Superintendent’s Spotlight: Nate Spear


Superintendent’s Spotlight: Nate Spear

September 14, 2023

Even before his first day in the building, incoming fifth grader Nate Spear had made a name for himself at Warwick Valley Middle School as an innovator and someone ready to get engaged with their learning. To stay active and sharp over his summer break, Nate enrolled in Summer Academy. Specifically, he took Robotics Class, led by Warwick Valley High School teachers Andrew Warren and Jamie Barchi.

Robotics students were guided through various problem-solving situations that demanded real-world thinking and application of knowledge and skills picked up in class. Projects and processes in all WVCSD programs are connected to, and informed by, our district’s Portrait of a Graduate. That includes classes offered in the Summer Academy. Among the robotics projects students completed, was the design and build of an articulated mechanical hand using crafting media — paper, straws, string, tape, etc.

Nate said he felt his first design “wasn’t quite there,” so he decided to go the scientific process route and use his findings to make improvements to his original!

“It just didn’t work very well, so I took it home, took the strings out, took the top tapes off,” he explained. “Then, I figured, ‘if I’m doing all this to get it to work, I might as well add something to it, too.’”

Soon, Nate had the knuckles on all five fingers working, clenching and unclenching the fist by pulling on the tendons of thread. He proceeded to affix his upgraded hand onto a completely new arm, adding additional straws and longer threads along a wrist, forearm, elbow, and upper arm section. And those were articulated, too!

“With a true innovator’s spirit and approach, Nate took this robotics project above and beyond, not just meeting but surpassing classroom expectations,” said WVMS Principal Jared Yapkowitz. “Especially considering it was summer time! He could have been done with school by noon, but he chose to continue his work on his own. That really made an impression on me and Mr. Radon, and we’re happy to see how Nate has settled in well to his first year in middle school, with that same great attitude and approach toward learning.”

Students brainstormed creative ideas during robotics class about how such an articulated hand may be able to assist others, and learned about prosthetic applications. Nate said that his interest in robotics and engineering comes from a place that “might sound funny” to some people.

“There’s this game called Five Nights at Freddy’s, and it’s this game with these robots – animatronics, like Chuck E. Cheese – that go a little crazy,” said Nate. “It’s a scary game, but it was really cool to me to think of those characters and their robot arms. I added all this stuff to it to try and make mine as similar to the things from that game as I could.”

The hand isn’t Nate’s first foray into engineering with paper! At home, he enjoys making sculptural pieces – like tiny people – and small constructions out of paper. His interest in engineering stems in part from his love of math, which is Nate’s favorite class. He said problem solving is just something he finds fun.

“I like word problems,” he said. “I like the ones that are kind of like puzzles!”

Just two weeks into his premier year in middle school, Nate is already looking ahead with enthusiasm to WVMS classes like Green Architecture and, of course, Robotics when he gets to eighth grade!


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