Tech Challenge Competitors Design Gliders

Posted on May 20, 2016 by  
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Blach Intermediate’s “Time Flies” teamFlying supplies to a remote location presented the problem – and opportunity – at this year’s Tech Challenge competition at San Jose’s Tech Museum of Innovation, held April 23-24.

The annual team design competition engages students in hands-on engineering projects. For the 2016 “Taking Flight” challenge, they worked on building and launching gliders that could carry supplies with pinpoint precision. The engineering process is intended to include real-world meanings – each team had to explain where the glider was going, and why.

A team of three Gardner Bullis School sixth-graders placed first in their age group. Kiefer Tierling, Gage Garcia and Mihir Mishra dubbed themselves “Blackbird Designers Team” in recognition of the world’s fastest aircraft. After prototyping a wide range of designs and materials for their glider, they came up with a functioning model only days before the competition, but their foam device launched smoothly and nabbed the prize.

Gage was working on a balsa-wood model when Kiefer started cutting foam and discovered that a model using that material landed pretty near the target. They refined a foam glider that could carry pingpong ball supplies.

“A breakthrough that we had was that we were able to keep adding things, because the center of lift is below the center of weight,” Kiefer said.

Kiefer noted that this year’s challenge proved more difficult overall than last year’s because it required more advanced construction to meet the minimum requirements of a launcher and glider. “It took a lot of teamwork to get it done,” Mihir said.

A team of five eighth-grade girls from Blach Intermediate School, “Time Flies,” won second place overall in their age group after working for half a year on their gliders. Kayla Blalack, Olivia Byun, Mika Nijhawan, Vikki Xu and Noelle Crawford had to launch over a set of obstacles and deliver their payload to a target beyond (figurative) mountains and storms.

They met weekly starting in October to research relevant concepts such as airfoils and then began to experiment with basic materials. “We knew the science, but the hardest part was making the design,” Mika said. Other Los Altos School District award winners included “Aerial Taiga Team” and “KYD Tech Team” from Almond, “EPIC Team” from Springer and “Sky Force Team” from Santa Rita.

More than 2,600 students from around the Bay Area participated in this year’s challenge. The late Bob Grimm of Los Altos, among other early supporters, founded the event 29 years ago.

For more information on the Tech Challenge, visit


An Entertainer’s Delight In Old Los Altos

Posted on May 18, 2016 by  
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600 Milverton

600 Milverton Rd, Los Altos 94022
Listed at $2,988,000 / Sold at $3,390,000
4 Beds / 3 Baths / Home: 3,011 sqft / Lot: 17,000 sq ft +/-
Single Family Detached
Representing: Seller


Los Altos’ K-9 Has His Day Downtown

Posted on May 17, 2016 by  
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Los Altos Police K-9The Los Altos Police Department’s K-9, Lord, has a bulletproof vest, car heat-alert system and trauma kit. His handler, Officer Julie Tannock, said the equipment protects them both – as well as the public. She’s used the K-9 trauma kit, for instance, on people requiring immediate medical attention.

“It has anything we could need before getting to the doctor or vet,” she said. “I’m lucky to work for a city that takes care of its dogs.”

Not all pups are so fortunate, and that’s where the Police & Working K-9 Foundation comes in. The nonprofit organization’s “Cover Your K-9” project provides lifesaving equipment for California police and working dogs. To raise funds for other working animals, Lord will have his day during a meet-and-greet 2:30-4:30 p.m. May 21 at the plaza outside Enchanté Boutique Hotel, 1 Main St.

“It’s one way to use our community plaza to have positive events,” said hotelier Abigail Ahrens.

The family-friendly fundraiser will feature photos with Lord and handouts of free police trading cards, giveaways from Petco, donation incentives at downtown’s Posh Pooch Portraits and advice from Fuzzy-Wolf canine behaviorist Jimi Dixon. Organizers request that it be a people-only event.

During Lord’s day, Tannock will address the German shepherd’s initial and ongoing training as a public servant. She explained that K-9s are “locating tools” to track people, drugs and bombs.

“They’re not attack dogs,” she said. “We use their noses to help us do our jobs.”

Lord is now 9 years old. Tannock anticipates that he’ll be on the job for another couple of years. Once he retires, Tannock as handler will be responsible for his medical bills. The Police & Working K-9 Foundation has that covered, too, with $1,000 toward emergency medical care for retired dogs.

For more information on the meet-and-greet event, call Enchanté Boutique Hotel at 946-2000.  For more information on the Police & Working K-9 Foundation, visit:


Ride-hailing App Caters To Kids

Posted on May 11, 2016 by  
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Los Altos Hills resident rides with her regular Zum driverLiving in the land of on-demand, Los Altos Hills resident Frank Willemsen often found himself with an immediate problem: finding a trustworthy person to help cart his kids from point A to point B.

As he discovered, there’s an app for that.

Zum, which supplies rides for children ages 5-15, last week officially introduced its iOS and Android apps and carpools after launching solo rides throughout the South Bay and Peninsula in January.

Willemsen first heard the start-up’s pitch last year, then researched the company for himself. Five months ago, he decided to give it a try.

The father of two kids – a daughter in volleyball and son in soccer – Willemsen said Zum swoops in during planned rush-hour activities or unscheduled doubled-up sports days.

When Zum CEO and founder Ritu Narayan first considered on-demand ride hailing for kids, she knew she’d have to clear one high hurdle – gaining parents’ trust. Herself a Silicon Valley working mom, she started the company with her own needs in mind.

When Narayan founded Zum in Menlo Park, she entered a growing market of Uber-for-kids apps – Kango, HopSkipDrive and the now-defunct Shuddle, to name a few. Narayan said she set her company apart by assigning families a limited pool of caretaking drivers – or “Zumers” – based on parents’ preferences.

All Zumers undergo a rigorous hiring process. Applicants must pass California’s child care Trust- Line certification and national-level FBI and Department of Justice background checks, as well as ongoing reviews of driving records and referrals. They also go through personal interviews covering reactions to various situations and their sense of purpose.

Narayan said Zum mostly hires through internal referrals, and according to the company’s website, many are part-time professionals, stay-at-home moms and nannies. Drivers can earn between $30 and $35 per hour, according to Zum’s website.

One of Willemsen’s Zumers, Khaterah Atefy, the mother of three children, has been driving with the company for a couple of months. “I have a busy family,” she said. “It’s flexible work and I set my own hours.”

Parents can tap the app for on-demand rides or recurring transportation up to one year in advance. During each trip, they can track the car’s location, speed and arrival time.

Zum charges based on time and mileage, starting at $16 per ride. Rides average $24 at 10 miles. Additional child care – say, if a parent is running late or a Zumer oversees an activity – costs $6 per 15 minutes. “The great thing about it is that parents only need to pay for what they use,” Narayan said.

With the new Zum apps, parents can pool rides; when families split the fare, the cost per child drops.

Since piloting the service last July, Zum has provided more than 40,000 rides to kids around the Bay Area. With the collapse of competitor Shuddle in April, Zum signed up more than 600 new families and more than 100 ex-Shuddle drivers. The company now operates throughout the Bay Area.

For more information, visit:


Students Participate in 56th Junior Olympics

Posted on May 4, 2016 by  
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Santa Rita School fourth-graderLos Altos School District fourth- through sixth-graders competed in the district’s 56th annual Junior Olympics Saturday at Mountain View High School.

The annual inter-school track and field meet featured students from the district’s seven elementary schools participating in an array of events.

More than 1,600 students from Almond, Covington, Gardner Bullis, Loyola, Oak Avenue, Santa Rita and Springer schools took part.

Nine students set records at this year’s event, including Boden Sirey, Angelica Chou, Kara Chou, Hannah Cushing, Jake Skaggs, Jackson Steffen, Sophie Murdock, Luke DeVine and Nadal Pushnof. The fourth-grade girls and boys 400-meter relay teams also set records.


Friendship At Fine Art In The Park

Posted on May 2, 2016 by  
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2016 Fine Art in the ParkThey first met two years ago at the Rotary Club of Los Altos’ Fine Art in the Park event.

Los Altos Hills resident Terenia Offenbacker is an accomplished painter who studied art education and art history at universities in Europe. Nicolas Bremeau, a curious then-10-year-old boy, was entranced by her paintings and stopped to study them one-by-one.

Offenbacker and Nicolas instantly connected. Offenbacker saw in him a yearning to experience art and invited him to her studio.

When they arrived for their first visit, Nicolas and his mother, Nancy Bremeau, were captivated by Offenbacker’s glass-enclosed, sun-drenched studio. The artist’s works were lined up against the glass, one after the other.

“Her work is about beautiful color and forms – the mixed media she uses makes for expressive works of art, including her integrated use of copper, wood, fabric and text,” Bremeau said. “Her paintings are almost never flat but have ‘profiles,’ and many are 3-dimensional.”

According to Bremeau, the way Offenbacker integrates various media into the paintings makes them “almost sculptural.”

“Some are compelling in an almost primordial way, while others, particularly her Modigliani-inspired portraits are incredibly sophisticated,” Bremeau added. “Many of her paintings are finished with a beautiful, glossy surface, making them glow and shine in various light.”

As Offenbacker explained the process she uses for her creations, Nicolas became increasingly fascinated. He tentatively started to describe what he saw in each painting, gaining confidence by talking with Offenbacker as he explored the studio and her artwork.

The two of them – the artist and the boy – formed an almost immediate friendship.

Offenbacker offered to teach Nicolas about painting, and the two began working together over the summer. The artist shared her experience and personal philosophy about art and why it is an integral part of her life and her very being. Nicolas, who listened intently and watched as she worked, created two works of his own under her guidance.

Offenbacker has exhibited for several years at Fine Art in the Park. She will participate in this year’s event, scheduled 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. May 14 and 15 in Lincoln Park, University Avenue at Foothill Expressway, Los Altos.

For more information on Offenbacker, visit:

For more information on Fine Art in the Park, visit:


Pet Parade Set Downtown May 14th

Posted on May 1, 2016 by  
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A decked-out YorkieThe Kiwanis Club of Los Altos has scheduled its 69th annual Kiwanis Pet Parade 10 a.m. May 14 in downtown Los Altos.

The event showcases pets marching or being toted down Main and State streets, accompanied by their owners. Paul and Liz Nyberg, who own and publish the Los Altos Town Crier, will serve as this year’s grand marshals.

“Their community spirit and dedication to Los Altos through the Town Crier is reflected weekly by the quality of the paper,” said longtime Kiwanis Club member Karen Smith. “It is most fitting to have them as grand marshals this year.”

The first Pet Parade took place in 1947, five years before the city of Los Altos was incorporated. Over the years, it has become a spring tradition that attracts thousands of children and a range of pets – from cats and dogs to snails and llamas – parading on foot, on horseback, in wagons and on bicycles.

Representatives from local bands, schools and community groups will join the procession. Online registration to participate is open through Friday, May 6th. Although the club prefers online registration, no one who wants to march in the parade will be turned away.

Kiwanis Club volunteers clad in yellow T-shirts will accommodate marchers on parade day. For more information, visit: