What‘s Happening at CHS

graphic with logo of CHS yearbook

Yearbook pickup will be 8/6

A message from The Chain yearbook staff:

This just in! Our 2020 yearbooks have arrived and we are SO EXCITED for you to see the finished product!

The yearbook adviser, Ms. Hannah Helm, will be at the front of Charlottesville High School on Thursday, August 6th, from 8 am-4 pm so that you can come and pick up your book!

If you have not purchased your book but you have reserved a copy, please plan to bring the exact amount in cash or a check made out to Charlottesville High School with The Chain written in the memo.

If August 6th does not work with your schedule, please email Ms. Helm at helmh1@charlottesvilleschools.org for an alternative to pick up your copy of the book. Please note:  due to social distancing and the circumstances, it may not be possible to get your book right away if August 6th does not work.

COVID-19 Precautions:  During distribution, Ms. Helm will be wearing a mask and will have hand sanitizer available.

We cannot wait to share this project with you! Thank you for your support of our program!

The Chain

graphic of CHS graduation announcement, June 4, 2020 7pm on Facebook

Graduation 2020

Charlottesville City Schools proudly celebrated the 285 Charlottesville High School graduates in our 2020 Charlottesville High School Virtual Graduation Ceremony video on June 4, 2020.

Links to Cap and Gown Portraits from “Victory Lap” Event

These beautiful portraits  may be downloaded for free thanks to CHS photography teacher Rachel Wilson!

2020 CHS Graduation Excerpts Quick Links

Full Video and Details

Details about Graduation Video , Victory Lap, and Senior Celebrations

A first for the city schools, the virtual graduation experience not only included the traditional elements expected of a typical high school graduation such as student speeches and the presentation of graduates, but it also include scenes from the unique Victory Lap event held on May 14 and 15, student musical performances and members of the CHS Orchestra, and a few surprises that surely inspired the community.

“We hope that these alternate plans for graduation show that we love our young people,” said Superintendent Dr. Rosa Atkins. “We have pulled out all the stops to honor this year’s senior class. Despite the challenges our country is facing, these graduates deserve to be celebrated.”

CHS Principal Dr. Eric Irizarry added, “I am so proud of these students. They have modeled resilience in the face of challenges, and we believe this video pays tribute to their spirit and community.”

The graduation video can also be seen on Facebook.com/cvilleschools, the Charlottesville City Schools YouTube channel, and Comcast Channel 14. (The City will reshow the program weekly on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 7:00 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays at 5:00 p.m.)

In addition to the virtual graduation, CHS grads have been celebrated in the following ways: featured in The Daily Progress’s annual graduation section featuring area graduates, provided with annual senior t-shirts, presented with specially-designed CHS lawn signs for families to display in honor of their grads, and honored in several social media campaigns to support and recognize each member of the class and their plans beyond high school. Seniors will receive their diplomas in the mail later this summer.

Thanks and Acknowledgments

The Victory Lap event, this graduation video, and other senior celebrations have been a labor of love — but still a labor!

  • Thanks to the division-level graduation planning team: Rosa Atkins, Beth Cheuk, Aaron Eichorst, Jim Henderson, Eric Irizarry, Gertrude Ivory, and Krissy Vick.
  • The CHS-level graduation planning team: David Becker, Teresa Bryant, Will Cooke, Ryan Devlin, Jason Hackworth, Stacey Heltz, Eric Irizarry, Rodney Redd, Laura Thomas.
  • Other CHS and CCS staff who played a role:
    • Nathan Alexander for painting our incredible mural!!!
    • David Becker for stage design and set-up
    • Beth Cheuk and Krissy Vick for graduation video, social media love, portraits hung at Victory Lap
    • Will Cooke for stage-setting and organization of speakers and Austyn Nowell
    • Laura Thomas for creating the graduation program and assisting with music
    • Maddie Bryant, Emily Cookson, Jessica Genovese, Brandi Underwood, and Liz Wachter for assistance gathering senior portraits, checking names, and more
    • Carol Freeman, Hannah Dowdy, SE Hart, Brianna Hill, Melanie Key, David Wilkerson for assistance in encouraging and tracking our seniors as they crossed the finish line to graduation!
    • Hannah Helm and The Chain photographers for supplying yearbook photography
    • Kevin Martin for accounting help,
    • Terrell Mumford for stage videography assistance,
    • Rodney Redd as graduation stage emcee and DJ
    • Matt Shields (with Jack Timmons ’19) for aerial photography,
    • Dave Stipe for audio engineering,
    • Liz Wachter for the great Decision Day video and so much more,
    • Rachel Wilson for portrait photography,
    • Teachers who contributed old photos, especially Crystal Beasley, Beth Gehle, and Leslie Hunter.
    • SO MANY CHS and CCS teachers, staff, and Board members for cheerleading and general assistance
  • Other community members and organizations who played a role:
    • Our student speakers and musicians! The following students participated in the “Pomp and Circumstance” ensemble:  Alice Owen, Jamila Pitre, Elisabeth Scharf, Amara Green, Schuyler Barefoot, Ben Brantley, Koran Klubock-Shukla, Eli Chancey and Reid Dodson, and Sara Meyer; Schuyler Barefoot produced that segment.
    • Lori Shinseki, who edited our beautiful video!!!!!!! And also her son, Jack Heaphy ’20  for his production feedback and help gathering photos and videos!
    • Preston Willett of CBS 19 for his generous assistance tracking down and supplying film
    • CBS 19, The Daily Progress, NBC29 for photo and video
    • Michael Cheuk for Victory Lap general photography and Thea Cheuk for graphic design
    • Casey Eriksen for stage design and set-up assistance
  • If we forgot you, please let us know! Email goodnews@charlottesvilleschools.org. Please blame our heads, not our hearts.

Victory Lap Event (Walk the Graduation Stage on May 14-15)

Families, thanks for participating in our Victory Lap!  This drive-through event featured school-related selfie stations, and it finished with seniors walking across the graduation stage documented by a professional photographer and videographer for our graduation video. Find several photo albums on Facebook!

CHS senior celebrations graphic, showing 3 CHS seniors


Senior Surveys

Part of your Final Steps at CHS is to fill out two Senior surveys.These surveys are filled out every year by CHS graduates. They help give information for our counseling, CTE, and College advising departments. Please complete these surveys here: https://forms.gle/XXmLkDAQWPh6cVZDA  & https://advisingcorps.link/IgF2I0

Decision Day Virtual Event

Thanks to Ms. Liz for this lovely experience!. Follow @BKN2college on Instagram.

College Counseling logo

CHS College and Counseling

Our annual Decision Day for seniors will be held virtually this year on May 18 at 1pm. Please see important information from Ms. Liz below:

graphic: CHS Virtual Decision Day May 18 2020 Send Ms. Liz a photo of you now and from your childhood. Along with your photos, tell Ms. Liz what your post-high plans are! Email: wachtee1@charlottesvilleschools.org. Text: 540 335 5955. Deadline is May 15th. Follow Ms. Liz on Instagram to stay up-to-date @BKN2College. Be on the lookout for a postcard coming in the mail to participate in our social media campaign. On the postcard, you will find instructions for posting on May 15th. #BKNDecisionDay2020 Beginning on May 11, you can take a photo at the CHS Graffiti Wall. There will be a place for you to fill in your post-high plans and snap a quick photo. Post these using the hashtag #BKNDecisionDay2020. Write your CHS Senior Will and share it with Ms. Liz or Mr. Josselyn. Email wills to Ms. Liz: wachtee1@charlottesvilleschools.org. Mr Josselyn: jossela1@charlottesvilleschools.org.We will share a virtual KTR article with you all on May 15 featuring your wills. On May 18th, at 1pm, join the Google Meet to hangout with your classmates and watch the senior video. The link will be sent out on Canvas the morning of! Follow the hashtag #BKNDecisionDay2020 on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter throughout the day to celebrate your classmates! make sure you use the hashtags in your posts so we can share them! Practice social distancing. While we know virtual events and celebrations cannot possibly replace the excitement that comes with events such as Decision Day, the Senior Picnic, and the final ceremonies, we are doing our best to make them memorable. Please follow safe social distancing protocols while participating in this event so we can continue to offer celebration opportunities. Ms. Liz.


College and Counseling Newsletters

To learn about counseling-sponsored events at CHS, upcoming deadlines, and local scholarships and enrichment opportunities, please refer to the CHS College and Counseling Newsletter. Students and families can subscribe to the e-newsletter by emailing college counselor Liz Wachter at wachtee1@charlottesvilleschools.org.

Here are some highlights from the March edition:

Updated virtual college advising hours graphic

These updated virtual advising hours are open for students AND families to join.
For individual meetings, please email wachtee1@charlottesvilleschools.org.

graphic for Gear Up Scholarship

GEAR UP SENIORS: Don’t forget about the Gear UP Scholarship! If you aren’t sure whether you have done the exit form, please reach out to Liz Wachter.

graphic for PVCC Scholarship

graphic for College Research Workshops


Please stay in touch!

School Counselors: Students are assigned to a school counselor alphabetically by last names:

Dept. Chair & T-Wa: Sarah Elaine Hart
A-Co: Kerry Avakian
Cr-Hi: David Wilkerson
Ho-M: Brianna Hill
N-S: Melanie Key
We-Z & ESL: Hannah Dowdy

Support Staff

College Adviser: Liz Wachter
PVCC Career Coach: Debbie Ashby
Scholarship Coordinator: Lois Burke

Department Website: schoolcounselingchs.weebly.com
College Advising Website: chargetocollege.weebly.com

Sign-Up for the College Adviser Remind Text Alerts: Subscribe to these alerts to receive important updates and reminders about events happening at CHS! *Make sure to include the “@” in your subscription text message.
Parents: Text @chsrents to 81010 or click here to receive email alerts
Seniors: Text @chs-2020 to 81010
Juniors: Text @chs-2021bk to 81010
Sophomores: Text @chs-2022bk to 81010
Freshmen: Text @chs-2023 to 81010

Summer activity packet for upper level grades

City and Schools promote energy and water conservation-Summer Update

Energy and Water Management Program Spring Quarter Update reminding people to reduce energy and water waste.Charlottesville City Schools and the City’s Energy and Water Management Team are working together to reduce the energy and water footprint of all City schools. In 2019, the School Board approved an Energy and Water Performance resolution, showing a commitment to achieving and maintaining high performing school facilities. 

Continuing on past efforts, the City’s maintenance and development teams are specifying high efficiency building equipment, such as high-efficiency chillers and LED lighting, and are enhancing operational control through advanced building automation systems. Charlottesville Schools and the City’s Energy and Water Management Team continue to investigate ways to accelerate the installation of high performance equipment throughout our schools.

The City is also working with each school to raise awareness about energy and water saving practices through education and outreach efforts that include distributing educational materials and providing tips and strategies that students and faculty can use to reduce the energy and water impact at our schools. 

Each quarter a different theme emphasizes aspects of energy and water efficiency/conservation. The 2019-2020 themes are:

  • Fall (September – November): The Value of Energy and Water
  • Winter (December – February): Understanding Our Energy and Water Use
  • Spring (March – May): Smart Energy and Water Use
  • Summer (June – August): Keep Going! Summertime Savings

Have questions about this program? Contact the City’s Energy and Water Management Team at EnergyWaterTeam@charlottesville.org.

Learn more about other green initiatives at Charlottesville City Schools here.

2019-20 Education and Outreach

Summer activity packet for upper level grades

Summer Quarter: This summer the Energy and Water Management Team wants you to take what you learned around how to save energy and water at school and apply it at home!

Let’s first focus on reducing our energy waste at home. This can look like turning the lights off when you leave a room, making sure you power down and unplug electronics when you are not using them, and making sure doors and windows aren’t left open when your home’s heating or air conditioning is running.

When you look at water, there are some easy ways we can reduce our water waste at home. Remember to always turn the water off when not in use (like while we are brushing our teeth), don’t forget to fill up your reusable water bottle with tap water when you are thirsty, and if you see dripping faucet or running toilet tell an adult to fix it! Plus, if you help your family with some gardening projects outside, look to the weather to do the watering work or collect rainwater to use for watering later.

This summer let’s all commit to saving energy and water. Take this pledge and start implementing these easy steps at home today!

This summer I pledge to be an energy and water saver at home!

  • I pledge to turn the lights off when I leave a room,
  • I pledge to power down and unplug electronics when I’m finished with them,
  • I pledge to close windows and doors when my home’s heating and cooling systems are on,
  • I pledge to turn the water off when not in use,
  • I pledge to use a reusable water bottle instead of a single-use plastic bottle,
  • I pledge to report water leaks as soon I see them,
  • I pledge to come back to school in the fall ready to keep saving energy and water!

You are now ready to be an energy and water saver! Together we can all have a huge impact at home and at school.

Activity Sheets for Grades K-4

Activity Sheets for Grades 5-12

Paper copies of the activity sheets were included with our summer meal distribution program. Copies can also be found in the main office of each school building, or you can contact the Energy and Water Management Team, at EnergyWaterTeam@Charlottesville.gov.

Energy and Water Management Program: Spring Quarter Poster image discusses reducing water and energy wasteSpring Quarter: Reducing our Energy and Water Waste

This spring the Energy and Water Management Team is back with more reminders to help us trim up our energy and water use!

Help our school reduce energy waste! Make sure outside doors close behind you and tell an adult if propped open. This will help keep our cooled and heated air inside our school rather than letting it escape through open doors to the outside!

Don’t forget to bring your reusable water bottle along with you wherever you go! Fill it up from tap water, which comes from our rivers and is cleaned to make it safe and taste good. Before dumping out any left over water, think reusable by giving it to some plants that would happily enjoy that water.

Spring Quarter Tips:
1. Keep outside doors closed
2. Fill up your reusable water bottle with tap water
3. If you see a water leak or an open outside door, report it!

If we each reduce our energy and water waste at school and at home by focusing on these easy habits,together we can have a real impact.

Energy and Water Management Program Winter Quarter posterWinter Quarter: Understanding our Energy and Water Use

Did you know that the greenhouse gases produced from energy used at all 10 Charlottesville City Schools is equal to the greenhouse gases produced by 500 homes? We know our schools need resources to operate but what exactly uses energy and water in our schools every day?

We are asking students and faculty to try to identify what uses energy and water when you walk into your classroom each day. For energy, think about the overhead lighting, computers, electronics, and air conditioning/heating. For water, think about the water fountain in the hallway and sink in your classroom. What about at home?

There are also the items that aren’t as noticeable such as leaving your phone plugged in even when it’s fully charged or not paying attention to that dripping faucet. Even when a phone is plugged in and is fully charged, it still uses 2.24 watts of energy, and that slow drip…drip…drip of a faucet can waste 3,000 gallons of water a year!

Let’s reduce our energy and water impact at school and at home by focusing on these easy habits we can do each day.

Winter Quarter Tips:

  • Turn the lights off when you leave a room.
  • Make an effort to unplug personal electronics.
  • Turn the water off when not in use.
  • If you see a water leak or hear a running toilet, report it!


water and energy management posterFall Quarter: The Value of Energy and Water

The energy and water that we use at home and in our school are typically provided using finite resources. In Virginia, fossil fuels (coal, oil, and natural gas) are used to produce over 60% of the electricity that we use, with nuclear and renewables making up the rest. We also use natural gas directly to heat our school and to heat our water. The water we use is pumped from reservoirs fed by rivers and is treated before coming to our homes and school as clean, potable water.  Simply put, our demand for electricity, natural gas, and water (the amount we use) has a direct impact on these resources. We have a responsibility to manage what we use but we’re also empowered with the ability to make lasting change.

In many cases we use more than we need, so we already have simple opportunities to reduce our impact. The best place to start is just becoming aware of when and how we use energy and water throughout our typical day. As you do your normal activities, think about how long you leave your lights on, leave your phone plugged in, and leave the water running. Now think about how you can adjust your behaviors to trim that up a bit.  It’s a game of inches, not miles, and small changes add up to big savings.

Fall Quarter Tips:

  • Last one out? Flip the switch!
  • Turn the water off when not in use.


The Music Man performance poster

TheatreCHS to present “The Music Man” with 100+ cast and crew

The Music Man performance posterThe Charlottesville High School Theater Department will present the Broadway musical hit “The Music Man” on Thursday, March 26 through Sunday, March 29 at CHS in the Martin Luther King Performing Arts Center.

A golden age musical from 1958 and recipient of the Tony Award for Best Musical that year, “The Music Man” is about the transformation and power of change in a community.  The TheatreCHS production will include more than 100 students of various ages participating in roles as cast, crew, and musical pit.

“‘The Music Man’ is our biggest production of the school year, and for that matter, in quite some time,” said CHS Drama Department Chair David Becker, who is in his 11th year leading TheatreCHS. “The cast, crew, and orchestra have worked tirelessly to polish all of the elements that go into a successful show., and we hope people will come out to see it!”

Show times are:

  • Thursday, March 26, 7:30pm
  • Friday, March 27, 7:30pm
  • Saturday, March 28, 7:30pm
  • Sunday, March 29, 3:30pm

“The Music Man” is part of the 2019-2020 TheatreCHS performance season which includes: “”Failure: A Love Story,” “She Kills Monsters,” “Pippin,” “The Addams Family,” and the annual Dessert Theatre.

About TheatreCHS

TheatreCHS has consistently remained an important and vital fine arts force at Charlottesville High School. The Program invites students to work collaboratively, develop critical thinking and public speaking skills, and engage in creative dialogues. An array of courses is taught with the intention of providing enrichment for students interested in these skills, all of which encompass dramatic arts. Numerous students have gone on to pursue advanced studies in theater/cinema, technical theater, stage management, and lighting design at a variety of top schools including Carnegie Mellon University, Columbia College, George Mason University, James Madison University, University of Virginia, and Princeton University. For more information, visit http://theatrechs.org/.

 Related Links:

Winter Sports Feb 2020 colleage (basketball, wrestling, track). Call 245-2962 with questions.

CHS February 2020 Sports Update

Winter Sports Feb 2020 colleage (basketball, wrestling, track). Call 245-2962 with questions.Congrats to our winter athletes, and good luck in the post-season!
  • Our boys’ and girls’ hoops teams both captured the Jefferson District Tournament Championship! See highlights for boys (winning again with the buzzer-beater) and for girls (winning with a strong showing).
    • The Region 3C Basketball Tournament starts on Friday, February 21. CHS will host a double-header on Friday with the girls tipping off at 6pm and the boys at 7:45pm. Come cheer on the home teams!
    • Men’s basketball coach Mitch Minor recently earned his 400th career game (now 411!) and was featured in the Daily Progress. Congrats, Coach!
  • CHS hosted its first regional indoor track meet in a very long time, and our athletes competed very well. Our women’s 4 X 800 meter relay team and our women’s 4 x 200 meter relay teams captured the win! Take a look at the results to see how well our other athletes fared. Congrats to all!
  • Good luck to wrestlers Pyi Kant and  Aiden Lewandowski  in addition to swimmer William Kennan as they travel this weekend to Salem and Richmond respectively to participate in their state meets!
  • Thanks to our athletic director (Rodney Redd), along with our coaches, trainers, cheerleaders, fans, and families for your continued support! Go Black Knights!
A painted violin by Aaron Eichorst featuring a pair of luna moths on a purple background.

Silent auction for CHSO Painted Violin Project begins February 21

The Charlottesville High School Orchestra (CHSO) has officially launched its 2020 Painted Violin Project, a special fundraising effort to support the CHSO String Ensemble’s performance at the Lisbon International Youth Music Festival this June.

10 painted violins

10 area artists have generously contributed their time and talent to transform real violins into objects of art. These beautiful, witty creations will be auctioned at the CHSO’s exciting online Silent Auction beginning on February 21, 2020. Bidding is open to the general public and anyone interested in bidding can visit the CHSO website chsorchestra.org between Friday, February 21 and Sunday, March 15.

“The idea of artistically transforming violins has been used by orchestras across the country to raise
funds and to celebrate the marriage of art and music,” said CHSO Director Laura Mulligan Thomas. “For
this project, 10 violins were given to area artists, among them Charlottesville Schools Fine Arts
Coordinator Aaron Eichorst and local favorite artist Meg West.”

An Opening Reception will be held at Tavola on Thursday, February 20, from 6-8 p.m., featuring live music performed by members of the CHSO. This event is free and open to the public. Until then, these beautiful violins will be displayed in various storefronts on the Downtown Mall.

Additional 2020 Painted Violin Artists include Sally Bridgeforth, Andy Faith, Eileen French, Heidi Hutson, Sri Kodakalla, Judy McLeod, Jeanne Mulligan, and Christen Borgman Yates. For more information about the CHSO including a link to the silent auction and list of locations where the violins are displayed, please visit chsorchestra.org.


The 2020 Lisbon International Youth Music Festival features more than 30 concerts in the best halls and open-air venues in Portugal and celebrates youth orchestras, choirs, symphonic bands and ensembles from all over the world.

At the Lisbon International Youth Music Festival, young musicians will gather to build friendships and share uplifting performances with 15,000+ music lovers. In addition to their time in Lisbon, the CHSO String Ensemble will travel to Spain to experience the art, history and splendor of Madrid culminating with an evening performance in a sacred venue such as the Baroque church of San Millan y San Cayetano or the Basilica de Jesus de Medinaceli. Perhaps most importantly, CHSO musicians will serve as ambassadors — a vital reminder of music’s power to unite and inspire.

The Charlottesville High School Orchestra has traveled to Europe five times, performing in international competitions and festivals including the City of Charlottesville’s Italian and French sister cities and venues such as Chartres Cathedral, the Votivkirche and Santo Stefano al Ponte.

CHS students in Sigma Lab with visiting UVA Link lab mentors.

Sigma and Link Labs partner for UVA-CHS collaboration

The CHS Sigma Lab and the UVA Engineering Link Lab share a commonality–students serving their communities by solving real problems through engineering solutions. UVA Today recently highlighted the unique partnership formed between CHS engineering teacher Dr. Matt Shields and UVA professor Dr. Jonathan Goodall.

Tale of Two Labs: UVA engineers collaborate with Charlottesville High School students

January 28, 2020

By Audra Book

Matthew Shields, left, gives graduate engineering students (from left) Benjamin Bowes, Natalie Lerma, Arash Tavakoli, Ruijie Zhu, Wenqiang Chen, Luis Lopez Ruiz and Sonia Baee a tour of Charlottesville High’s Sigma Lab.Matthew Shields, left, gives graduate engineering students (from left) Benjamin Bowes, Natalie Lerma, Arash Tavakoli, Ruijie Zhu, Wenqiang Chen, Luis Lopez Ruiz and Sonia Baee a tour of Charlottesville High’s Sigma Lab. (Photos by Tom Cogill)

In 2001, Jonathan L. Goodall earned a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from the University of Virginia, graduating with the foundational belief that community collaborations lead to better engineering outcomes. While completing his Ph.D. in civil engineering at the University of Texas at Austin, then working as a professor at Duke University and the University of South Carolina, Goodall’s teaching emphasized the role community service plays in creating the best engineering solutions.

In 2013, Goodall’s career led him back to UVA Engineering, where he is a professor in the Department of Engineering Systems and Environment and associate director of UVA Engineering’s Link Lab for cyber-physical systems, with nearly 40 faculty members and more than 200 graduate students focused on research in the areas of autonomous systems, smart health and smart cities.

Goodall actively leads the Link Lab in smart cities research by being a good community partner. He stresses to his students the importance of working across traditional boundaries to serve society.

“UVA Engineering sees the value of service and views it as critical to education,” he said. “This is the only way to produce well-rounded graduates.”

Matthew Shields also graduated from UVA in 2001 after earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees in mechanical and aerospace engineering, then completing his multi-degree track at UVA with a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction from UVA’s Curry School of Education (now the Curry School of Education and Human Development) in 2011. Like Goodall, he embarked on a career having been influenced by a university that places tremendous value on service to society.

CHS engineering teacher Matthew Shields and UVA professor Jonathan L. Goodall both graduated from UVA Engineering in 2001. Now they are bringing their students together to demonstrate the power of community in tackling challenging problems.CHS engineering teacher Matthew Shields and UVA professor Jonathan L. Goodall both graduated from UVA Engineering in 2001. Now they are bringing their students together to demonstrate the power of community in tackling challenging problems.

Shields turned his own UVA learning experience into an evolution in local schools. He created and now directs Charlottesville High School’s Sigma Lab and Engineering Program. The multi-year engineering curriculum culminates in a capstone class, where high school seniors create self-directed team projects designed to solve community problems.

“I tell my students that engineering is about making the world a better place,” he said. “I challenge them to think about an audience here or in the broader world, then design and build something that serves these groups.”

Although Goodall and Shields departed UVA on very different trajectories, they are united in a mission to educate future engineering leaders. Recently, they decided to demonstrate the power of community by bringing their high school and UVA students together for a problem-solving partnership.
Goodall suggested that the Link Lab’s graduate students mentor the Charlottesville High School capstone class seniors. Shields thought this was a particularly good idea because many of the students’ projects were cyber-physical systems, and they would need outside expertise to overcome hurdles in design and development.

“One of my main goals for the engineering program is to connect it to the real world. Collaborating with the Link Lab has provided that authenticity. My students see the connection between the work they are doing and research happening at the graduate level.”


Goodall proposed the idea to the Link Lab Student Committee on Culture and Livability, a graduate student organization focused on building community through inclusivity. Arash Tavakoli, a second-year Ph.D. student in civil engineering, and Luis Lopez Ruiz, a fifth-year Ph.D. student in electrical engineering, lead the organization.

Both thought mentoring would be right in line with the committee’s goals to create community conversations that lead to better research. They quickly moved to line up interested volunteers.

“Working with groups outside of those you would normally see leads to a fresh perspective, diversity in insights and better outcomes,” Tavakoli said.

Lopez Ruiz agreed. “Opportunities like this allow us to get out and develop friendships and build bridges of communication that lead to better collaborations overall.”

The teams met for the first time at the Sigma Lab in October. Shields stressed that his vision for the mentorship program extended beyond the technical aspects of engineering into learning how to collaborate. “What does it mean to be a real engineer?” he asked. “It means you solve problems and you work as a team.”

Goodall elaborated on the communal perspective. “What you are doing in this capstone class is a good fit for what Link Lab is doing,” he told the high school students. “We are doing cross-cutting research in cyber-physical systems. This is where the cyber and physical worlds come together, and these are the types of problems we are solving.”

The CHS capstone teams shared their projects and expected challenges. Projects were as diverse as a glove-operated drone, a hands-free musical instrument and an Android app that would allow the school’s gardening teacher to remotely water plants.

Link Lab graduate students offered ideas to help the capstone students overcome challenges. They also discussed methods for ongoing, real-time interaction and settled on using Slack, a cloud-based instant messaging system, for immediate communication between the Link Lab and Sigma Lab. Working together to implement the communication solution demonstrated the importance of teamwork in real-world scenarios.

The UVA Engineering Link Lab and Charlottesville High School Sigma Lab capstone class teams engaged in dynamic problem-solving, demonstrating the importance of collaboration in today’s engineering work environments.The UVA Engineering Link Lab and Charlottesville High School Sigma Lab capstone class teams engaged in dynamic problem-solving, demonstrating the importance of collaboration in today’s engineering work environments.

Sanjana Mendu, a second-year master’s student in the Department of Engineering Systems and Environment, pointed out that today’s engineering careers require more than just book smarts.

“Working with other people is the most important skill to have when you enter the real work environment,” she said. “Being a good team player and leadership are characteristics that my adviser values and seeks to instill.”

Tavakoli shared insights with the high school students about the importance of collaborating across traditional boundaries in modern workplaces.

“For the type of cyber-physical systems research we are doing at the Link Lab, we are looking beyond the foundations to social disciplines like psychology,” he said. “We are becoming better engineers by reaching out to find the expertise we need to create solutions that are socially viable. These skills are necessary in the 21st century, so we want to demonstrate and share that process.”

The graduate students spent additional time touring the Sigma Lab and working in dynamic, problem-solving sessions.

The partnership between the Link Lab and the Sigma Lab will continue, including an open invitation for the capstone teams to visit the Link Lab.

“One of my main goals for the engineering program is to connect it to the real world. Collaborating with the Link Lab has provided that authenticity,” Shields said. “My students see the connection between the work they are doing and research happening at the graduate level. The Link Lab also provides a discerning audience as my students conduct research and document their work.”

The value of the mentorship goes both ways, according to the Link Lab graduate students. “The student committee believes it is so important to get out of your own space and interact,” Lopez Ruiz said.

“Working together in the same physical space is paramount to modern-day engineering,” Goodall said. “This partnership allows us to offer the capstone students additional research experiences that will be an important aspect of learning for these future engineers, educators and researchers.”