Tag Archives: competition

Bayside students put their creative problem-solving skills to the test


| agiudice@ridgewoodtimes.com

Photo Anthony Giudice

Two Bayside schools are each sending two teams to the New York State Odyssey of the Mind Association State Tournament for a chance to advance to the world finals in Michigan later this year.

Odyssey of the Mind is an international educational program that provides creative problem-solving opportunities for students from kindergarten through college. Students use their creativity to solve problems ranging from building mechanical devices to presenting their interpretation of literary classics. They then bring their solutions to competitions on local, state and world levels. Thousands of teams from all around the U.S. and from 25 countries participate in the program.

The teams vying for a spot in the finals are the fourth- and fifth-grade teams from P.S. 203 Oakland Gardens and the sixth- and seventh-grade teams from Nathaniel Hawthorne M.S. 74. All four teams finished in either first or second place in their divisions during the Regional Tournament, which was held on March 7 in Wantagh, Long Island, to make it to the state level.

On Thursday, the students showed their creative problem-solving skills in front of faculty, family members and classmates in P.S. 203’s auditorium ahead of the state tournament.

The fourth- and seventh-grade teams took on the challenge of “Pandora’s Box,” where they had to put a “video game spin” on the Greek myth. Students were required to include a prologue that depicts the original story of Pandora’s Box; three characters that represent different evils that escaped the box; and a power meter representing the gamer’s health bar.

The fifth- and sixth-grade teams each chose the “Silent Movie” problem. In this scenario, the students had to create and present their very own silent film. There had to be a director character, a film critic and a humorous villain character that commits three silly acts of villainy. The characters in the film were not allowed to speak; instead, they used creatively displayed subtitles, much like classic silent movies.

Each team came up with their original idea, created the sets and costumes for the performance and put on the show all on their own, as per the rules of the competition.

“We are not allowed to help them at all, we just guide them,” said Katerina Stravropoulos, a teacher for the fifth-grade team at P.S. 203. “Through probing we get them to solve the problems.”

This year’s state tournament will be held on April 11 at Binghamton University.

“I’m very optimistic for my team,” Stravropoulos said of her team’s chances in the state tournament. “The competition is tough, but we will do our best.”

Jarett Glickman, a member of the M.S. 74 seventh-grade team, and former member of P.S. 203’s team that went to the World Finals in 2013, said, “The world finals was really fun. I hope we can make it again this year.”

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Astoria residents vie for win in national music competition


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of Regret the Hour

Two brothers, who now call Astoria home, are hoping their band wins the grand prize in the national “Get Out of the Garage” competition in Brooklyn this weekend — and they’ll be carrying with them the memory of a bandmate who lost his life to cancer.

Nate and Ben McCarthy, originally from Nyack, started the band Regret the Hour in 2011 after years of being surrounded by music in their home and wanting to start their own group.

The brothers, who sing and play guitar, formed the band while in high school with drummer and vocalist Anders Fleming and bassist Jesse Yanko.

While finishing up the recording of their first album in 2012 called “Better Days,” which Ben calls a “DIY project,” 16-year-old Yanko died after a long battle with cancer. The album was later released in 2013.

“I think it just feels gratifying to be here right now and done all of this after that. I know that’s something that [Yanko] would have wanted,” Ben said about the band’s decision to move forward after questioning what to do next. “I think [the album] is a big part of the history of the band and you can hear it in the songs.”

The group later started playing at bars in Nyack and didn’t make the move to bigger venues, such as the Mercury Lounge and Knitting Factory, until Nate and Ben decided to head to Astoria as they attended Hunter College.

Regret the Hour, which has released three EPs along with their first album, will now take the stage on Feb. 28 with four other independent bands for the second annual Get Out of the Garage competition finals, presented by Guitar Center and Converse.

Image courtesy of Get Out of the Garage

Image courtesy of Get Out of the Garage

The artist discovery program, which started in October and includes bands from across the country, offers an opportunity for musicians to launch their careers.

Out of more than 8,000 submissions, five bands were chosen – including Regret the Hour. Part of the process to choose the finalists was based on how many people watched a music video on the Get Out of the Garage official website for each band.

“It feels pretty awesome,” Ben said about being chosen. “We couldn’t have done it without all the people that helped us out, that watched the video and shared it.”

The grand prize winner of the competition will earn a performance on Jimmy Kimmel Live!, studio recording time, a music video, $25,000 in cash, new gear and more.

Regret the Hour plans to perform two songs during the finale, one from the album they recorded with Yanko and another from their new album, which is in the process of being completed.

Ben added that although they are nervous about the big performance, they are excited about getting as far as they have on their own. They are not backed by a record label and they don’t even have a manager, so they’ve had to book every performance themselves.

After the competition, the band plans to continue working on their new album and they hope to have it released by late summer.

“We are definitely pretty excited for this new album we are working on. It really represents the band,” Ben said. “We’re just really excited to get it finished and get it out there.”

For more information on Get Out of the Garage, visit getoutofthegarage.revimage.com, and for information on Regret the Hour, visit regretthehourmusic.com or www.facebook.com/regretthehour.

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Bayside resident prepares for annual pigeon race


| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Eric Jankiewicz

Xu Jun wakes up every morning at 4 a.m. and drives hundreds of miles away from his Bayside apartment with at least 70 pigeons, then lets them find their way home. He’s training his birds, known as homing pigeons, for a competition in September.

“When I was young I liked to have pigeons,” Jun said in Mandarin, speaking through translator Lisa Zhang. “It’s always been an interest of mine.”

Jun participates in various races across the northeast and he began the hobby three years ago. The World Center Memorial Race, the one Jun is currently preparing for, is hosted by the Bronx Homing Pigeon Club and takes place in late September. Each of Jun’s 101 pigeons has an individual number tag so that the race organizers can make sure nobody cheats. The organizers of the race will take Jun’s birds, along with hundreds of other contestants’ birds, to an undisclosed area where they are released. Contestants are judged based on how fast their flock comes home, according to Jun.

Jun’s birds live in a wooden nest, known as a loft, in a College Point bus repair shop. The loft serves as their home and final destination in races. Jun works for the shop and during the lulls in his work schedule he cleans the loft and feeds the birds.

Homing pigeons have two racing seasons. The first is in late September when the birds are less than a year old. The second season is in the spring and the birds are typically older by this point in their racing careers.

With the first race season approaching, Jun has been training his pigeons by taking them further and further out in New Jersey every week and then releasing them in the wild, where they will usually take several hours to fly back home.

“I just like pigeons. It’s a very simple thing for me and I enjoy it,” Jun said. That day he was particularly pleased with his birds’ athletic performance; he released 73 and all of them returned, an outcome that doesn’t always happen.

“There’s kind of a neat tradition to pigeon homing,” said Deone Roberts, who works for the American Racing Pigeon Union, an organization that’s affiliated with hundreds of pigeon clubs across the country.

“The bird’s simply enjoying flying and going home,” she said. “[The pigeon] wants to go home and be with his mate and their offspring. It makes good fun.”

Using pigeons for racing has been around in America since the late 1800s, according to Roberts’ organization. The birds, a common sight in New York City, were also used during WWII to transmit messages across enemy lines.

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LIC chef to compete in Food Network’s “Beat Bobby Flay”


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Angy Altamirano

Natasha Pogrebinsky is at it again and this time she is looking to take on an iron chef.

The Long Island City chef, who has appeared twice on the Food Network’s “Chopped,” will now go head-to-head with chef Esther Choi on the network’s new series “Beat Bobby Flay” on Sept. 4 in hopes to move on and battle celebrity chef Bobby Flay himself.

“They were really impressed with me as a chef and as a personality on TV,” said Pogrebinsky, who is also the owner of Bear Restaurant located at 12-14 31st Ave., about getting offered a chance to appear on the show. “They wanted me back.”

In the episode called “Ladies First,” Pogrebinsky and Choi will “thrown down in the kitchen” creating one dish, which must feature a mystery ingredient given by Flay. The dishes will then be judged by chef Marc Murphy from “Chopped” and Katie Lee, co-host of “The Kitchen.”

“It was a lot of fun and it was great to be able to show off what I could do,” Pogrebinsky said.

Whoever comes out the winner in the first round will then be able to challenge Flay with her very own surprise signature dish.

“If I get to win the first round then I can go on to the next round and challenge Bobby Flay to cook a dish that is my specialty,” Pogrebinsky said. “If I make it to the second round then I get to throw him a curve ball.”

Pogrebinsky said her third appearance on the Food Network was a lot more intense because of the competition, yet it was fun because during the taping there was a live audience that included some Queens fans.

“In ‘Chopped’ you have a little more of a chance, here you have a 50-50 shot,” she said. “It’s a lot of fun to hear your fans from Astoria and LIC cheer you on.”

Just like her two previous “Chopped” premieres, Pogrebinsky said she plans on having a viewing party at Bear Restaurant, but details are still pending.

The “Ladies First” episode of “Beat Bobby Flay” will air on Sept. 4 at 10 p.m.

 

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Thousands come to 24th annual Dragon Boat Festival


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Eric Jankiewicz

Dragons invaded Flushing Meadows Lake this weekend. But instead of fire and wings, these dragons had paddlers and beating war drums.

The 24th annual Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival began on Saturday morning with thousands of people coming to the lake to watch 197 teams compete in boat races.

“There are people here today from all over the world coming to Queens for this wonderful event,” Borough President Melinda Katz said. “When you go back home, wherever that may be, tell your friends and family to come back next year and spend a lot of money in Queens.”

The race is a Chinese tradition that goes back thousands of years and the Flushing Meadows Corona Park dragon boat race was just one of many races being held across the world.

In the crowd, Dennis Liu, 23, and his fellow paddlers watched the stage as Katz and other politicians talked about the race.

“I love this sport,” Liu said. “It’s all about camaraderie and the rush of the race.”

Liu, who is a member of the team MAD, has been practicing with his 22-member team for the whole summer. Many teams represent companies through corporate sponsorships or, in the case of Katz’s Thunder Cats, represent politicians. But Liu’s team is just a group of high school friends who enjoy the sport and come back every year.

“I think we have a really good chance of winning,” Liu said as he and his teammates began their workout stretch.

Twenty-five teams won first place, with cash prizes that ranged from $500 to $1,500.

 

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New architecture exhibit shows possibilities for QueensWay


| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

Image courtesy of Carrie Wilbert

A new exhibition is opening Thursday that features winners of a QueensWay design competition.

The Center for Architecture will be hosting the exhibit, “QueensWay Connection: Elevating the Public Realm,” and the competition, which occurred earlier this year, was held by The Emerging New York Architects committee of the American Institute of Architecture.

In the competition, contestants were asked to come up with theoretical designs for what the 3.5-mile stretch from Rego Park to Ozone Park could be used for. The four winning designs and an honorable mention of the biennial competition will now go on to be displayed in Manhattan, where the Center of Architecture is located.

The QueensWay, an abandoned rail line, has been a point of much debate and controversy, with advocates arguing that it should be turned into a high line-style park.

Since the LIRR Rockaway Beach Line was abandoned in the 1960s, little has been changed to the elevated train. But over the last few years, The Trust for Public Land and Friends of the Queensway are currently studying the area.

New York Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder, along with the Queens College Urban Studies Department, launched a community impact study to help assess the best use for the line.

The competition received 120 entries form 28 countries. They were judged, according to the EMergin New York Architects, “based on the design’s ability to provide an effective and welcoming transition between the street and future greenway.”

But the assumption that the line will be a “future greenway” is a premature  at this point.


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Whitestone family wins ‘Great Christmas Light Fight’ on ABC


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Tina Lynch

The brightest house in Queens outshone three others in the country Monday night.

The Lynch family from Whitestone won ABC’s “The Great Christmas Light Fight” and $50,000 on Dec. 9, beating stiff competition from homes in California, Virginia and Georgia.

“I was jumping, screaming. I went crazy,” said Kevin Lynch. “After the show was over, every single one of my neighbors was on the block. People are coming by, honking their horns.”

The new reality-competition series pits four families against each other nationwide. They each have 20 days to come up with the most elaborate Christmas decoration designs.

“For me to do this in three weeks was tough,” said Lynch, 55, a retired New York City firefighter. “It’s like running a marathon.”

The father of three covered his home at 166-04 23rd Avenue with a blanket of at least 300,000 lights — all with underground wires, no cords — and more than 100 animatronics. There is even a projected Santa Claus, waving from the second-story window.

“I lived on coffee and espresso. I didn’t even eat until 1 o’clock in the morning,” Lynch said. “By 1 o’clock, I was dead. I couldn’t move. I’d pass out, take the kids to school, come back and do lights.”

That became the routine from 8 a.m. to 2 a.m. for three straight weeks.

The over-the-top end result blew away Michael Moloney of “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition,” who judged the competition on use of lights, overall design and Christmas spirit.

The display, with its vintage items and “childlike” décor, was “classy” and “magical,” Moloney said.

“This whole family clearly has Christmas spirit,” he said.

“We’re ecstatic. We’re thrilled, shocked,” said wife Tina Lynch.

The Lynch family has devoted 17 years to lavishly decorating their home, which was chosen by ABC through an extensive nationwide search, according to the network.

Even before filming the show, the Whitestone light site was a tourist destination and backdrop for wedding pictures, the family said.

“People come here from all over and send us Christmas cards with our house in them. It gets crazy here, but it’s all in good faith, all in good fun,” Lynch said.

The series continues December 16 and 23 with 16 more competing homes.

As for how much it costs to dazzle the nation for a month, Lynch said he would gladly show his electric bill — to anyone willing to pay it.

CLICK HERE TO SEE A VIDEO OF THE HOUSE

Watch Whitestone family compete for best Christmas lights on ABC


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Tina Lynch

A Whitestone family competing for the best Christmas lights display in the nation will find out Monday night if there is another reason to glow.

The Lynch family will be featured on ABC’s “The Great Christmas Light Fight” Dec. 9 at 9 p.m.

They will see if their 166-04 23rd Avenue home, with its 300,000 lights, had enough sparkle and spirit to snuff out the competition.

The new reality-competition series gives four families, vying for a $50,000 prize, 20 days to come up with the most elaborate Christmas decoration designs.

“For me to do this in three weeks was tough,” said Kevin Lynch, 55. “It’s like running a marathon.”

A blanket of at least 300,000 lights — all with underground wires, no cords — covers Lynch’s over-the-top decorated home. There is even a projected Santa Claus, waving out of the second-story window.

The father of three said he made putting up lights his life every day from 8 a.m. to 2 a.m. for three straight weeks.

“I lived on coffee and espresso. I didn’t even eat until 1 o’clock in the morning,” he said. “By 1 o’clock, I was dead. I couldn’t move. I’d pass out, take the kids to school, come back and do lights. And I got it done, which amazed me.”

But Lynch, a retired firefighter, will not know whether his lights shimmered or smoldered against the rest until a few hours before the show airs.

“It was a great experience,” he said. “It’s an honor in itself to be one of the 20 best houses in the country.”

Lynch has been lavishly decorating his home for 17 years. Even before filming the show, the Whitestone light site was a tourist destination and backdrop for wedding pictures, he said. It was even spotted in the skies by airplane pilots.

“People come here from all over and send us Christmas cards with our house in them. It gets crazy here, but it’s all in good faith, all in good fun,” Lynch said. “It’s part of the spirit.”

The houses will be judged on use of lights, overall design and Christmas spirit by Michael Moloney and Sabrina Soto of “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.”

The series continues Dec. 16 and 23 with 16 more competing homes.

“It was very stressful, the whole time we were doing it,” said wife, Tina Lynch. “But it is exciting to see what will happen. It was worth it.”

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

 

Best of the Boro: Health & Beauty nominations now open


| brennison@queenscourier.com

Best of the Boro

The Queens Courier is excited to announce nominations for Health and Beauty, the second category in the Best of the Boro Competition, is now open.

The competition places the power of choice with the people. Queens residents will get the chance to choose the nominees and decide who is best. You vote, they win.

The competition allows the borough’s over 2 million residents to nominate the best in scores of health and beauty categories with the winners crowned Best of the Boro.

Health is your greatest asset, but sorting through the myriad of doctors is often a fool’s errand. Now, residents who think their doctor or salon is the best can make the opinions heard by nominating them through November 17. Click here to nominate.

The first phase of the Best of the Boro Competition was a hit, collecting over 58,000 votes. The winners will be announced in the November 3 edition of The Queens Courier.