing product, the Mindstorms EV3, but also peeking into the crystal ball, thinking about creating the toys and tools, that will inspire the innovators of tomorrow. Still very much feeling like a kid myself, I wish I could tell you more about that last bit, but as I said … I’d lose my job if I did that. And that is something I really don’t want to do! See, getting to play with Lego and robots at work feels pretty cool…

Lasse Lauesen


I’m a computer engineer at LEGO System A/S. I have a passion for robotics and automation, and of course a love for Lego. The majority of my spare time is spent making stuff both out of Lego and other materials. I also enjoy snowboarding, riding my motorcycle, gymnastics, and traveling. Consider myself an active geek.


Feeling the electricity this spring!

images-18Spring has certainly sprung and you can definitely feel the “electricity” in the air!  Well, maybe not feel it, but students at Westbrook, Oakdale, and Hillside have been seeing and experiencing it with squishy circuits.  These circuits are created using conductive and resistant dough, battery packs, LED’s, buzzers, and motors.  The students learned how electricity travels in a flow (away from the negative pole of the battery back to the positive pole) much like water.  They got their creative juices flowing as well while creating some very unique circuits!  Check them out!

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Highlights from BOTB 2015

bookworm_red  Recipe for Sharing Your Love of Reading & Writing
  • 20 Books
  • Over 150 Authentic Book Projects
  • 3 Authors
  • 1 Playwright
  • A Dash of Competition
  • A Little Free Library
  • A Sprinkling of our Favorite Neighborhood Bookstore

Yields:  120 students receiving a message of inspiration, perseverance, and hope!


Battle of the Books took a different spin this year at Westside Community Schools.  The morning started off with kids arriving and putting their book projects on display.  For each book read, students chose one project to complete.  There were 3-5 project choices for each book ranging from dioramas, to writing a letter to the author, to doing further research on a topic in the book.

Drew, 4th grader at Swanson said:  I loved doing the Battle Of The Books activities, and reading the books! Most of the books were amazing! :)

Check out some of the student projects submitted!

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Next, Omaha Playwright (and Westside graduate, parent and community member) Ellen Struve talked about her profession and love of reading & writing.  Not only did she talk about her personal journey to becoming a playwright, but Ms. Struve also involved the students in creating their very own play!  Throughout her presentation, Ellen embedded information about characters, dialogue, conflict, scene, and setting.  Based on the engagement level and questions asked by kids, there will most likely be additional play writers emerging from Westside in the future!

We found 3 BOTB authors on Twitter and they graciously agreed to Skype with our students!  Katherine Fitzmaurice, author of A Diamond in the Desert was up first.  She emphasized all the research that went into writing the book and even showed us pictures of the real characters.  She also showed students a pile of rejection letters and the numerous changes suggested by her editor.  Her advice for students wanting to write a book:  “You have to really like what you’re writing about.  Believe in yourself and like your story!”  

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Our next Skype call was with Valerie Hobbs, author of Sheep.  Many students chose to write Ms. Hobbs a letter for their book project and she graciously wrote letters back to all of them!  Talk about making a personal connection!  Several students read Sheep and fell in love with Jack, the border collie who tells the story.

Many students were excited when Ms. Hobbs shared information about the newly released sequel to Sheep.  At the end of Sheep, Jack finds Luke at the Good Shepherd Home for Boys.  Together, they are adopted by a couple and the sequel Wolf continues Luke and Jack’s story at their new home, a sheep ranch in Northern California.  Ms. Hobbs’ writing advice for the students: “Do a whole lot of reading of the type of book you’d like to write.”


Our final Skype call was with W.H. Beck, author of Malcolm at Midnight.  In addition to being an author, Ms. Beck is a school librarian.  Her advice for students was, “Make sure to set aside time each day to write.  You can make a list, write a short story, or just write down your random thoughts.”

Click Here for a Portion of our Skype Call With W.H. Beck



We didn’t forget the competition portion of Battle of the Books.  Students worked in teams to answer questions about all 20 books.  They used their iPads and participated in a Kahoot! created by Mrs. Lusero.  Students also took an individual test on a Google form.

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At the end of the day, Marla Fries shared her love of reading by telling the students about her Little Free Library.  Marla is a WCS community member, retired administrator, and volunteer at Westgate Elementary.

After the event, one student was so inspired that she wanted to build her own Little Free Library!  Check out Ava’s work!

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Ellen Scott from our neighborhood bookstore, The Bookworm, also shared her personal story and love of reading with the students.  She presented the kids with an opportunity to be on The Bookworm’s Kid Advisory Board.  We are so fortunate to have a family-owned bookstore in our Westside community!

Friday, March 13th was truly a wonderful day to celebrate many accomplishments!  To all the students who participated, Thank You for all your hard word and willingness to try something new.  The EY Team learned a lot throughout the process and we look forward to hearing your feedback!

If you attended Battle of the Books this year, please consider leaving a comment and letting us know your favorite part!  Also, click here for a quick survey about the day.

Science Olympiad Recap

Question: What do you get when you gather 110 students interested in science and allow them to think creatively, problem solve, experiment and collaborate?
Answer: Learning at its best!

The 2nd Annual WCS Elementary Science Olympiad was a huge success!  Throughout the day, students participated in a variety of events that challenged their thinking.

The Zoo School facilitated a Wildlife Safari event where students practiced their observation and inference skills.  The Barge Building event challenged students to create a foil structure that would float in water and support the most pennies.  Mystery Powders had students identifying substances based on their reactions to different liquids.  Other events included Rock Hound, Straw Tower, Mystery Boxes and Edible Vehicle.

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It was a great day thanks to the organization of Sheree Person-Pandil and John Thomsen from ESU #3.  We also had 9 amazing WHS students who shared their love of science by helping out at each event and facilitating a Science Bowl.


It’s so great to offer these types of opportunities to our students.  Seeing the level of engagement and enthusiasm from the students is what makes our job so rewarding!  Thank you to everyone involved in making this day a success!  Click on the link below to watch a short iMovie trailer of the day.

Click Here to Watch the Video

A New Year!

imagesWell it’s hard to believe we are having to remember to write 2015 already!  The saying continues to ring true, ‘time flies when you’re having fun’ as it has been a year full of fun and learning so far!

December brought about a change in temperatures as well as a change in schedules for the EY teachers.  Our time was spent planning and organizing the 10 school Geography Bees, taking on the role of learner at teacher trainings, and diving into data in order to best meet the needs of all students in the district.  Although the tasks were important, this led to less time with students which is why I’m very much looking forward to the coming weeks.

Soon we will be ready to dive into our new 3rd quarter focus which is science based.  Currently students are working on finishing their 20 year timeline (current events from our world, nation, and local community will be included for each year), as well as the Battle of The Books reading and activity keynotes.  These will wrap up in the next couple of weeks and will allow us to shift gears into our new science based focus.

During the 3rd Quarter, we will revisit our web-savvy friend Sylvia and her Super Awesome Mini Maker Show episodes.  These will serve as a springboard for our own super awesome science shows that will spotlight an experiment of each student’s choosing.  They will research and decide on an experiment to conduct and present.  We love science…mess and all!  🙂  If you’d like to check out Sylvia’s video series, please visit:

Upcoming events & opportunities to think about:

*The Science Olympiad is fast approaching and will be a great event for those 4th-6th grade students who have a passion for all things science!  This event will take place on Tuesday, January 27th.  Students interested in attending need to submit their plan for their edible vehicle to their classroom teacher by Wednesday, January 14th.  Here is the link to the activity:  We will be looking at effort and creativity to determine attendees.

*The Math Olympiad contests have begun.  Students in grades 5 & 6 had the opportunity to challenge themselves by participating in a math quiz competition.  There will be monthly quizzes that the students can take followed by an answer session.  It is exciting to see so many students taking on this challenge!  It is a great opportunity to learn new math strategies and concepts!

*Check out a new spot on the blog:  Math Minutes!  A great way to tickle your math brain!

Looking ahead to a brand new year, there is so much to be thankful for!  I truly enjoy the opportunity to work with such amazing students!  Have a happy and healthy 2015!

Hour of Code



Today, December 8th, marks the start of a world-wide event on computer coding and programming.  This week long opportunity, The Hour of Code, is all about introducing people of all ages to computer coding.  To start, go to this link Hour of Code and click on the orange start button.  Start today and join over 53 million people around the world in learning something new!  Share what you’ve done by commenting below!

Happy Coding!