Pulse: Pokemon, Sharkabots, ArtSpeaks, Amy Wicker

The Winter Olympics might be underway, but in December, heated competition off another sort was in full swing. Kids battled head-to-head in the 2014 Pokémon Trading Card Game.

Local card shark Easton Ours, 9, of Naperville, won both the junior division of the TCG (trading card game) City’s Championship in both December at Countryside and January in Rockford.

Easton’s mother, Stephanie, said her son is whiz at strategy games and math, and first became involved in the Pokémon craze when he was six.

“Easton’s sister got some of the cards for a birthday, and he actually went online and taught himself how to play,” she said. “Easton plays sports like soccer and baseball, but he’s a really smart kid who prefers things like strategy games, and I believe you have to support the things your kid is good at.”

Stephanie said she avoids playing board games with her son, but that her husband is happy to engage in a battle of wits with Easton.

“My husband likes that kind of thing, too, and they are good competition for each other,” she said.

Easton says he’s shooting for the Pokémon World Tournament, but healso joys the small stuff like tearing into a new pack of cards.

“I started playing Pokémon when I was 6, and my biggest accomplishment is winning Illinois State,” he said. “My favorite part about Pokémon is the excitement you feel when opening a Pokémon pack.

“My goal for the season is to make Worlds, a competitive tournament with the best players from all around.”

Sharkabots Rule

Scullen team earns first place for robot

It might not be the Olympics, but for a team of seven students from Scullen Middle School, it was equally exciting.

The Naperville robotics team known as the Sharkabots faced off against more than 60 teams from around the state during the first Lego League state champtionship Feb. 8. In the end, the group walked away with the gold, earning first place in the robot-performance category.

“It is an honor to receive this award as it represents the top award in the robot performance category, which is a key aspect of the program,” said Aparna Pai, who coaches the team along with Sunitha Araamudhu. “This award recognizes a team that scores the most points during the robot game.”

In the league, each team uses a Lego robotics set to build and program a robot to do a variety of tasks. Pai said the boys were determined to do well at state and worked hard throughout the season to achieve that goal.

“Like most teenage boys, (they) are rambunctious and playful; however, they had a singular goal of performing well in this year’s championship,” Pai said. “All of them play sports, music and are in the advanced (academic) program in their school. Despite being busy, they made this their focus and worked very hard particularly in the last five months.”

Their efforts paid off with the first-place finish, as well as a third-place “Ambassador” award for spreading the word about the league and its benefits. Team members are Bhargav Chandaka, Brett Duncan, Paul Eldridge, Reetam Ganguli, Neel Pai, Adil Rahman and Sidarth Rajan.

Trumpeting success

ARTSpeaks shares diverse perspectives

The freezing temperatures Tuesday night didn’t discourage people from attending ARTSpeaks at Metea Valley High School. During the one-hour free event, speakers Pate Conaway, Gary Vlk and Tom Hooten split the time equally, sharing their message about how the arts influenced their lives and their careers.

Conaway, an audiologist and interdisciplinary artist; Vlk, a successful entrepreneur; and Hooten, the principal trumpet player for the Los Angeles Philharmonic, each had a unique perspective to share.

“The ARTSpeaks event featured three very different people explaining how the arts have made them successful in their chosen fields,” said Charles Staley, fine arts chairperson at Neuqua Valley High School.

“The arts teach. The arts inspire. Last night was an inspiration to all in attendance.”

Staley said one of the event highlights didn’t occur at the event at all.

“One of the best things about these events is when the ARTSpeaks speakers speak to our students during the school day,” Staley said.

“Tom Hooten spent the day at Neuqua and spoke to 400 students about his journey from the Marine Band in Washington, D.C., to the Los Angeles Philharmonic.”

Hooten also met with Metea and Waubonsie students Tuesday during the day.

When ARTSpeaks, kids listen.

Mom on mission

Peril of flying with nut allergies

When it comes to flying, Naperville mom Amy Wicker worries about more than on-time arrival. The founder of AllergySafeTravel, an online travel resource for people with food allergies, created a short film to highlight the issue of flying for those with nut allergies.

“According to the Centers for Disease Control, there are more than 4 million Americans, many of whom are children, that are allergic to peanuts and tree nuts,” said Wicker, in a press release. “I wanted to tap into the emotional power of film to graphically highlight actual allergy sufferers who view flying not as a pleasurable experience but as a health risk.

“The fear is an allergic reaction can be triggered onboard, not only through ingestion but through contact and inhalation.”

The six-minute film, “More than an Inconvenience,” includes one-on-one interviews with people who have had adverse reactions on board flights. It also features interviews with people with food allergies so severe they were afraid to risk flying.

The film won Best Short Documentary in 2013 at the LA Film and Script Festival. It’s available for viewing at


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