Initiative News & Calendar
November 17, 2017
Houghton Middle School wins Lexus Eco Challenge again
HOUGHTON — HOUGHTON — For the third time, Houghton Middle School students have won the Lexus Eco Challenge in the Land a ... >>more
November 16, 2017
Local educators present at Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative's Place Based Education Conference
The Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative (GLSI) Place Based Education Conference took place at Eastern Michigan Universi ... >>more
October 26, 2017
Students spend day learning at Lake Superior Water Festival
HOUGHTON — High school students from five Upper Peninsula counties learned more about the Great Lakes and the research b ... >>more


News & Announcements
SOAR Beyond High School
SOAR prepares students for success outside the classroom. As students begin the college admissions process, graduate, and enter the real world, SOAR provides a solid backbone for a successful future. Not only do members walk away with a vast knowledge of robotics, milling, coding, and many other technical skills, but they also gain valuable communication and leadership skills. Anna Backman (2014), Xena Cortez (2014), Carl Kangas (2014), and Meagan Kangas (2015) are all past SOAR directors.

Xena Cortez and Carl Kangas are currently attending Michigan Technological University; Anna Backman is a Spartan at Michigan State University; and Meagan Kangas graduated with an Associates degree in Applied Business from Gogebic Community College in December 2016. All of the students have said they used their experience with SOAR in both their college and scholarship applications. It's hard not to! SOAR is so hands on; it allows for so much growth as a person and as a student. Looking good on college and job applications is not the only benefit of being a part of SOAR, although it is extremely beneficial. Xena and Anna both received full ride scholarships to their universities--the Leading Scholars Scholarship and the STARR Scholarship respectively.

Now, did SOAR influence their choice of major in college? Did SOAR shape them into programmers, engineers, or scientists? The answer to that questions seems like it should be obvious, but it is surprising how many different aspects of SOAR inspire a student.

While Meagan Kangas did not go into a science related field, she says that SOAR continued to help her in college and in her job at the Tervo Agency. Kangas says, "One thing that I thought was cool in one of my college classes was when we were learning about sales. For a competition we had to give an elevator speech on a business we made up in class. Most of the class didn't have any idea what the purpose of an elevator speech was. I felt like I had a complete understanding of what our professor was looking for because we practiced making them so many times. I helped our group understand what the professor was looking for and we ended up winning the competition. I think before every presentation we went over our elevator speech to make sure everyone knew what to say. In my class an elevator speech seemed like something everyone would know. I am very thankful I had the experience of SOAR in high school I think I learned more from this class then I will ever even realize."

Xena Cortez entered Michigan Tech as an Environmental Engineering Major, as she was passionate about the stewardship work in which SOAR engages, but after her first year, she had a change of heart. She changed her major to Scientific and Technical Communications. "I realized a lot of the skills I gained and that are important to the organization are that of technical communicating. Every time we contacted or met with the community or our partners it was important to communicate through various medium. Posters, videos, presentations, or oral communication are important ways we got our technical information across." Cortez benefited from the engineering and scientific skills learned through SOAR, but, like Meagan Kangas, communication was a vital skill that influenced her college and career path. As a closing statement, Cortez said, "Today those skills are still in use and even more refined. Most important, the confidence I gained working on projects for SOAR inspired me to keep learning. If I could understand all that technical information and turn out an ROV every year with my teammates there is not a lot I can't do. I also made a lot of connections through the program that I am still in contact with today. Lake Superior Stewardship Initiative, Center for Science and Environmental Education, Michigan Tech Enterprise, and more."

Carl Kangas is attending MTU for something more related to the robotics and science side of SOAR. He says, "SOAR helped influenced my desire to become a Mechanical Engineer because it helped me realize my passion for problem solving and designing easier ways to accomplish tasks." Kangas is currently using his skills as an engineer to work at Rogan Precision Inc where he works with CAD programming and running various metal shaping machinery. Kangas also told SOAR, “SOAR helped develop my problem solving, CAD, and leadership skills as well as useful hands on knowledge that you cannot learn from a book, such as an understanding of circuits, controls, water pressure, water proofing, and 3D printing. I am still benefiting from my participation in SOAR because it has helped my develop a deeper understand and reinforces concepts I learn in college.” SOAR takes pride in teaching students things that they “cannot learn from a book,” as Carl says. Student’s leave SOAR as new people and students with world changing ideas.

The success of these SOAR alumni is a painted picture of current and future SOAR members. The program sets students up for a wide variety of success. SOAR may not always lead students in a straight path toward science and robotics, but the skills obtained in this program are essential in all aspects of the work force. There is so much good that comes out of this program, and it is all from the students' hard work. Whether it helps with college applications, getting a scholarship or job, or inspiring a career path, SOAR is a solid base for amazing opportunities and new beginnings.


Photo Caption: One of the first SOAR leadership boards in action.

Photo Caption: Meagan Kangas doing her part as a sophomore.

Photo Caption: Xena Cortez presents to Val Martin of Isle Royale to prepare for the 2013 trip to the island.

Photo Caption: Carl Kangas leading the team in discussion on how to improve the current ROVs.


809 Hecla Street | Hancock, Michigan 49930 | 906.482.0331 |