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updated: 7/10/2014 10:11 AM

Batavia native, engineer mentors girls in robotics camp

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  • Denise Karabowicz, right, assists Elise Aponte and Brigid Mrenna with their project at the Legos Robotics Summer Camp.

    Denise Karabowicz, right, assists Elise Aponte and Brigid Mrenna with their project at the Legos Robotics Summer Camp.
    Courtesy of Sammi King


In 2002, Denise Karabowicz was the only girl on the Rotolo Middle School's Lego Building Club. In 2003, she repeated her solo status.

Eleven years later, she's running the show, along with her dad, Ron.

Denise was proud to point out that the Fox Valley Robotics/Batavia Robotics Summer Workshop had seven girls attending this year.

After graduating from the Illinois Math and Science Academy, Denise received her mechanical engineering degree from University of Southern California. She now designs helmet mounted displays for Thales Visionix.

"I know what the robotics program did for me when I was in middle school," said Denise. "I was so shy, I could never stand up and talk in front of a group. This club really helped me."

Now the dynamic young engineer moves from team to team, offering advice and answering questions. She is quick to give credit for the organization's success to her father, a computer consultant, who started as a parent volunteer at Rotolo in 2002, and still works year round with kids who enjoy robotics.

"If he could go back in time, I think he would be a teacher," she said. "He is so good working with the kids and he really enjoys it."

Brigid Mrenna, age 10, loves building with Legos and hopes to be a scientist or an artist. Nine-year-old Elise Aponte wants to work for IBM and design apps.

"I already have an idea for one," Elise said. "But it's all in my head."

It all starts with an idea and a smart little girl who can turn that idea into reality.

Musician wins award:

Former Batavian, Jonathan Rudy, recently won the National Young Artists Competition in Organ Performance in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

As the First Place winner, Jonathan Rudy receives a monetary prize of $3,000, in addition to a professional album recorded on the ProOrgano label, and two years of professional concert management and career development by Karen McFarlane Artists, Inc. At the competition, Rudy also won the Audience Prize, an additional monetary award of $1,000, funded by Martin Ott Pipe Organ Company, Inc.

Jonathan Rudy is pursuing his doctorate in Organ and Sacred Music at Indiana University. In addition to his regular performance schedule, he will appear at the 2016 AGO National Convention in Houston.

Many family and friends from Batavia made the trip to Massachusetts to support Jonathan Rudy, including Karl Bruhn, his first organ teacher.

For more information, visit

Organ recitals:

If you enjoy organ music, you might want to attend the "Rollin' Down the River" recitals, featuring three different organists playing on three different instruments.

The first recital features Josh McClure on Sunday, July 13, at Bethlehem Lutheran Church in St. Charles; followed by Deborah Ayotte on Sunday, July 20, at Geneva Lutheran. The series concludes on Sunday, July 27, with Alan Spear at Bethany Lutheran Church in Batavia.

"These recitals will be fun and informative," said Spear. "They will showcase the talents of the musicians on organ and piano."

Each recital will last about an hour and begins at 3 p.m.

It's a great way to get a break from the hot summer Sundays of July and enjoy some magnificent music.

Quilt show:

Speaking of the arts, don't miss Batavia's Quilt and textile Show, set for Friday-Sunday, July 18-20, at the Eastside Community Center, 327 W. Wilson St.

The show features more than 150 contemporary and historical quilts from quilt artists throughout the Midwest. The show runs from 1 to 6 p.m. on Friday and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. Go to for more information.

Windmill City Festival continues:

The big summer event in Batavia happens this weekend. Head on down to the Riverwalk for Windmill City Fest. Always a fun time!

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