Ms. Torres’ County Prep Students Visit Explore 2000

County Prep students enrolled in Ms. Torres’ Education Workplace Experience course visited Explore 2000 on Wednesday, May 24th to deliver student-created lesson plans on SPACE.  Ms. Torres and her students worked diligently on these lessons in preparation for this “student teaching” experience.  County Prep students received a warm welcome from the staff and students at Explore 2000.  The day was filled with student engagement activities and numerous opportunities for our students to “test drive” a career in education.  A special thank-you is extended to Ms. Amy Lin-Rodriguez, Ms. Vincenza Tripodi for coordinating the event, and all the staff members at Explore 2000.

Project Hayes

(Jersey City, NJ) Henrik Van Tassell, a first year student at Explore 2000 Middle School, has proven that his interest in technology equates to work that demonstrates his advanced knowledge, and skills in many areas of the 21 century learning environment.  Explore 2000 has had the privilege of providing the students with a robotics program where students solve real-world problems with their builds, and code their models to perform actions they require.  Recently we received upgrade kits for the Vex robotics sets, which included a competition controller, freeing the students from command based computer coding and its limitations.  The joysticks have 20 assignable button functions, and require more complex coding in the RobotC, a C based computer codding application.  Henrik constructed a transport vehicle with the Vex kit, and programmed the controller (joystick) allowing him to navigate the transport vehicle at the touch of his fingers.  Henrik has dubbed his work “Project Hayes”, inspired by the “Father of Wi-Fi”, Victor Hayes who is responsible for the international 802.11 standard that has made wireless networks possible.  It is this technology that allows the controller to communicate with the VEX cortex found on all models built by the students.

Henrik stated, “I originally built this transport car as an autonomous delivery robot, but when we received the joysticks, it became an RC bot.  The bot only required some modifications, and I think it is a great example for the S.T.E.M. camp students!  Although I have been experimenting with the VEX robotics kits, this vehicle is the first build that I designed and coded to be fully functional.  It originally was just an experiment, and I thought it would be a great project for the VEX joysticks.  It started very simple as just a two wheel drive car with sensors on the four corners, programmed to change direction when the sensor were bumped. When we received the VEX competition upgrade kits, which included the joysticks, Mr. Aziz, the Educational Technologist at E2K, urged me to incorporate the joystick into my design.  Coding the build was a bit challenging but I learned a lot about conditional statements, in addition we also used the Project Lead The Way forum to troubleshoot some technical issues that arose.  I felt the build needed an upgrade to four wheel drive due to stability issues, so I added two additional motors and modified the original code.  Lastly, I tested the performance of different types of wheels to see which would perform best and concluded terrain wheels created more drag and strained the motors more than the smaller, smooth wheels which I decided to leave on as the finished product.”

Explore 2000 would like to express sincere gratitude to everyone that has made the robotics program possible, with great success.  We are thankful for the support from our superintendents, Mr. Gargiulo and Dr. Sirangelo, the HCST Foundation and School Board, as well as our technology department for their dedication to moving our school forward as we set the pace for being the first vocational middle school.

Explore 2000 Middle School Student Visits Egypt

My trip to Egypt

by Yazan Baghdady

          We began our actual trip on Christmas, when we woke up in the Old Cataract hotel,. The hotel is located in Aswan, by the Nile. It has an amazing view of some ancient Egyptian ruins. The first thing we did after breakfast was to visit a Nubian village named Anakato, which we reached by boat. The village, which is built in the Nubian architectural style, with bright walls and domed buildings, is full of merchants peddling their wares, including knives with crocodile-skin sheaths (one of which I bought). Camels walk, trot, canter, and occasionally gallop through the village. We visited a place with crocodiles, named Malka House. We saw the larger crocodiles and held some of the smaller ones. After wandering through the village and buying some things at the souk, or market, we went on a camel ride to the hill for sandboarding, pretty much snowboarding on sand. We then left the village, to go back to the hotel. After lunch/dinner (Arabic countries eat lunch at 4:00 or later), we left on yet another boat to go see the temple at Philae.

          The next day we boarded our cruise from Aswan to Luxor. The ship, named the Minerva, was fairly big, and had a ‘pool’. Note the quotes around the word ‘pool’, as the pool was tiny, with most of the expanse being only a few inches deep and the rectangle that was left being 155 centimeters, though it was not large. Ending the rant about the pool, the other thing we did today was to visit the Philae temple again, this time in the daylight. It was much better, as we could see where we were going and the temple in all its grandeur. Next we visited the High Dam, which prevented the Nile’s flooding, created Lake Nasser (which is one of the largest man-made lakes in the world), and provided energy to most of Egypt. The dam was built in such a manner so that the stone will not break in the event of an earthquake. More than Philae can say, as it was ravaged by several earthquakes. Another interesting fact – all the crocodiles were stuck in Lake Nasser after the construction of the dam, and cannot return to the Nile.

         After returning to the ship, we ate dinner, though we had been warned not to eat the fresh fruit/veggies, swallow the shower water, and to brush our teeth with bottled water. Why? The ship gets its water from a store of water, which is not the cleanest water. The same water is used to wash fruits and vegetables, so many people fall sick on Nile cruises.

         The day after that, we visited Kom Ombo Temple, an old temple that was built during Ptolemaic times. The temple was dedicated to two gods, Sobek and Hathor. Some sections of the temple still have color, which makes them incredible to see. We also visited the crocodile museum, which showed the mummified crocodiles that were offered to Sobek, a crocodile god. Some mummified eggs were shown, and the crocodile skeletons were visible. Once we had left the mummies, we chanced upon a man with cobras. We asked to play with them, and he said yes. I held the record, with one cobra on my head, one in each hand, and one on the ground to play with. We returned to the boat and went to Edfu. It was pretty much a larger version of Philae, though some colors were visible, and it was built during the pharaonic, not Ptolemaic, period. Edfu was the third-largest monument in Egypt – excluding pyramids – the largest being Karnak, which we would visit when we arrived in Luxor the next day.

         In Luxor, the boat moored directly in front of Luxor Temple, so we had a great view of it. We woke up way too early in the morning to visit the Valley of the Kings. The first, and in my opinion most impressive, was that of Rameses VI. The tomb had retained most of its color, and we saw some paintings that were layered directly on the walls, without carving. Some areas of the ceiling were painted like the night sky. The second most memorable tomb was that of King Tutankhamun. It was smaller than I had expected, but his unwrapped body was on display and the paintings were intact. We visited some more tombs, but those were the most memorable, besides one so far underground that it took five minutes to reach the surface.

         We then left the tombs to visit Hatshepsut Temple. It was large and detailed, but mostly destroyed, as Thutmoses III had not wanted his aunt remembered as a ruler. After returning to the cruise for lunch, we went to Karnak. The model on display showed the true scale of the ruined temple. It was enormous, with a columned hall that had over a hundred pillars that ranged from 14-21 meters high, and as thick around as redwoods. We admired Karnak, then returned to the boat and therefore ended our trip.

A Free Verse Poem from an Explore 2000 Student

Ode to Winter Flounder

By Yazan Baghdady

You lie flat
On the seafloor
Waiting with your single eye
On the right side
Of your flattened head
Brown patterns run
Down your flanks
An inquisitive shrimp
Looks at the strange patch
You gulp it down
As you have ended the lives of thousands
Another shrimp is dangling in front of you
It shines with a strange light
You gulp it down
Searing pain down your throat
You are pulled up
You cannot resist
You cannot breathe

An enormous thing grabs you
An enormous thing slits your belly
You convulse
You are still
You are packaged, frozen
Arriving in a cavernous space
You see, hear, smell none of it
The life has left your body
You are sliced into fillets
Put into tiny Styrofoam containers
Labeled “Winter Flounder”
Fried and eaten
Mercilessly by humans
How could a creature of such noble beginnings come to such a lowly end?
Your relatives, from Labrador, Canada to Georgia
So many suffer the same fate
Your life, which could have been to 18 years

Ended so early
Each one of you could make 1.5 million more
But none of your young live
To venture out of the sandy shallows
And join you on the muddy seafloor
If only the humans waited
So you could grow to the full 25 inches, the full 8 pounds
It would be better for everyone
Even the greedy humans

Thank You to HCST Schools

On February 22, 2016 County Prep Science teacher, Tim O’Donnell and his five-year-old daughter Bridget were killed in a tragic car accident on the New Jersey Turnpike Hudson County Extension. Immediately following this event, there was a tremendous and very generous outpouring of donations from County Prep High School, High Tech High School and Explorer 2000 staff, students, and their families. As a result, a 529 College Savings Plan with Franklin Templeton was opened for Allessandra O’Donnell in the amount of $11,590.00. Tim would occasionally joke about not retiring until he had enough money saved for college. It is with his wishes in mind that the account was opened. On behalf of County Prep High School, we want to thank everyone who helped to bring this to fruition. Mr. O’ Donnell and Bridie were very much loved and are greatly missed. As Tim and Bridie’s one year anniversary approaches, it is with sadness but also some comfort that we thank everyone for their generosity and thoughtfulness in helping to pave the way for Allessandra O’Donnell’s future education and success.

First S.T.E.A.M. Vocational Middle School

Explore 2000 prides itself on being New Jersey’s first S.T.E.A.M. vocational middle school, to which the students embody in their hands-on learning environment, which has produced some impressive projects.  Explore 2000 delves into three thematic units per year, one in each respective trimester.  In their first trimester for the 2016-2017 school year, “Oceans” were explored in many creative ways, as facilitators provided students with essential questions to guide the learning process while leaving room for student driven learning to occur.  The infusion of technology within the curriculum allows students to attain technical skills and knowledge, the application of which, in conjunction with the rigorous curriculum, has resulted in some of the most technology rich projects to date at the middle school level.  The students have access to an array of modern technologies such as the Stratasys 3D Printer and the Adobe CADD Software Suite, Vex Robotics kits supported by the Project Lead the Way curriculum, Hi-Definition digital recording cameras and movie making software, Hi-Definition audio recording and editing software, a Canon 36” banner printer, 85” Samsung Smart Boards, the one-to-one laptop initiative, and iPads just to name a few.

Some of the student projects that were a result of the aforementioned technologies was the water filtration system designed by Henrik using TinkerCad, and 3D printed with the Stratasys printer.  Henrik stated the following, “My experience with TinkerCAD is that it is a good beginner CAD designer with a surprising amount of features for free. My personal experience is nothing but good. To make my models I usually use geometric shapes and holes for simple models, and for more complicated models, I source part files from  Thingiverse is a maker community that allows makers to share files for laser engravers, CNC mills, and 3D printers. TinkerCAD allows you to create files for all of those things.  The interface is super simple and with a few tutorials, most can pick up the skills very easily.”


Forgoing traditional building materials, students choose to 3D print sea creatures to include in their Showcase.  The realism of the objects brought to life the work that the students did, and provided a way for students to demonstrate the observations and connections they formed from the many field experiences related to the Oceans unit.


The banner printer has been used extensively to promote student activities throughout the school year, however the pupils began to use the printer in creative ways to reinforce their presentations and projects.  One such use was the creation of a life size “Wheel of Jeopardy” game board, presented to the guests of the first trimester showcase.  The contestants were immersed with the thrilling categories and mind-boggling questions.

For the annual Science fair, we saw in almost every experiment some form of technology utilized to solve the unanswered questions of the young minds.  Roxy employed the use of the robotics program to demonstrate how a robotic arm would function when grasping objects.  This required building and programming skills, of which she demonstrated advanced proficiency, a sure representation of her successful experiment.  To complement, her peers choose to further their understanding of how a 3D printed prosthesis would function.  The students in this group designed a model which they created using materials found around the home, and 3D printed a hand that required assembly and was capable of grasping objects as well.


Lastly, the craze of hoverboards were still on the minds of some of Explore 2000 students so they decided to build and code their own.  “Lithium Ion batteries have a sensor in it that gets damaged easily, and when this happens the fires occur.  We wanted to find an alternative to the previous generation hoverboards with our Science experiment,” stated Patrick.


Explore 2000 Middle School Students Review WowWee MiP Robot

WowWee MiP Robot Review

        Mr. Sonny Dave, president of ExtremeKids LLC, provided Explore 2000 Middle School with the WowWee MiP Robot to enhance the learning experience of the students and introduce them to computer programming.  The students were very excited to unbox their new learning tool which was presented in a very appealing package with informative highlights of the MiPs ease of use.  Students quickly found the apps which are available for Android and iOS, and linked their “Explore Bot” to their iPad using Bluetooth.  Taking control of the bot with the control pad was the natural inclination of the children, however the facilitator chose to present the students with the Coder MiP app which allowed the students to use block-based programming to code the movement, sounds and LED lights of the MiP Robot.  The application has templates for students to see examples of how the code controls all the functions of the bot, additionally, there are pre-programmed modes that range from drive, cans, dance, battle, box, path, and stack.  The students found the graphical user interface of the coding app easy to use, as they created obstacle courses to test the variables within their code.  Mr. Kiran Aziz, educational technologist and facilitator at Explore 2000 Middle School finds the WowWee MiP Robot to be an essential S.T.E.M. resource to get students interested in computer coding.  Mr. Aziz states, “21st Century learners demonstrate proficiency using computers and common applications, the MiP provides a way to create engaging learning experiences and allow students to develop crucial S.T.E.M, problem solving, and coding skills… the package presentation of the MiP and the ease of use USB charging, included accessories, and the availability of accompanying applications for coding the robot and navigating makes this the perfect item to introduce students to robotics, and lay the foundation for coding in higher level languages.”  Hudson County Schools of Technology and Explore 2000 Middle School would like to thank Mr. Dave and for providing this amazing resource for the students to enhance their learning.  The following is written by the respective students after they used the MiP in class.

Kimonye, 6th Grade:
I have a MiP Robot at home, so I have experience with the app and using the different modes, my favorite is the dancing mode.  I think it’s cool that you could put on your own music for MiP to dance to. It’s fun to see how other students used the MiP, I plan on bringing mine in so we can use the battle mode to compete.

Tatiana, 6th Grade:
         The MiP was very fun, I was amazed at how easy it was to use the coding app.  All I did was drag and drop the commands and the robot did exactly what I expected it to do.  The pre-programmed modes leave you with so many crazy possibilities! I loved using the drive mode because it let me navigate the robot freely around the room without having it bump into anything.  Learning about how the MiP works was almost like controlling a car!  The MiP leaves me feeling excited and I am thinking about getting one of my very own.  The MiP in my experience was just an amazing roller coaster and not in a bad way!

Malena, 5th Grade
I used the MiP before when I was younger with my friend and it was really fun and entertaining to play with. My current experience with the MiP was pretty interesting. I think it’s great that we can use it as a group.  I really enjoyed the MiP robot because I get to do fun stuff with it. There were different modes I used and they were really funny.  My favorite mode was dancing because my partner Kimonye did the moonwalk as our Explore Bot followed along.  I also like the MiP robot because it feels like a regular person being with you and you get to have fun with it.  I also got to draw a path for the MiP to walk on, but I had some difficulties because there were obstacles in the way so I had to change some of the commands in my code.

Explore 2000 Middle School Students Visit the Holocaust Memorial Museum

Forty five Explore 2000 students were the recipients of the generosity of the Morris Rubell Holocaust Journey Foundation. On Monday, October 24, 2016, Explore 2000 participated in a life-changing experience, the Morris Rubell Holocaust Remembrance Journey. Students, staff and parent chaperones were treated to a trip to the Holocaust memorial Museum in Washington DC.

The Rubell Foundation provided a charter bus, a driver, breakfast, lunch and dinner and, most importantly, the opportunity for students to meet and interact with a real-life Holocaust survivor, Fred Heyman, who shared his incredible story of surviving the Nazi regime. Michael Rubell introduced us to his father, Morris Rubell, a Holocaust survivor, through a video recorded in 1991. Hearing the stories of these survivors, who witnessed the absolute worst in humanity and hearing their faith in people and hope for the future can serve as a lesson in positivity and exemplary character.

The activities for the day included a video and Q&A session on the bus followed by a tour of the Holocaust Museum which began with the Daniel’s Story exhibit. Michael Rubell led the tour and was impressed by the insightful questions many of our students asked. When asked if what they saw was interesting, some replies include, “more like horrifying” and “yes, but so sad” or, “how could this happen?”

Following the tour of the museum, we visited the Lincoln Memorial as well as the Martin Luther King Memorial. The highlight of the tour was getting to meet Fred Heyman and hear his story which inspired all of us to be UPStanders instead of bystanders! A special thank you to the Rubell Holocaust Foundation.

In an Open Letter Explore 2000 Student Expresses Gratitude for Life Changing Experience

Dear Mr. Heyman,

Thank you for sharing your experience with us on the trip. It was an enlightening story, and made me think more about not only the people who were killed but the hardships that ordinary people had to go through just because of their religion or race. The things that you told us are things that nobody else on the trip could relate to, and I respect you and the other people who live through and were persecuted during this terrible time even more now that I know more about what happened,

Thank you again for providing myself and the other students who went on the trip with this opportunity. I enjoyed it immensely, and I am sure that my fellow students feel the same. The trip provided me with some information that I did not know, and I have even more questions now than I had before the trip. My favorite part of the trip was not any part of the museum, but when you told us the hardships that you had to endure. Some of the stories were funny, but most of them really showed me what a horrible and inhuman thing the Holocaust was. There has been no time in my life that I have been so deeply moved by something in such a short time. The trip was definitely the most poignant one I have ever taken. Even now, I am still thinking of it, and I know that I will continue to for a very long time.


Dear Mr. Rubell,

Thank you for your generosity in providing us with the bus and funds for this trip. It is definitely something I will remember, as it is not often that an organization is so generous. I learned a lot of things on this trip, and it made me on about the Holocaust in relation to some of the racism that surrounds us today. Some people, like Hitler, can make other people forget reason and make them believe that a certain group of people are responsible for all their problems. 11 million people died in the Holocaust, and their deaths should not be forgotten. That is what makes what you are doing so admirable. The Holocaust Remembrance Journeys not only teach people the facts of the Holocaust, but also teaches tolerance toward all religions, races, and ethnicities. This is to ensure nothing like it ever happens again, and if it must, then it teaches us to stand up for the rights of everyone, not just when it affects us.

It was an enlightening experience, and as you gave us this incredible opportunity, it is only right that we thank you properly for it. I am sure that everyone who had the opportunity to go on the trip is as grateful to you as I am, and has been moved by this experience. I have been deeply touched by the trip, and without your kindness, it would not have been possible. Your generosity will be remembered by everyone who went on the trip, and I would like to thank you one last last time, though doesn’t seem to be enough.


Explore 2000 Middle School Visits the American Museum of Natural History

November 14, 2016

        Explore 2000’s South House went on a field experience to the American Museum of Natural
History. In the museum, students walked around gathering notes and information. I learned many things on this trip such as the various ecosystems, the layers of the ocean and the different organisms that live in it. “It was a sensational experience, learning and seeing different species in our ocean,” said Robbie, a  3rd Year student. Ths trip was unique in that we had the opportunity to learn about the creatures and their habitats.

        My favorite part of this field experience was experiencing a different area of  the museum. Another 3rd Year student, Serena, said “It was great to reminisce about what we learned our 1st Year and to expand my knowledge. “One thing that caught my attention was a certain display. It was on manatees. Ever since my 2nd Year, my class and I have been fascinated by manatees from our experience of hearing poems and writing about them with our teacher Mr. Dunphy.

        My fellow classmates and I were also captivated by the humumgous Blue Whale model in the middle of the gallery. This field experience was a great opportunity to learn and help further our knowledge for essential questions and our ocean unit. 2nd Year student Janette stated it excellently, “This trip was very informative and a great resource for showcase.” Overall, we learned an abundance of information and hope to return soon.

Andrew Kibalo