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5 Inspiring Teachers to Watch

May 18, 2018

Beyond #TeacherAppreciationWeek 2018

When I was 10 years old, my father gave me a quote that he cut out of a Time magazine; I think he saw the writing on the wall that I was destined to become an educator as I assigned “homework” to my siblings and stuffed animals:

I know I was inspired by my fabulous teachers growing up! Teachers don’t often get the recognition they deserve. From their innovative teaching practices, to the minutes they devote to their craft daily, to the love of learning that they instill in students, they deserve recognition during Teacher Appreciation Week and beyond!

If you follow us on social media (@WonderWorkshopFB: TeachWonder, INSTA: TeachWonder), you will see that we are highlighting just a few of our educators who have stood out this year. Meet these fine folks from across the country who we think are just WONDER-ful:

CARRIE WILLIS (@CarrieWillis18) is the rock-star technology director at Valley Preparatory School in Redlands, CA. Having taught for 17 years, Ms. Willis epitomizes what it means to learn alongside your students. She has led their STEAM program with enthusiasm and creativity. She is one of our veteran Wonder League Robotics Competition coaches and is a Wonder Innovation Squad member. Recently, Ms. Willis has been making a splash in the conference circuit, helping other educators invite computational thinking into their everyday teaching. We’re honored that Ms. Willis is always pitching us great classroom activities to use in blog articles (Earth DayOlympics) and always comes to find us at conferences. (She’s coming to ISTE this year; come by booth #5418!)

TRAVIS LAPE (@travislape), Innovative Programs Director from Harrisburg School District, South Dakota, was the reason that we had teams from all 50 states in this year’s Wonder League Robotics Competition. We had all but South Dakota when we met him at a Bay Area conference. He, being a visionary and influencer, knew exactly who to tap in his state to help form a team. His efforts in the makerspace community are well known, and he has been instrumental in bringing the ECET2 initiative to life. Mr. Lape is a stanch supporter of other teachers in the work they do everyday for students, and he loves “watching the lightbulb go off when something they have done works.”

JENNA HOUSER (@JCBHouser) first heard of our Wonder League Robotics Competition (WLRC) last year. And as a first-year participant, she organized all 650 fifth-graders from the Grand Blanc Community Schools into WLRC teams! The Grand Blanc Community Schools created their own vetting process, which led to several of their teams being invited into our WLRC final Invitational Round. Ms. Houser’s a great example of an enthusiastic go-getter who sets high expectations for her students and her community.

FAITH PLUNKETT (@missfplunket) is the Entertainment Technology Academy Instructor (what a title, right?) at Monte Sano Elementary in Huntsville City Schools, Alabama. This past December, Ms. Plunkett had her students program Dash robots for their school’s Merry Maker Christmas Parade. She shared, “We programmed Dash robots to be fire trucks like are found in normal parades. We also had a Dashing Through the Snow float, a Dot programmed to sing the Hawaiian Christmas song on a float, and a float where the students programmed Dot to be a security alarm on the top of a Christmas tree to prevent someone from stealing their presents. Seeing their faces light up as they examined their final products and showed them to classmates, family, friends, and their teachers was priceless!”

Photo by Erika Alvero;

ARLENE SIMPELO (@ina2jack), a first grade teacher in California, just was awarded Teacher of the Year for Pleasanton Unified School District. We’re honored that she uses Dash & Dot to students with “21st-century skills: collaboration, critical-thinking, cooperation, persistence, not giving up, learning from your mistakes.” Beginning with Hour of Code just a few years ago, Ms. Simpelo expanded her robotics efforts to a lunchtime code club and now an after-school club with grant monies. Read more about her teaching accomplishments on

Even though #TeacherAppreciationWeek has passed, we at Wonder Workshop would like to #ThankATeacher, one and all as this school year wraps up!

Wonder League Robotics Competition FAQ | Year 8

Hello, robotics enthusiasts! If you’re here, you’re probably as excited as we are about the 8th Annual Wonder League Robotics Competition! To help you and your teams have the best possible experience competing this year, we wanted to share answers to some Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ).

Who Can Compete:

Any kid, anywhere in the world, ages 6-8 (Innovator Cup) and 9-12 (Pioneer Cup). There are two age brackets: 6-8 and 9-12 and team members have to fall within the age category at some point during the competition. Participants must be the qualifying age for their bracket on the last day of the competition, but if they gain a year during the competition, that’s OK. They won’t age out! 

Competition Brackets:

  • Innovator Cup (Age 6-8)
  • Pioneer Cup (Age 9-12)

What Makes a Team:

A team is made up of a supervising adult coach, and one or more children (up to 5). That’s right, kids can compete solo, but a coach who is 18+ is needed to help with the submission process. For multi-kid teams, each member must be in the same age bracket. Coaches may have multiple teams and can register all their teams after registering as a coach. Please keep in mind that each team will need a separate Class Connect registration.

Note: Younger students may participate in the 9-12 age category, but please be aware that the missions have been designed with older students and advanced coding skills in mind.

What a Team Needs to Compete:

Class Connect subscription

The team is made up of a supervising adult coach and one to five members

  1. Compatible device
  2. 5′ x 8′ mat of 30cm squares and basic prototyping materials
  3. Teams in 6-8 & 9-12 age brackets will need a Dash robot
  4. Internet access to download and upload materials

Teams will need one Dash robot:

Check Device Compatibility here:

We will be offering a mat image that you are welcome to use and print with your local printer, but teams are absolutely encouraged to make their own if they prefer. For more on how to make your own mat, check out this blog post.

Coaches will, of course, need internet access to download the apps and keep up with the competition as it progresses, and may want to print out some kid-facing materials that we will provide at each stage.

Class Connect Subscription:

To register for the 8th Wonder League Robotics Competition requires a subscription to Class Connect, providing additional resources like standards-aligned content assignable right inside a student’s Blockly app. Learn more about Class Connect here.

If you already have a Class Connect subscription, you have access to register a team, based on your student license amount. If you have more than one team of 5 students, you will need to purchase another Coach Success Pack or consider a larger subscription to accommodate more teams and students.

  1. A Coach Success Pack provides:
    Participation in the WLRC for up to 5 students
    Access to all Missions
    Full access to Class Connect, (including Math Activities and Dash’s Neighborhood), for 5 students and 1 teacher for 7 months
    A discount code for a Dash robot from our online store at

Please note: Teams will need a physical Dash robot to complete the Missions.
The Coaches’ Dashboard in Class Connect will help our coaches register and manage their team(s). The dashboard will be your one-stop shop for all Wonder League Robotics Competition management. You will be able to access the Coaches’ Corner–where all competition-related content and resources will be hosted–the Heartbeat community forum, and all the submission forms right there on the Dashboard.

Accessing Missions for the Innovator Cup and Pioneer Cup:

Once your purchase is completed for Class Connect, you will receive an email to activate your Class Connect license.

Once this license is activated, you will be able to register yourself as a coach and register your teams. This is done on your portal page under the Robotics Competition tab.

Once your team/teams are registered, you will get an additional email from CoAssemble, our partner hosting the missions this year. This email will state you have been registered for the “2022-2023 Coaches Corner Course”.

Click on the link to be redirected to the CoAssemble website, and you will see the course and can access the Coaches’ Corner Guide as well as the Missions (available November 3, 2022).

Still having trouble accessing all the resources in the Coaches’ Corner? If you have previously had a license to Class Connect and registered as a coach, and have not seen Coaches’ Corner added to your CoAssemble list of courses, please email us at, and we will provide assistance.

Last Year’s Missions:

Taking a peek at last year’s missions might help you get a sense of what the competition is like. Just sign in with your Class Connect subscription and register as a coach to take a peek at the previous years by going to the Coaches’ Corner and selecting the desired year.

2022-23 Wonder League Robotics Competition Milestone Dates:

Here are important milestone dates to keep in mind as coaches develop timelines for teams competing in the 2022-23 Wonder League Robotics Competition.


  1. October 21, 2022: Student Team Registration Opens
  2. November 3, 2022: Round One Opens + Five Mission Released
  3. January 13, 2023: Student Team Registration Closes
  4. January 27, 2023: Mission Evidence Submission Closes 
  5. January 28-March 5, 2023: Invitational Round Notification 
  6. February 6, 2023: Invitational Round Opens + Final Mission Released
  7. March 24, 2023: Invitational Round Submission Due 
  8. April 10, 2023: People’s Choice Voting Opens 
  9. April 21, 2023: People’s Choice Voting Closes 
  10. May 4, 2023: 2022-23 Wonder League Robotics Competition Winner Announcement

NEW Award Category: WLRC People’s Choice Award

Teams may opt in to participate in the WLRC People’s Choice Award category by creating a :30 second video explaining the Team’s Invitational Round Final Mission solution that will be shared with the community at in an “online crowd vote” competition. The WLRC People’s Choice Award allows teams to share and celebrate their work in the WLRC and encourage community support in voting for their team. This is an optional category for teams to enter and will not impact scoring of the Invitational Round submission as they will be judged by STEM and Coding experts using a published rubric.

Children’s Privacy:

We take our participants’ privacy very seriously and comply with COPPA when collecting any information. In the invitational round we ask only for the students’ first names, and request parents’ permission. For those that make it into the Invitational Round, we ask for full names, again with permission. We are never marketing, selling to, or corresponding with children. All contact is through the proxy of the coach.