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#1StudentNWI: It's Snow Joke - Kouts Students are Staying Busy this Winter


Rube Goldberg

The Kouts Rube Goldberg team is in full swing. The goal of Rube Goldberg is to complete a task in as many steps as possible. This year, the team, sponsored by Mr. Jeff Hutchison, is tasked with pouring a bowl of cereal, including the liquid component. In mid-September, the team, lead by seniors Travis Brubaker and Kyer Kneifel, started brainstorming themes. After much collaboration on the whiteboard, they settled on DC comics. From there, they came up with a blueprint of the project, assigned jobs, and started the creation phase.

The group, comprised of about 10 people, meets two days a week after school to work on their project. Kneifel stressed the importance of getting underclassmen involved now so they will be able to lead the team later.

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Being on Rube Goldberg doesn’t mean you necessarily have to build the machine. Painters are crucial to the process, as artistic presentation is one of the judging components. Each team must also create a story about the machine which is read aloud during the competition. Junior Cole Vick has created a story the past two years and looks forward to writing it again this year.

Now, about a month and a half away from the competition at Purdue University, the Rube Goldberg team is working hard to finish their project. They want to complete the task with as few interventions (when a team member has to manually propel the machine) as possible. A perfect run, which has no interventions, is regarded as the “Home Run” of Rube Goldberg.

Travis Brubaker: Welding and Positivity

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For many Northwest Indiana residents, the excitement from the holidays has passed and the winter doldrums are setting in - but not for senior Travis Brubaker. Brubaker is one of those people whose smile makes everyone else smile too. He has made a point to never take anything too seriously and finds the positive in any situation.

“There’s no sense being in a bad mood; it doesn’t help anything,” said Brubaker.

This year, Brubaker has had the opportunity to take a leadership role in Rube Goldberg. His charismatic personality motivates the team to work hard and enjoy what they’re doing. His philosophy is that the best way to learn is to actually do it hands-on. He makes sure he does whatever he can to teach others and spread his knowledge.

Just because he enjoys having fun, doesn’t mean Brubaker has been slacking off. He has excelled in the welding vocational program at Ivy Tech the past two years. He will graduate as a certified stick, wire, and tig welder and apply to Merit Steel in hopes to work at ArcelorMittal one day.

Whether it be gathering firewood for neighbors or visiting with his grandfather, Brubaker finds joy in being there for others.

His teammate Cole Vick said, “Travis always asks how you’re doing because he genuinely wants to know.”

It can be easy to get caught up in the chaos of life, but we can all learn something from Travis - just breathe and enjoy life’s little moments.

Rebecca Juergens: Energy Saver

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As the temperatures outside continue to drop, the inside of Kouts School remains warm and cozy all thanks to Mrs. Rebecca Juergens, the energy manager for East Porter County Schools. Juergens earned a Communications Degree with an emphasis in public relations, marketing, and journalism from Indiana State University. After working as a graphic designer and administrative assistant, she joined the East Porter staff. Now in her third year, she is still loving her job.

Juergens is in charge of checking and remotely controlling the HVAC (heating, ventilating, and air-conditioning) systems at all three schools and monitoring hot pockets, boilers, and chillers. Teachers can put tickets on the help desk if their rooms are too hot or cold or to schedule an event for the lights to be turned on. Juergen’s job is to answer these tickets.

Given her background in communications, Juergens enjoys that her job allows her to create informational handouts, such as how to properly shut down a classroom at night to save energy. On the other hand, Juergens likes the math side, including analyzing data and converting energy to kilowatt hours. She also assists the administration in making smart financial decisions in the energy department by preparing energy consumption reports. In 2016, the overall cost savings corporation-wide from electricity and natural gas was $349,000.

Thanks to Juergens, all East Porter schools became Energy Star Certified in 2016.

New Year, Big Plans

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Ringing in 2018 means big plans are in the works for Student Council. To kick things off, they will be holding a soup fundraiser at basketball games on January 23 and 26. This provides a way for spectators to warm up after enduring the freezing temperatures outside. Proceeds will replenish the Council fund.

In conjunction with the soup, Student Council will also be selling bracelets, called pulseras, made by Central American Artists. The Pulsera Project provides Fair-Trade jobs to about 200 artists in Nicaragua and Guatemala. The organization sends bracelets to schools, each tagged with information about the artist to spread cultural awareness for Central American life. Kouts students will purchase these bracelets to help support the artists so they can provide for their families. Bracelets will be on sale January 22 through February 5 for $5.

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Student Council is also planning to support Days for Girls, an organization that provides sustainable feminine hygiene products and health education to girls in over 110 underdeveloped countries all over the world. In many of these countries, menstruation is a taboo topic and causes girls to miss almost three months of school. The mission of the Days for Girls kits is to give girls their days back- days of education, days of freedom, and days of opportunity. Student Council is planning a Mother’s Day High Tea event to be held on May 12 to raise awareness for the organization and celebrate women. More details will be available as the event approaches.

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