Brickell Talk

I am so grateful and honored to have had the opportunity to speak to the staff. A lot of people have asked for a copy of my speech. Here it is. However, since I wanted to emphasize certain parts of words, the format is kinda goofy. 😂

ODS Talk

“What good is an idea, if it remains an idea?

Good morning! My name is Karstan Bock, I am a upcoming 8th grader, on the Ospreys Team. When I was given the opportunity to come and speak to you today, I was very excited for 2 reasons. First of all, it is fun to talk about one of my passions. Secondly, I get to thank a huge source of support for me and my idea. This source particularly has helped me promote and sustain excitement about my idea, usually right at times that I am not feeling very excited about my idea. Dr. Hedrick I want to really thank you for all that you do for me. Also, Ms. Denny, Ms. Smallwood, Ms. Pinner, Ms. Theisfield , Ms. Newman, Ms. Foshay, Mr. Vogel, Ms. Scott, Ms. Troxell, Mr. Laney, and Dr. Hatzopoulos, a huge “thank you” goes out to you as well, for always supporting me and!

I told you that I am excited to speak to you today about a passion of mine. I have a lot of passions, my pets, music, learning, and helping people. The later two passion are what motivated me to become a website designer and CEO for my company This is what I am going to talk to you about today.

Just in case you don’t know my family, I have to give you a little background information . I have a brother Kaden, he is an 11th grader at Ocean Lakes Math Science Academy. Kaden came here when he was in middle school, always participated in the Stem Robotics Challenge, with a great deal of success. When he was in 8th grade he won the middle school Robotics challenge and earned the “big trophy”. Seriously it was taller than he was, and he was (and still is) 6’4. Being his younger brother, I decided I wanted to earn a huge trophy too. So, in 6th grade I joined the Cyber team, to compete in the Cyber Stem Challenge, in hopes of winning the big trophy.

When I started the Cyber Competition Club, I found out for the Cyber Competition, we had to create a program to meet an unmet or undermet need in education. It seemed like I hear that the US didn’t not perform very well in math so, I decided to research that. I have to be honest, the results I found horrified me! According to Pew Research ( ) the United States performed over the average in both Science and Reading, however we performed well under the average in mathematics.

Personally, I love Math. I started looking for a reason for why students would perform so badly in math. Now, I am going to give you a bunch of information, and I am going to move quickly through it. I have brochures, that you can pick up and take with you, if you would like to check out the sources or the studies that I refer too. In my research, I came across 2 very powerful thought provoking statements. 1st statement ALGEBRA IS KNOWN AS THE GATEKEEPER SUBJECT. Higher paying professions all require Algebra. I did a quick search and found 42 professions from boiler maker, and welder to chemist that require Algebra, daily. All 4 year university and college programs require Algebra. Now, are you ready for the 2nd powerful statement? Guess what the most failed course in both high school and college is??? Algebra.

It seemed to me that there was a huge breakdown where Algebra was concerned. I found a site that referenced a study conducted by John Hopkins, stating that a huge reason for kids not doing well in math could be contributed to poor math fact fluency skills. They went on to explain how students would get bogged down by trying to figure out math facts and that would hinder their ability to solve complex equations.

I decided this was not math specific. In almost every aspect of life, you need basic skills in order to complete a task at a higher level. For example, in music if you are spending a whole lot of time trying to determine what the note is, and how to play it on your instrument, you are not going to play very smoothly. In my mind, this was like having too many computer tabs open. Having too many tabs open, causes your whole computer to slow down, plus you forget what exactly you are doing and get distracted with other open tabs. I decided fact fluency was a problem I could address.

It was funny, because once I decided what to work on, I remembered my idea notebook. A doctor once told me that I should keep a notebook of any ideas that I had, one time I had an idea, to make learning like video games. You could play for a team, and earn points for you team. In my idea, you would earn different medals for your team, like in the Olympics, regardless of skill level, everyone could contribute something. Originally, I thought I could make a game and call it Math Olympics. I talked to my parents, and some of my teachers about this idea, and everyone I told thought it was a good idea. In fact many teachers said “I wish I had something like that for “music theory, science, English”. I realized I could add different subjects in later, so instead of being Math Olympics, I could call my idea Acalympics (Academics Olympic Style). But, for this competition I would just focus on math, as I had a short period of time to get this working.

I was really excited about this. I spent a ton of time looking through the Virginia Dept of Education to make sure I had the topics and the orders that they listed for each standards in education. I made brochures, I made a trifold, I put in a whole lot of time trying to code this on the Raspberry Pi for the competition. Finally, the big Cyber Competition day came. I could not wait to present my idea to the judges! During the day, I had the opportunity to tell Dr. Spence about my idea. He said “Karstan I love it! How do I get it working in my schools?” I wasn’t really sure, because the way I had to format it for the competition was not in his best interest. The Raspberry Pi that I had to use, was expensive, and finicky. You could accidentally delete your code pretty easily. True story! I told Dr. Spence I wasn’t exactly sure, but I would think about it. I presented my idea to the judges, they liked it. I just knew I was going to be awarded that big trophy just like Kaden had.

But, I took 3rd place and got the smallest trophy ever. Honestly, take a look!

Bock, J (2017) Karstan With Trophy (digital image) CC BY-NC

So, I was pretty disappointed and was in the middle of feeling kinda sorry for myself, when my brain started replaying a couple of conversations. I started remembering Dr. Spence and his remark, “Karstan I love your idea! How do I get it working in my schools?” I also started remembering all of the conversations I had with teachers, where they liked my idea and all wished that they had something like that. I decided I still thought I had a good idea, and that i could still help people. So, instead of feeling sorry for myself, I would try to develop a website. I did not have any idea about how one built a website. But I just knew I could learn! I worked on Acalympics every day during the summer between my 6th and 7th grade year. I wish I could say it was easy, but the truth of the matter is, it was and still can be difficult. (Sometimes, I think I can fix a question really quick, and it ends up taking me 3 hours.) On, November 24, 2017 I was able to publish Acalympics. I was so excited when 100 games were played. It was probably just my mom and grandma playing them, but I was excited! I kept working on subject of math, in Acalympics until I had well over 20,000 questions written. Then, I decided to start on some of the other subjects. Personally I take a music theory test at ODU every year. There is really nothing out there to help kids study for it, other than boring practice tests. However, I knew I could address this subject with Acalympics. Also, Ms. Barnes Mamaril asked me if could put something together for Spanish, and I was happy to create a Spanish category! Then, in order to help myself study French, I made a French vocabulary section.

As of today, I have over 40 teams using Acalympics, and not just in Virginia Beach. I have teams located in Michigan, Arizona, New Hampshire, California, and even Haiti and London! Over 27,000 games have been played, and over 500,000 questions answered. So, even though I didn’t win that big trophy, I did win something just as incredible as that big trophy. I won, just in a different way. A lot of people have given me great ideas that I am trying to implement. I am still working on Acalympics everyday, coding one question at a time. 😉

I once heard a quote. Simon Sinek said “What good is an idea if it remains an idea? Try. Experiment. Iterate. Fail. Try again. Change the world.” I like what he is saying, but that sentence got a little wordy for me, and Kaden always adds in funny parts like, “pet your dog, eat some dinner, procrastinate a little bit”, so I always get a little bit confused. However, I paraphrased his saying to something that motivates me, inspires me and challenges me. “What good is an idea if it remains an idea? Make a plan, change the world.” You have been given a notebook today. Write your ideas down in there. That way you can make a plan to change the world!

Thank you so so much for listening to me speak, today! If you have any questions for me, just feel free to ask me. Also, you can always send me an email. I would love for everyone of you to have a team that is using Acalympics. But, please please listen to what I am about to say!! The single most important thing I need to say today is, “THANK YOU” . Thank you for all that you do to help us students experience success. We don’t tell you often enough how much we appreciate you! Thanks for listening to me today!

In Honor Earth Day

First off, I wanted to apologize for not having posted a blog in a while. I have been very busy this year. In fact, being in 8th grade at my school means that I have to do a large project named a “Capstone” project. While this may seem like a normal project, this project is special in the regard that the project must have a positive influence on the lives of the community and the environment. Truthfully, I really like the opportunity to work on something like this.

Also, I had an accident where I fractured my wrist and was on limited activities for a while. Luckily, I am happy to report that it is healing well and I am going to recover soon! It was really hard on me when I couldn’t play the piano or my saxophone.

Yesterday, being Earth Day, reminded me of Capstone project, making me think of some possible ideas on how to impact not only my local community, but also those around the world. Here locally, my group has decided to help build artificial reefs to provide habitats for fish to flourish in the Chesapeake Bay, but I figured that we could go beyond that. While pondering on what could be done, I began to realize that I had a great resource into a larger community with Acalympics. There are teams that compete all around the world! What a wonderful opportunity to spread some environmental awareness!

So here we are, what are some threats to water ways/aquatic habitats?

    Large corporation fishing
    Predator/prey population decline
  • Why can this be so harmful towards the waterways?
    • Fish populations decline which affect more than one fish because of predator/prey relations
      Population decline of fish means less food/economy for humans
      Once fish species start to decline, the tend to migrate meaning local fishermen may suffer
  • What are some ways you can help your local waterways? You can
    • Drive less
    • Use rain barrels to collect rain water
    • Use pervious pavement
    • Join local cleanup foundations
    • Reduce energy usage
    • Check your septic tank
    • Buy locally
    • Stop using synthetic fertilizer
    • Plant seagrass/trees
    • Visit parks to learn about local issues

    How can these help?

    • Every action counts!
    • Take any two fish species, one a predator and the other a prey to this predator and examine their populations. Most of the time, these are correlated. This shows how the water way is affected by even small changes
    • They inspire others to join in the fun!
  • What are some potential projects you could help fund/start?
    • Make artificial reefs/habitats
      Promote sustainability at a catch and release fishing tournament
      Participate in a trash clean up
      Spread awareness to others
  • In order to make the most of Earth day and all environmental efforts, spread some of these ideas around with your friends and family! Additionally, you can try and beat the quiz on this topic on Acalympics!
  • Some Exciting Updates

    I know I am not formally writing my blog right now, but I did promise to drop exciting information here, over the summer. I have really exciting news!

    First thing, I am the proud brother to a junior drum major. Isn’t that cool? Kaden decided he wanted to take on a leadership role in marching band next year. So, he applied for everything, and he was selected to be junior drum major. Yay! Good job, Kaden! Go Dolphins!

    Next thing. So, guess what? My team took 3rd place in the Cyber Competition. Again. Yay! This competition proved to be the most challenging yet because in the past, we have had our code all ready to demo and present to judges. This year, we had to write the code on-site, and we only had 2 hours to do that. You might think we would come to the competition and go to a workstation to start writing code, but nope, we had to find plugs for our computers, and there were not enough power strips for all of the teams. You can just imagine how exciting that was. 😂 Then, we had to do a software download, which took about 20 minutes, cutting in to our coding time. A lot of teams were really frustrated by this, and just quit. My team felt like doing that. Trust me, nothing was going right on the computer side of the competition. But, we didn’t give up. Anyway, we took 3rd place. So, remember my tiny 3rd place medal from last year? I didn’t get any kind of personal trophy this year. At least the one that my school gets to keep is bigger than last years. 😂

    Third thing. I earned some really great awards this year. That was just icing on the cake of a awesome year! My school is absolutely amazing!

    I hope you had a great ending to your school year. Have a terrific summer! Go play Acalympics

    Off for the summer

    Good morning and happy long weekend! I hope that you had an awesome week. I did and yep it was busy. 😂

    I just wanted to let you know that I will be taking a break from this blog over the summer. I will pop in from time to time to post exciting updates. However, I will resume writing my blog in the fall.

    Have a terrific summer! Thank you so much for supporting Acalympics!

    Frequently Asked Questions

    Good morning and Happy Weekend! I hope that you had an amazing week. My week was great, and busy! 😂 I am pretty sure it will be like that until June 8. Then, things calm down.

    I wanted to say thank you for all of the interest you have shown in Acalympics! Wow! I have gotten some great ideas. I have always been asked some really good questions, so I wanted to take a minute to answers those.

    1. What exactly is Acalympics? What is this website designed to do? I came up with the idea for when I was in 6th grade. You can read more about the specifics on about page for this blog or you can click here Acalympics about tab. In a nut shell, I did a lot of research on the importance of memorizing math facts and how it benefits your brain. I wanted to come up with a fun way for students to work on this.

    2. How do I play on Acalympics? Choose any team, and then select either math or Spanish, then, click the play button . Here is a link to Acalympics .

    Bock, J. (2018). A Picture of Acalympics After Reset. [digital image] CC BY-NC

    There is no time limit, so if you need to use a piece of paper or pencil to compute your answers, that is just fine. Pick any team you want. You can’t hurt any teams score, but answering incorrectly. The goal is just to practice! I have done some pretty informal research oh if Acalympics is effective and I have been shocked by how well it works. Hopefully this summer I can get a formal research study up on Acalympics .

    3. How does the scoring work? You earn points by answering questions correctly. You earn more points the higher up in level you go. This was done so people wouldn’t just repeat single digit addition over and over. 😉 Also, the medals will be announced for the top 3 teams for each board every Friday evening at 8pm, (or 7pm when we are off daylight savings time). I wanted the teams not to get so far behind the leader that they quit trying. Everyone starts fresh at 0 after the medals are virtually awarded. You can always check the medals here Acalympics medalists .

    4. How do I formulate the questions and how do I decide the order? I frequently visit the Virginia Dept. Of Education to get a list of the math standards and the order they have listed. For Spanish, I have been given access to our Spanish Teachers quizlet site. I make the questions from her lists, in the order she has.

    5. Do I plan to add additional subjects? YES! I am working with my piano teacher to get a music theory category added. In addition, I plan to extend Spanish and Math, and add French. I want to add a login in system too. That way the top scorers can be highlighted as well and daily challenges can be added (challenges that gives a reward to your team).

    6. Is Acalympics free? Yes, I have also worked hard on also keeping it ad-free so schools can use it.

    I hope that covers all of the questions I have gotten. I just wanted to thank everyone that has supported Acalympics. Thank you to all of the teachers that have used Acalympics and also to the teams that are consistently competing. I really love to get feedback, and have loved getting all of your ideas! If you have any additional questions or feedback, please please email me

    Have a great weekend. Go play

    You’re Right

    Good morning and Happy Weekend! I hope that you had an awesome week. I did! If you think I am going to say that my week was busy, you are right! 😂 I got to do something really cool this week, that I am going to tell you about.

    On Wednesday night I got to see Yanni in concert. I was really excited about this, because I have Yanni music playing in my bedroom all of the time. My mom is real big on music. Since I have been born, she has kept Yanni music playing all over the house. (She liked Yanni because of the all of the different instruments he uses, plus it is over all calming music.) My mom thinks when you have music playing and you are working on homework, it engages both sides of your brain. While, I am not sure about this, maybe always being exposed to music, helped me have a love for music. Anyway, Yanni is getting pretty old, so I was happy I got to see him in concert.

    This was the second “grown up” concert I have attended. Yanni is an absolutely incredible musician. He played on no less than 9 keyboards. He had a piano set up, and different keyboards for different sounds. (My only criticism was he should have had a real wind instrument instead of a synthesized one, but I understand sometimes you can’t afford everything you want and you have to compromise and make hard choices. ) Yanni could jump between keyboards and run back and forth between the piano and the keyboards without missing a note. He was incredible! I wondered exactly how he did this. I am thinking about trying it at my next piano lesson. 😂 My piano teachers has two pianos, I am thinking about jumping from one to the other to see exactly how this works. 😂 I am just kidding. The last concert I saw was the piano guys, and Jon (the pianist) played the piano with his nose, and while laying down on the bench. I told my piano teacher I wanted to learn how to play the piano with my nose too. 😂

    I don’t know if you know much about Yanni, but he has a really interesting story. He came to America when he was 18, and didn’t speak any English. He learned the language and put himself through school, and earned a masters degree in Psychology. However, his passion was always music. Yanni stayed focused on that and despite setbacks, kept working on creating music. Since I am familiar with just about every song he has ever written, I am happy that he stuck with it. Personally, I think music touches a part of your soul, that words can’t reach.

    Thinking about Yanni and his success always reminds me of a quote by Henry Ford. He said “Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, either way, you are right.” and I know this holds true for Yanni. I read an article once, where someone was talking about meeting Yanni when he was in college. He said Yanni was “flamboyantly Yanni”. He went on to explain, Yanni always thought he would succeed, and as Mr. Ford said “he was right.”

    Okay, so I get that I am just a 7th grader, and a good portion of my audience are students. Some kids or adults, might question how this story relates to their life. Let me tell you about my brother Kaden. 🙂 Kaden is taking Advanced Placement Chemistry. Kaden loves Chemistry, but this is definitely not an easy class. Anyway, Kaden signed up to take the AP Chemistry exam. He didn’t expect the exam to be easy, but he did expect to do well on this test. Kaden attended 4 Saturday study sessions for this exam, with one of the sessions lasting from 8:30-4:30. Also, he stayed after school almost every day for 3 weeks, to attend every study sessions available. Plus, he brought his study guide book in the car everywhere we went, and he studied the whole car ride. My parents didn’t make Kaden do all this. In my opinion, Kaden is very much demonstrating Mr. Ford’s quote. Kaden thought he could do great on his exam, and he took all of the steps necessary to make this happen. We don’t know how Kaden’s AP exam went yet, we won’t have those scores until July. He thought he did well. He felt prepared for every question that was on there.

    Bock, J. (2018). Kaden’s Textbook. [digital image] CC BY-NC

    So, that is my whole point this week. If you decide you want to do something, believe that you can! Then put in the work and make success happen. 😉 Really, it is as simple as that.

    Okay, I am off to practice my instruments this morning. I practice 3 on a regular basis and that takes some time. Have a great week, and go play Acalympics .

    Thank you!

    Good morning and Happy Weekend! I hope that you had an awesome week. I did, and yup! I was busy!

    With teacher appreciation week coming up, I wanted to take a minute to say “Thank you,” to everyone who has supported Acalympics . I have gotten so much encouragement and positive feedback! I have had so many people, teachers, students, and administrators use my website, and tell me about the positive impact it is making. Words can not accurately describe how grateful I am for that! Thank you so very much, I appreciate you!

    I wanted to take a minute to let you know about where I want Acalympics to go. I hope that you have had the time to play the Math or the Spanish game. I know I probably don’t need to explain to you exactly what Acalympics is, but just in case you haven’t had the opportunity to use the website yet, here is a very brief description. I created a website that you can practice skills while earning points for your team. There is no time limit, or penalties. I wanted Acalympics to be a fun way to practice skills.

    Here are some of the ideas I have for Acalympics . Disclaimer, I just wrote all of my deadlines in my calendar, so honestly all of these ideas will be on my summer break projects list. 😂 I have gotten requests from users to be able to identify the top scorers for day, and week on each of the boards. I think that is a fabulous idea! But, I also don’t want to make anyone feel embarrassed by their score. So, I am working on a mechanism that will allow users to create an Acalympics Website name, like Crunchy Goldfish, or Rainbow Sparkle Cat. This way Acalympics can display the top scorers, but it will still be anonymous.

    Working along this idea will also allow Acalympics to track users skill level. Simply put, if you constantly ace all of the additions, subtraction, and multiplication problems, but are challenged by fractions, the website will know where to start you. Another aspect of having a login system will allow teachers to make challenges (quizzes) for their class. I am creating a feature that will make creating quizzes for specific students an easy thing to do.

    Next, I want to add more subjects. I have been talking with my piano teacher about adding music theory to Acalympics . Personally, I take a theory test at ODU every year. I will say it is really hard to study for that test because there are just not a lot of resources out there. My piano teacher and I thought we could create levels of music theory based on the tests at ODU. Music students could review for these tests by practicing their skill knowledge on Acalympics . I hope this will be a helpful resource for all music teachers from elementary and up.

    Also, I take French, not Spanish, 😂 so I want to add a French category. I want to add English, Geography, and Science categories too. I am in the process of learning how to level these questions. In case you wondered how I get my questions, I utilize the Virginia Department of Education to create my levels. I frequent their website to look at the order and the objectives when creating my questions and levels.

    Phew! This sounds like a lot of work I have to do! However, I am not going to let myself worry because one quote I try to keep in the back of my mind is by Nelson Mandela. “It always seems impossible until it is done.” 😉

    If you have any ideas that you would like to see on Acalympics , let me know. While I might not get to your request right away, I am keeping a list of all of the good ideas people have brought to my attention.

    Thank you so much for taking the time to read this. 🙂 I can not stress enough how appreciative I am for all of the people that support Acalympics and support me! Have a great weekend and go play Acalympics . Don’t forget to send me your ideas.