Members of the MidKnight Minions robotics team celebrate winning the Judges’ Award at the First LEGO World Festival in April. Pictured are Julie Zhou, Anishka Chintamaneni, Meera Hajarnis, Sanika Pande, Dhruti Raghuran and Parthavi Nerukar.

The MidKnight Minions, an all-girls FIRST LEGO League robotics team made up of 7th grade students from West Windsor and Plainsboro townships, received the World Festival Judges’ Award for their work to promote STEM education for young girls in their community.

Team members include Anjali Nerurkar, Kshitij Nerurkar, Anushka Chintamaneni, Dhruti Raghuraman, Parthavi Nerurkar, Meera Hajarnis, Sanika Pande, Julie Zhou, Vaishali Pande and Makarand Pande.

The 2017 FIRST LEGO League World Festival was held in St. Louis, Missouri, April 25-29. FIRST LEGO League introduces students to real-world engineering challenges by conducting research projects and building LEGO-based autonomous robots to complete tasks on a thematic playing surface.

This year’s challenge, Animal Allies, tasked approximately 255,000 students on 32,000 teams with improving how animals and humans learn from, interact with and help one another.

The MidKnight Minions, coached by mentors and student mentors and parents from the district high school FIRST Robotics Competition team, The MidKnight Inventors, were invited to attend the World Festival following their selection as a New Jersey Champions Award Finalist last December. During the World Festival, The MidKnight Minions’ robot finished in 9th place overall and 2nd in United States.

The team’s project, “Hot Paw,” was a solution to help save the lives of pets who suffer when left hot in cars by mistake.

Students rank high in HOSA competition

Several Plainsboro residents in the Mercer County Technical Schools Health Science Academy took placed at the recent New Jersey HOSA Competition.

They include: Smriti Moorjani, first place, medical math; Ritika Vijapurkar, second place, Public Service Announcement (Team); and Ankur Sinha, third place, Healthy Lifestyle.

As a first place finisher, Moorjani is eligible to compete at the HOSA International Leadership Conference in Orlando, Florida on June 21 to 24.

Meanwhile, Sri Lahari Kunchapu of Plainsboro was named state president of N.J. HOSA.
HOSA-Future Health Professionals is an organization with a stated mission to “enhance the delivery of compassionate, quality health care by providing opportunities for knowledge, skill and leadership development of all health science education students, therefore, helping the student meet the needs of the health care community,” said the N.J. HOSA website.

Students honored with computing awards

Ten students from High School North and High School South were honored by the New Jersey Affiliate of the National Center for Women and Information Technology at its Aspirations in Computing Award Ceremony.

NCWIT honors young women at the high school level for their computing-related achievements and interests. Recipients are selected for their computing and IT aptitude, leadership ability, academic history and plans for postsecondary education. The NCWIT Award for Aspirations in Computing offers national and local affiliate competitions to generate support and visibility for women’s participation in communities nationwide.

Winners at High School North were Anushka Iyer and Anuhya Vellore, N.J. Affiliate Award; Sanjna Ravichandar, N.J. Affiliate Award and National Honorable Mention; Anuja Badeti, N.J. Affiliate Honorable Mention; Kimberly Ding, N.J. Affiliate Honorable Mention; Rithika Ganesh, N.J. Affiliate Honorable Mention; and Angela Shaw, N.J. Affiliate Honorable Mention.

Winners at High School South were Elizabeth Petrov, National Award and N.J. Affiliate Award; Simrun Laroia, N.J. Affiliate Honorable Mention; and Sri Narayanan, N.J. Affiliate Honorable Mention.

Dutch Neck Geography Bee winner

Aldric Benalan won the Geography Bee at Dutch Neck School, sponsored by the North South Foundation Princeton Chapter on April 29.

Aldric Benalan, a third grade student at Dutch Neck Elementary school, was awarded first place in a Junior Geography Bee sponsored by the North South Foundation Princeton Chapter at Community Middle School on April 29. Benalan also received third prize in the science bee competition.

Benalan’s mother, Subella, who works as a software engineer, said that her son has always had a knack for geography. She said he was able to remember the names of major lakes, rivers, countries and capitals when he was three years old.

His father, Douglas, who works as a vice president of information technology, said that geography started as a hobby and he has become more serious about it over the years.

Benalan’s younger sister, Donna, is currently a Kindergartner.

Joanne Bennett shows off the first place award she won in the Middlesex County Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey’s Art and Essay Contest. Pictured are Millstone School principal Roseann Bonino, Bennett and teachers Vicki Gurzau and Justin Goetzmann.

Essay contest winner from Millstone School

Joanne Bennett, a fifth grade student at Millstone River School, is the Middlesex County winner in the Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey’s Art and Essay Contest. The theme of these year’s contest was “Species on the Edge.”

Bennett’s winning essay was selected from over 2,500 entries across the state. The Millstone River student will be honored at a presentation in June.


Theresa Gonnella, 89, of Princeton Junction died April 20. Born, raised and educated in Brooklyn, New York, Gonnella worked at the New York Telephone Company while her husband, Joseph, completed his studies at the University of Pennsylvania Dental School on the GI Bill. The couple eventually settled in central New Jersey to open a dental practice and raise a family.

Gonnella held many diverse positions in the nonprofit world during her life, including creating a children’s library at St. Paul’s Elementary School in Highland Park during the 1960’s.

She is predeceased by her husband. Survivors include her son, Joseph Gonnella, and his wife, Allegra D’Adamo, of Princeton Junction; and her daughter, Janice Weichman, and her husband, Peter, of Bedford, Massachusetts.

Julia H. Rhodes, 77, of Princeton Junction, died on April 18. Rhodes graduated from Wellesley in 1961 and earned her master’s in teaching from Radcliffe in 1963. She and her husband, Dunbar, moved to the area in 1972, and she became an English teacher in the West Windsor-Plainsboro School District the following year.

In 1976, she became the supervisor of English and language arts instruction for the Spotswood Public Schools, a position that subsequently expanded to include supervising foreign language instruction. In 2001, she was named principal of Spotswood’s Austin G. Schoenly Elementary School, a post she held until her retirement in 2005.

After retiring, she tutored students in English and completed educational consultancies in Haiti and Nigeria. She also co-authored, with her long-time friend Dr. Alice Deakins, an upcoming book entitled The Writer’s Sentence, and could be found reviewing drafts of this publication until a week before her death.

She was a member of Nassau Presbyterian Church and served as a Sunday school teacher for more than 10 years. She worked with her students to help organize the church’s annual fundraiser to fight river blindness in Africa. She also subscribed to McCarter Theatre and the American Repertory Ballet, and volunteered regularly at both institutions.

Predeceased by her husband, survivors include her daughters, Rebecca and Sarah, and their husbands, Fode Camara and Nicholas Stewart.

Arthur Miller, 87, of Princeton Junction, died on April 22. Born in Manhattan and raised in Brooklyn, Miller attended college at the Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute and graduate school at Caltech, before completing postdoctoral research at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

He spent his career working at RCA Laboratories in West Windsor. He loved folk music and, along with his wife, Arlene, was very involved in the Princeton Folk Music Society. For many years, he lent his tenor voice to LaShir, the Jewish Choir of Princeton. Survivors include his three children, Michael and wife, Sarah; Neil and wife, Jill; and Adrienne Drinkwater and husband, Matthew.

Mary Elizabeth Miller, 59, of Yardley, Pennsylvania, died on April 22. A teacher at Wicoff Elementary School for 25 years, Miller was a district teacher of the year. Se was co-lead of the Math-Science Day presentation for 15 years, as well as the district science coordinator.

Kathleen A. Fearns, 87, of Berkeley Township died on May 2. Survivors include daughter Kathleen Fearns Smagula and her husband Michael, of Plainsboro.