CATS Academy Courier

"A Trusted Students News Source with an International Twist"



L3 Innovation Challenge: The Human-Side of STEM

By Le Dong Hai “DoHa” Nguyen

Best described as a design-thinking bootcamp that mimics a hackathon, the L3 Innovation Challenge is an annual competition hosted by YouthCities in partnership with Boston Children Hospital and LabCentral. During this ten-week bootcamp, students work in teams to create technological solutions to real-world problems. This year, students had to use smart textiles to create prototypes and actual products that addressed pediatric healthcare concerns. Seven students from CATS participated in the competition and, on November 14th, presented their ideas to a panel of health care industry specialists, entrepreneurs, and venture capitalists.

CATS students attending the L3 Innovation Challenge 2018 at LabCentral, Cambridge, MA

The spotlight is on, and the eyes of more than one hundred people are on us. Holding the 3D Prototype of SOGAI, which stands for System Of Glucose-Detection & Automatic Insulin-Injection, we gradually move onto the stage for our final presentation in the Youth CITIES competition. Adrenaline that had been accumulating for the past seven weeks of the competition urged every single word on the tip of our tongue to erupt.

This is the story of DoHa Nguyen, Jiho Choi, and Serafina Mei, who have applied Smart Textile, 3D Printing technology and comprehensive research on type 2 diabetes to create the SOGAI and mySOGAI app. The project got the team into the Final Round and was verbally commended by the judge-Dr. Kate Donovan, the Director of Immersive Technologies at Boston Children Hospital, as the Best Research.

Five other CATS students had revolutionary products as well. Anastasia Dvoryanchikova and Alex Shevtcova’s Diaperstic earned Anastasia the individual Award of Rising Innovator. Mia Huynh, Malak Elaouinate and Luisa Maia were complimented by Mr. Peter Parker, the CEO and Co-Founder of LabCentral, for the highly visual prototype of their project, TEMPA Temperature Regulating Children Suit and MyBABY TEMPA App.

Every Wednesday during the eight weeks of the L3 Innovation Challenge, our CATS Team were taken by Mr. O’Donnell to LabCentral in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Here, students from dozens of high schools in the Boston area were divided into groups with the goal of turning innovative ideas into real products that would solve demanding medical problems. We had the opportunity to collaborate with and learn from students of different schools, to meet with our mentors (VIP industry experts in various fields from medical entrepreneurships involved with cancer treatment to Biometrics), and to widen our perspective and respect for backend scientists, who quietly devote their resources and knowledge for a better world. At LabCentral, where the contest was hosted, we saw marvelous laboratories and R&D centers in a 70,000 square-foot historic, MIT-owned facility. I could not help but think that never before had Isaac Newton’s famous saying been so clear and convincing: “What we know is a drop, what we don’t know is an ocean.”

The experiences we gained from this competition went beyond the scientific knowledge accumulated from top-notch experts. It broadened and changed our perspectives and attitudes towards STEM as a field of endeavor. I found it realistic, practical and very demanding. Awards, compliments and recognition, albeit valuable and deserving, are just the tip of the iceberg that made this eight-week rigorous journey worthwhile.

How To Survive Your College Visit

By Jim Nguyen

Whether you plan to do this once or a number of times, open up to the experience of visiting a college or university! More than just a series of campus pictures, the visit is one of those experiences that will actually give you a glimpse of how you will live your post-secondary years.

But then worries and anxious thoughts can start to get in. Where is the admissions table? What are the workshops? Where is this building with the name that I am having trouble pronouncing? How long do I have between workshops? How long is lunch?

A photo of the Westlands Building- the Undergraduate Admissions building in Sarah Lawrence College, Bronxville, New York

And before you know it, the first thing you want to do is to panicBut fear not – college visits can be scary in some ways (the Halloween Haunted House was like that this year, to be honest).   To ease some of your worries, here are a few tips on how to make the most of your college visits:

  1. Research beforehand

A difference between a college campus visit and a college fair is that you are going to only see one college during a visit. An important point: Admissions representatives will assume that all students attending a visit are at least partially interested in attending that particular college. To avoid visiting schools that match none of your interests and to have a more solid idea of what  colleges might offer you, you should do bit of research before scheduling your visits. Some good things to research are academic programs and course offerings, majors and minors, residential life, campus engagement such as clubs and student organizations, internships, and scholarships/financial aid, to name a few. If you have some basic knowledge about the college, it is a real plus, since “campus visits are usually more towards interacting with the current students rather than learning the basic information,” according to Ms. Sara Keimig, Senior Assistant Director of Admission at Sarah Lawrence College.

2) Search for open house days to attend

Open house days are when a college will provide an introduction to all students who are interested in applying to and attending that school. Usually, you will see many prospective students who are as nervous as you when visiting an open house, as compared to when you go to see a college on your own. Plus, an open house provides more events to attend that would not usually be held at other times (think admissions panel, workshops and introductory sessions). Also, there is usually a free lunch during open houses!

3) Plan ahead

An important thing I learned from the process of going to a large number of college visits (four this year alone) is that you cannot wait until the last minute to sign up. This is less of a problem with smaller or mid-size schools with a focus on liberal arts, social sciences, and the humanities like Sarah Lawrence College or Lesley University. But, it will definitely be a problem with more competitive schools.  

How to Survive Your College Visit

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If your school is far away from the City of Boston (Bentley University, UMass Amherst, Mount Holyoke College, Smith College) or even away from Massachusetts itself (New York University, Sarah Lawrence College, Vassar College, University of New Hampshire, Colby College, et cetera), it is crucial for you to plan ahead so that you can have adequate time to actually enjoy the visit (avoid exhaustion) and get back to school to resume your classes at CATS.  Be sure to watch for inclement weather (rain, snow, sleet, et cetera) and traffic (train delays, bus delays) and plan accordingly.

4) Bring a companion if possible

Bringing companions with you on the campus visit will often be wise, especially if you are applying to the same colleges and have similar interests. Touring a campus together can lower any anxiety or stress a little bit and make the experience less of a challenge and more of an exploratory experience. One thing: Be sure to clearly tell the school how many companions you are bringing with you to the visit – space is always limited!

5) Interact and ask questions

It may seem daunting at first, but asking questions and interacting with admissions officers, current students, and faculty members will greatly benefit you on your college application journey. Gaining a more personal understanding of the college you are visiting will help you in the process of actually choosing a place where you belong. Also, admission representatives and department chairs are not that scary in person – so try to interact with them. You will quickly realize that they are the most helpful individuals that you can meet on a college campus. If you are confused about the kind of questions you might ask during a panel discussion, try some of these:

  • What is the one thing that stood out, for you as a student, about this school?
  • What is the the best memory you have of working (or in case of an alumni, studying) at the school?
  • What are some more details about the academic/athletic/social/residential life of the student body?
  • What are some traditions at the school?
  • How do you pronounce the name of a specific building?
  • Describe the one professor/class that made you especially glad that you choose to be in this program?
  • How is the food?
  • In your opinion, what should all students try to do while attending the school?

6) Do not be too dependent on the rankings

Something that I cannot emphasize enough for CATS students in particular is that the rankings will not dictate your experience at a school (which is why I recommend you to go to the campus yourself to take a look at what you are signing up for). Your college experience will include both what the school can offer and what you get from the experience of attending it. And not everyone will have the same goal in mind. In Vietnamese, we have an idiom that goes “nine people, yet ten opinions,” meaning that there will always be discourse over an issue – and the crucial thing for you to know is what you want from your own education. Therefore, keep the rankings in mind (they offer a more objective perspective than the colleges themselves), but also keep in mind that how you feel during your campus visit – if you feel uneasy, then reconsider applying no matter who recommends it to you.

7) You do not need to go to every open house offered

No matter your present academic situation, your health and wellness should take priority.  Schedule college visits with you in mind.  Pace yourself, and try to enjoy investigating the opportunities which await you post-CATS. You do not need to visit every college on your application list, but I highly recommend that you visit at least one or two!

And there we go–seven tips for how not to panic during your college campus visit. Now, when you are standing at the college campus entrance, you will have some tips for achieving the best college campus visit experience. So breathe in, smile, and walk up to the admissions table. You can do this!

Anti-Racism Day

By Jessica Ngo

CATS students speaking out against racism during the Anti-Racism Day Forum

On Friday, November 3rd, Ms. Carroll and the LGBTQ Alliance Club held an Anti-Racism Open Forum in the Student Lounge. Earlier in the week, teachers and students shared their experiences with racism in a brief video in the CATS Morning Announcements. The open forum on Friday continued this discussion, giving the CATS community a safe place to open up about their personal experiences with racism and to learn more about other people’s point of view on this sensitive topic.

Racism is discrimination based on differences in ethnicity and skin color. Anti-racism is the movement against racism that advocates for racial tolerance. The purpose of Anti-Racism Day is to help spread the idea that everyone is the same despite differences in race. Having an event at CATS where students and faculty from around the world can speak up about racism is especially important.

Personally, I think that the forum was an amazing opportunity for students to have their voices heard on racism. Every one of us may experience the effects of discrimination during our lifetime based on our own racial differences or those of our friends and family. I was impressed by how many people spoke up at the forum and shared stories of racism and how it has affected them and the people around them.  

A big thank you to all who participated in the event. Special thanks go out to Ms. Carroll, Ms. Doyle, Anastasia Dvoryanchikova, Norah Laoui, and Martina Ibrahim who worked hard to make Anti-Racism Day possible. They worked together and came up with many ideas and questions that helped get the conversation on racism started at CATS.

Many thanks to Anastasia Dvoryanchikova for letting me interview her and for sharing great behind-the-scenes stories for this article.

Holiday Themed Spot the Difference – Answer Key

By DoHa Nguyen & Ms. Bowen


Answer Key:

  1. Right Lady missing her hat
  2. Right lady is missing her yellow bag
  3. Right lady scarf is green (purple in key)
  4. Right lady is missing her umbrella
  5. Small lamp is missing from outside the store window
  6. Red book in the window (blue in key)
  7. Small round tree in front of store is missing
  8. Small red box with white bow in store window is missing
  9. Small pale in window of store missing.
  10. 3 stockings in store window missing
  11. Dog in front of store is missing
  12. Little potted pine tree in front of store is missing
  13. Snowman with blue hat in store window is missing
  14.  Lights over top of store are missing
  15. Holly on the left corner of store window are missing
  16. Lights above store door are missing
  17.  The man’s yellow package is missing
  18. Left lady’s umbrella is navy blue (turquoise in key)
  19. Red bow is missing from the lamppost
  20. Scooter in left side of store window is yellow (red in key)

Scholars Trip to RPI University

By Alex Shevtsova

“Where are you from?” a girl with straight blond hair asks us, taking a sip of coffee in the RPI dining hall with her friend.

“Erm…. We are from CATS Boston…,” I answer hesitatingly.

“Which college is that?” she asks, exchanging perplexed looks with her friend.

“It’s a high school.” We burst into laughter.

“Ah, right,” she smiles. Her friend smiles too.  “Planning to apply?”

A short conversation with these RPI students enriched us with information about the 6th best engineering college in the U.S. The students we met were taking chemical and biological engineering classes, and they were happy to know that some of us wanted to as well. “It is probably the best school for research possibilities,” they said. “ And for all types of inspiration.”


We looked around. Located in Troy, New York, RPI University is gracefully enclosed in the nearby hills and overlooks the Hudson River–a spectacular view for nature lovers.

This picturesque place looked empty the chilly early morning we arrived, but it took just a moment to come alive. When we went inside, we saw a Video Game Competition, full of glowing screens and moving joysticks. RPI students create an atmosphere within the university walls and we, as potential new students, were encouraged to contribute to it.

We passed through the hall and exited on the other side of the building. The ‘86 Field divided the campus in two – the research centers and recreation. Opinions were divided on which side to choose. The neutral direction went right in front of the Computer Center, to the west from the Field; the library was quiet and almost empty. I joined my friends with an atlas, exploring the terrain and looking at others who were playing chess on an antiquated coffee table.

For quite a while, we lingered smelling the old books, watching the wind burying massive buildings in leaves outside, and wondering how many things can come together in one amazing place. Artistic inspiration, a calm, educational atmosphere, a cozy family spirit, and incredible sport facilities. This is what we saw that day.

This is what we saw at RPI:  

Indoor Snowball Fight for Charity!

By Mia Huynh and Jenn Lee

Community Service Club is coming at you with another event for students as well as faculty to help our community – an Indoor Snowball Fight on the last day of classes! This event comes with a surprising twist though.  Instead of snowballs, we will be throwing new socks!

We know that everyone loves a good snowball fight outside in the cold winter, so why not participate in one that’s indoors to blow off some steam before finals week? Most importantly, your participation will help the Braintree community, as all of the socks purchased during the event will be donated to Father Bill’s and Mainspring Homeless Shelters afterwards. Many homeless people only have one pair of socks to keep them warm during the cold winter. Participating in our Indoor Snowball Fight is one way to get a lot of socks to those who need them while having a lot of fun!

The club raised money to cover the cost of the event through the sale of tickets and socks during lunch time in front of the cafeteria from November 28th to December 4th.  The price was $5 for 7 sock balls and $10 for 15.

The Indoor Snowball Fight will be held at 11 AM on December 7th in the gym. You can watch the event for $1. Snacks will be offered for sale at the event, so bring your cash!

Hopefully your house will have stocked up many snowballs for the fight! Houses will create cardboard forts for the event this week and fight together as a team.  The more participants on your team, the greater your chances of dominating the snowball fight! Points will be awarded to the house with the best fort.

This will be the first time ever for this event, and we can’t wait!

We’ll see you there!

Thanksgiving at CATS

By Serafina

It was November. Winter came much faster this year than expected. Snow did not want to wait, it came early desperately falling from the sky.  My classmates could not wait, either as they started booking their flights home for Thanksgiving. Later their hands would be busy dragging the heavy, stuffed suitcases with tiny wheels on bumpy roads. For most of my classmates, their goal for Thanksgiving was clear: visit family, have fun, go shopping, or just get sleep.


I wasn’t planning to travel anywhere and wanted to treat Thanksgiving Break as the last refuge before the upcoming overwhelming finals week. I was going to celebrate Thanksgiving at CATS. Thanksgiving is not a festival celebrated in most Asian countries. Many students at CATS, including myself, are not familiar with the customs and meaning of Thanksgiving. Yet my friends got into the spirit of the holiday and attempted to make a turkey using a microwave, which ended up a mistake that should never be repeated.


The loud noise of the outside world like music at Karaoke, the chatting voices at a restaurant, and the rumbling noise of vehicles seemed to emphasize and contrast against the silence in the dorms—the school seemed forgotten and faded away. Fortunately, although many rooms were left vacant, we did not feel lonely. The emptiness of campus was offset by the little surprises— a special promotion prepared by the Dining Hall as well as the delicious dinners held by many dorm parents on their floor were heartfelt. The were also several shuttles to stores, outlets, and the mall where we got to experience the most crowded time of the year at a shopping mall.


I do not regret giving up sitting by the fire and surrounding myself with relatives during Thanksgiving dinner. Instead, I learned about Thanksgiving in a new way. Staying at CATS during the break taught me to customize and reinvent my own holiday—be it having an adventure to Boston with close friends for the first time or buying gifts for family and friends during Black Friday on my own dime. My Thanksgiving Break added to my wonderful experience of studying abroad and became one of those memories that makes me smile whenever I recall it.

Book Review: Paper Towns by John Green

By Jessica Ngo

I read the novel Paper Towns by John Green. The novel takes place at Jefferson High School in Orlando, Florida. It focuses on Quentin’s life: school, friends, band, and his girl crush Margo Roth Spiegelman. Margo has been Quentin’s friend and neighbor since they were two; she is a well-known, smart, full-of-adventure girl. The beginning of the novel is a turning point in the two main characters’ relationship. One night, Margo goes to Quentin’s room to ask him for help with her eleven-part revenge plan on her ex-boyfriend, Jase Worthington. She needs Quentin to be her driver. That night, Quentin’s feelings for Margon blossom. Margo, however, disappears after that night, leaving only clues for Quentin: The poem “Sing My Song” by Walt Whitman, a picture of Woody Guthrie, and an address. Fearing that she died, Quentin, Radar, Ben, and Lacey 

try hard, day and night, to find her around the town. On graduation day, Quentin accidentally finds Margo through her website about a fictitious town called Agloe in New York. When everyone visits Margo’s place, they feel unwelcome, as it turns out that she did not want to be found.

Book Review: Paper Towns by John Greene  

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The clues she left were messages to let them know she was fine. Margo asks Quentin to stay with her in New York, but his responsibilities in Orlando prevent him from staying. The two friends part company in peace and promise to keep in touch.

Paper Towns is fictional, but the way John Green delivers the story it seems so real, especially the ending. Green creates characters that highlight the emotions of high school well, which allows readers to empathize with them. Quentin is a sweet and sensitive person who wants everyone to be happy. On the other hand, Margo is a smart and independent girl who has a plan for her life outside of Florida. At the end of the book, as Quentin is about to kiss Margo, the thought of his responsibilities back home stop him; he cannot leave everything behind to go with her. As for Margo, she cannot give up on her dream and return to a place with too many sad memories. Having to make the choice of leaving someone they love to pursue their dreams and take responsibility for their own lives is what makes this story thoughtful and realistic. Green takes seriously the high school student’s point of view about school anxiety, parents, and career in creating the novel’s setting, which is relatable to high school students today. Green does an excellent job sending a message about the importance of balancing friendships with reality in an interesting and fun way.

Despite the excellent character development in the book, I would love to know more about Margo. The story is told from the perspective of Quentin, the main character. But learning the story through only his words gives an incomplete picture. The whole story is about Quentin’s journey to find Margo using clues that he believes she left. Without knowing Margo’s thoughts and feelings, I feel there are not enough clues and evidence for readers to solve the mystery of her disappearance on their own. Furthermore, readers would have a better understanding of this second main character if we heard more from her throughout the story. If Margo had more dialogue, we could gain a better understanding of this unique and original high school student.

I would highly recommend Paper Towns to anyone who loves mystery and adventure. Students who are strong English language learners, but want to improve their vocabulary should also read this book. Most of the words are not too difficult, but there are still some new words that you can learn. For me, this book was both entertaining and a great way to learn a language without getting bored.

CATS’ Fall Play “She Kills Monsters” 

By Norah Laoui

The 2018 Fall play at CATS Academy started in the middle of September with auditions that lasted for about two days.  Students read the introduction monologue and acted out scenes with other students. In this way, our cast was formed!

We then began our production of “She Kills Monsters” by Qui Nguyen. The play follows an average girl named Agnes who tries to learn more about her little sister, Tilly, through a Dungeons & Dragons game that her sister created. The story jumps in and out of the imaginary world that her sister has created. Filled with awesome sword fights and all things geeky, the story is exciting, but, more importantly, it explores the relationships (good and bad) between each of the characters. The play is an amazing story that can make you laugh and cry or perhaps even empathize with the characters to understand deeper messages that theater can sometimes teach an audience. 

With the show fast approaching, our cast worked hard, along with the play’s director and stage crew, to bring this story’s powerful message to life. The cast met after school every Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday from 4:00 to 5:45 and, at times, even on the weekends from September through the end of November.

       Photo credit to Noah Ellegood

There’s a saying: “A cast can become like a small family within a community.” Our cast proved this saying true. At the beginning of rehearsal most days, we played a fun team-building exercise like the game Ninja to get to know each other better and to shake off any stresses from the day. No matter how good or bad our day was, play rehearsal always made us smile, laugh, and just have fun together. We can’t thank Mr. Punches our amazing director enough for all he’s dedication and hard work to help us prepare to present this production of “She Kills Monsters” and all his hard work on building the set. We also want to thank Mr. Napier, Mr. Archer, Mr. Phelan and Mr. Lewan and everyone else who helped us for their amazing work on the props and set designs and music which gave the show a professional aura.

From the cast and crew, we hope you enjoyed the play as much as we enjoyed performing it for you!

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