Posts tagged Student Life
Robotics Class Focuses on Real-world Problem Solving

Students in Hillcrest's robotics class have accomplished a lot this year. They built a 3D printer using the school's two other 3D printers. They've programed boards and soldered connections to make a device that levitates objects. Now they are working on their final, a robotic chess board.

The large wooden pieces of a chess board lay disheveled in the back corner. Students are done with their research into the board. Now there is the sound of Dremel drills grinding off excess pieces from gears that will operate the robots the class is building from scratch. The arm of one of the robots is nearly done. There are a few gears that need to be grinded out after a design flaw forced the team to do a slight redesign. They are planning to use an analog controller that will be soldered to a board to drive the motors that will cause the arm to operate. It's the class's final exam. The collaborative project is what they will encounter in the real world.

The class is working at a feverish pace. A few students are tying up some other projects from the year. One is building a small drone. His frame appears to be a little heavy, so he is starting a reprint on one of the 3D printers in the room. His rotors and blades are laying next to another project he finished with his class earlier in the year.

Another student is finishing the base of a lamp she is making. She designed the lamp shade in a computer aided drafting program, using some unique designs to fabricate a modern looking lamp shade. Her 3D print is taking a bit longer.

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In another corner of the room sits the class's major achievement. A three foot 3D printer that they built nearly from scratch. They programmed the school's 3D printers to make joining corners and support structures. They have a small board that operates the machine. It isn't strong enough right now, one student thinks. He feels the extruder is moving too slow because the computer can't push information to it fast enough. They have another one on order, but this student is watching the consistency of the plastic as it comes out of the extruder and is thankful they have another on the way. This machine is a double extruder, so it can use two types of plastic. Their teacher, Armin Jahr, is excited because he wants to have the class create a fully functioning motor completely 3D printed at one time. The magic of using two plastics means the class can make one of the plastics water soluble. Which means they can take the 3D creation and soak it in water. The water soluble plastic will dissipate and will leave the other plastic in tact with the gears that will be completely house and fully functioning.

The class laughs as they work, pausing for a minute to ask each other to take a look at what they're doing for insight. Students work on aspects of their project, while giving advice or encouragement to other classmates who are working on the detail aspects that will impact the entire project. This is one of the classes that uses a lot of collaboration at Hillcrest. Students aren't in school to merely achieve a good grade or high score, they're learning how to function in the world through collaboration and seeking the best for others. Engaging in the classroom is part of being a good citizen, and bearing the image of God. Hillcrest's program naturally pulls students to be a part of the overall learning environment.

Students Glean More Than Dates From History Program

Many history courses are wrapping-up their Contemporary American History sections outlining recent conflicts. These courses are covering the background, political players, and repercussions of war and social conflicts. Where student's pencils feverishly take notes on the history in preparing for the test, Hillcrest's history class is in debate mode, unveiling the result of Hillcrest's educational approach.


Junior John Vall confidently walked to the podium where the day before three other students stood in sequence to present their case for addressing the Vietnam war. John's speech followed suit with the structure of the other students'; an explanation of the conflict, recounting how Vietnam grew to have the conflict that threatened more than their small island. From there, John outlined a solution he researched the political players at the time were considering. His points were clear and decisive, a winsome solution that would convince most. However, when John finished his lecture the teacher opened up a five minute debate session. John's friends in the class quickly attacked his reasoning, pulling out facts from other conflicts in history that stood in opposition to John's solution. John patiently heard their concerns, noting their points before outlining how they were misguided in how this conflict would unfold. 

This is the rhetoric aspect of Hillcrest's educational approach. The goal is to teach students how to learn, guiding them to build reasoned ideas that are founded in truth. From there the students work to build a logical defense for their ideas. This history lesson wasn't just about the Vietnam war, it was a discipline in having civil discourse and friendly debate, something the world is struggling to do. It may be because the world hasn't been educated in how to have a civilized discussion. Teaching students how to learn and have dialogue is one of the many significant outcomes of a Hillcrest education.  

Hillcrest Knowledge Bowl Advances to State for Fifth Time in Six Years

Hillcrest sent both of the school's knowledge bowl teams to the regional knowledge bowl meet this week. They were the only school with two teams vying to place in the top two places to advance to State. Hillcrest was looking to repeat a State run after the Comets dominated the knowledge bowl circuit last year. They started the day in the back of the pack and fought their way to have one team move on to the State round while the underclassmen look forward to next year falling one place short of the State entry bid. The top two teams from regions move on to State competition.

Zak Zwiers, Eric Konynenbelt, Danny Isaac, Sam Ihrke, and Shantanu Mallick competed in their second region meet in as many years. Last year they watched their senior counterparts dominate, easily moving into the state round. This year they started the region meet in fifth place out of six teams, faltering in the opening written round and looking at a long road to State.

Hillcrest quickly bounced back in the first oral round, scoring a meet high 18 points to move into second place where they would battle Park Christian for the next three rounds, retaining their second place spot and punching their ticket for State. 

Jackson Nordick, Juliana Undseth, Carter Mitchell, Yohan Jee, and Jonathan Jennings have had their eyes on the senior Comet team for most of the year. In entering the region meet their goal was to earn a state bid and beat their senior sparring partners. The group of sophomores make up Hillcrest's underclassmen team. They earned their way into regions as the youngest group of students. The knowledge bowl questions come from high school curriculum, and being younger places students at a significant disadvantage as younger students haven't taken as many classes as upperclassmen. With a senior team and sophomore team represented in the regions six team competition, Hillcrest turned heads. They were the only school with two squads vying for a state berth.

The Comet underclassmen started the day one point ahead of the senior squad after the written round, looking to get into the top two places as they started the oral rounds in fourth place. The squad fell back one place after the first oral round, watching their Comet counterparts catapult to second place as they took a step back to fifth. In the next three rounds the Comets leapt to third, and passed their senior friends for one round as they sat in second place, before the Comet seniors outscored them in the final round, pushing Hillcrest's senior squad beyond the sophomores.

Hillcrest advances a team to State for the fifth time in six years, and looks to continue that streak with the underclassmen getting a taste of competing in the final region round, building a hunger for the young Comets to continue the tradition of Hillcrest's academic excellence in the academic competition.

Evangelism Club Practices Classroom Learning in Befriending Muslim

"I asked her if I could sit next to her," Molly Dirks started, explaining how she initiated a conversation on the Light Rail in Minneapolis. "I then asked her if I could ask her a question. She said 'yes', so I asked her what religion she was." Molly said the young lady she was talking to was wearing a hijab, a head covering popular in the Muslim faith.

Molly recently completed a section of her Worldview course at Hillcrest on evangelism. The section was called Tactics and gave helpful tips to start, engage, and drive conversation. The Worldview class is required for all Hillcrest graduates, and Molly was working to practice some of the lessons she learned in Hillcrest's Evangelism Club in their recent field trip to Minneapolis last weekend.

As Molly started her conversation three friends seated elsewhere on the train watched with excitement. One friend had a Bible open on her lap. She was reading Scripture in a hushed voice to another friend who was watching Molly. The third friend stood within ear shot of the reading watching the passengers on the train as Molly continued her conversation.

One man lowered his newspaper, raising an eyebrow at what the young woman in the hijab volleyed to Molly in response to her question. "I am a Muslim. What religion are you?" "I am a Christian," Molly said matter of factly. A young man sitting near the two pulled his headphones down, seeming to take notice of the unusual conversation between the Christian and the Muslim that started to define their personal beliefs that highlight the world's oldest religious conflict. 

The three friends started to feel like the passengers on the train were taking offense at the conversation. One of the girls said later that she thought one of the men sitting near the conversation was going to tell Molly to leave the young woman alone. Two of Molly's friends watching the interaction started to softly sing a song sung in Hillcrest's chapel services. They were nervous, but excited to watch their friend engage in conversation with someone who at face value is very different from her.

Molly and the young woman talked for approximately five minutes. It was one of several conversations the group of ladies had as they rode the Light Rail for the two hour experience. In this conversation Molly and the young woman outlined their belief systems and what was important to them to follow their religions. Molly asked about the Pillars of Islam, asking if the young lady had a personal relationship with Allah. 

The group of four young Hillcrest students spoke to many people on the train that day. The exercise is part of the school's Evangelism Club. Students learn how to start, engage, ask good questions, and hold meaningful conversation that edifies both parties. The group reads 1 Corinthians 13 at every meeting, a grounding chapter that the group works to reflect in their interactions with people. The goal is to love well by having meaningful conversations.

The club has two more trips planned this year, taking another trip to the Light Rail in Minneapolis before venturing on a multi-site trip to Chicago. The club seeks large cities with commuting situations because that is where most Hillcrest students will find themselves after graduation. While students are learning about the world from the Biblical perspective at Hillcrest, clubs like the Evangelism Club work to train students to create and engage respectful dialogue with the goal being to find truth in a loving way.

Hillcrest Huddles to Build Student Body Unity in Christ

When the bell rang and Hillcrest students ventured down the halls for Chapel, they kept walking and ventured down the sidewalk to the Comet Cafe. Inside they found Mr. Garvin, Hillcrest's Chapel Coordinator, shouting out numbers and pointing students to tables. Students plopped backpacks beside their chairs, reaching inside their bags to pull out their Bibles, flipping the thin pages to John 15 as the senior leaders welcomed them to their huddle time, a monthly happening at Hillcrest Academy. 

Hillcrest holds a huddle time nearly every month. In September and October the time was used to prepare students for the fall Prayer Day in November. The shortened number of chapel days in December and January caused the theme of Square One to be developed in the traditional chapel setting instead of their monthly huddle group time. Now in February, the huddle time is being used to prepare for the Prayer Day, that will occur in March, and the student body will meet one last time in huddle groups in April before the end of the school year.

The huddles are small group Bible studies led by Hillcrest upperclassmen. Today the students studied John 15, reading through the design God has for humankind to remain connected to Him. The groups started in prayer before defining the word "love", and then jumping into a verbal reading of John 15:1-13. 

Discussions caused the room to fill with the volume of students' voices raising to communicate to their tables the impressions they were understanding from their Bible reading. The tables discussed what Jesus meant by calling Himself the True Vine. They went on to detail the word picture of fruit, branch, and the reality of being pruned. The volume diminished as the groups turned to their papers to answer personal questions. 

The first personal question asked what "vine" the students are attached to that is giving them life. They were asked how they know they are connected to the vine. From this, the students were asked what kind of fruit they are bearing. The quietness of the personal reflection was filled with the most communication of the huddle group time, but was encapsulated in written form on their papers. The students were led to close their personal reflection time by answering where they go for life giving messages and encouragement.

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The room filled with the noise of conversation again, as the seniors in the groups drew the attention of the tables in calling the underclassmen to thumb through their Bibles to John 15:7-13. After reading the passage, the groups considered the outcome of remaining in Christ. They thought back to the chapel message from Pastor Patrick Herzog on Monday, where they were asked what they were being filled and encouraged by in their daily life, their friends, or by Jesus Christ. They considered what it looks like to love their neighbors, drawing out examples in their small group time to consider how Jesus acted with people he engaged in life. 

The groups again turned to a time of personal reflection before a time of prayer. The groups prayed for wisdom as they consider how to love their neighbor, seeking guidance in how to make the fruits of the spirit evident in their lives. 

Following the time of prayer the tables slowly emptied. Students stood in line at the Comet Cafe window to pick up their cookies, provided by Hillcrest's cafeteria as a midday snack before the bell rang and the students went back to class. There is a unique bond of unity at Hillcrest, where students share their progresses and obstacles they're facing in support of a Christian community working to drive one another to a deeper knowledge and relationship with Jesus Christ.

Evangelism Club Discovers Church Planting Options

What if we rethought college plans for students who are undecided. Instead of encouraging students to explore a college setting, helping them find a church in the process, what if we directed students to find a church, and then choose a college.

Hillcrest's interim-president last year was first called into church ministry when Harland Helland glided up the stairs at Hillcrest to pull Joel Egge and a couple of his friends to Minot, North Dakota. The group of friends found a college in the area and helped plant a church that is now thriving, serving the community with a Christian day school. The church of the Lutheran Brethren hold a number of stories like this, and in looking to the future Hillcrest is finding significance in stories of the past.

Last Friday, Fifth Act Church Planting advocate Ryan Nilsen visited a Hillcrest chapel. He wasn't there to meet with Hillcrest's full student body. Instead he was waiting to gather with the twenty-plus students who are a part of Hillcrest's Evangelism Club, calling the group to consider an alternative view as they look to complete their general studies in college. 

Nilsen encouraged the group to consider joining a church planting initiative, serving by being hands and feet in the communities surrounding the various churches that are working to reach their communities. The Evangelism Club is studying how to do outreach, preparing themselves with conversation tools that they will exercise on the light rail and in coffee shops in the Minneapolis area in March and April. 

Nilsen fielded questions from the group as they envisioned what it might be like to be in New York City, Chicago, or other large communities for the sake of the Gospel and on mission to plan churches to impact local communities. Nilsen was impressed to hear that the school had such a vibrant club that was meeting to be equipped to share the Gospel through conversational evangelism.

As the group continues to meet there is an encouraging momentum that is building. Students are looking at their college experience as a mission endeavor, and the training they're receiving in the Evangelism club is equipping to engage their world now, and preparing them for their mission fields in the future that for some will involve planting churches in large cities to the glory of God.

Konynenbelt Named Commended Merit Scholar
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Principal Jeff Isaac from Hillcrest Lutheran Academy announced today that Eric Konynenbelt has been named a Commended Student in the 2018 National Merit Scholarship Program. A Letter of Commendation from the school and National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC), which conducts the program, will be presented by Principal Isaac to this scholastically talented senior. 

About 34,000 Commended Students throughout the nation are being recognized for their exceptional academic promise. Although they will not continue in the 2018 compeition for National Merit Scholarship awards, Commended Students placed amoung the top 50,000 scorers of more than 1.6 million students who entered the 2018 competition by taking the 2016 Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT).

"The young men and women being named Commended Students have demonstrated outstanding potential for academic success," commented a spokesperson for NMSC. "These students represent a valuable national resource; recognizing their accomplishments, as well as the key role their schools play in their academic development, is vital to the advance of educational excellence in our nation. We hope that this recognition will help broaden their educational opportunities and encourage them as they continue their pursuit of academic success."