By Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer Published Mar 31, 2011 at 1:49 PM

Milwaukee Public Schools hosts its annual science fair today at the Zoo from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. and more than 120 students from kindergarten through high school will participate.

But Team 1675, a group of a dozen students from Bradley Tech and Rufus King, has even more reason to celebrate today. The group nabbed the Chairman's Award at the Midwestern Regional competition of the FIRST Robotics competition last weekend in Chicago.

Now, they move on to the national championships in St. Louis, April 27-30.

MPS Superintendent Greg Thornton saluted the team, which includes George Akpin, Laura Bolling, Sarah Borzon, Crystal Flores, Eric Miller, Christopher Moldenauer, Gabe Mondry, Jackson Reed, Sean Salters, Tim Schley, Kidd Starck, Katie Widen and Yuan Smith.

"Congratulations to Team 1675 and their mentors," he said. "They are doing a great job of representing their schools and the district. We wish them the best in the championship competition."

More than 2,000 teams with nearly 52,000 students from almost every state and more than a half-dozen countries are taking part in the competition this year, in which teams have six weeks to build robots to address a specific challenge.

The hometown squad -- which has gotten support from local companies like Johnson Controls and Rockwell Automation -- battled 49 other teams in the Midwest regional.

You can see the team in action at the competition here.

In related news, 15 Milwaukee Public Schools that were honored as 2010-11 Wisconsin Schools of Recognition will share a $1 million grant from The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI) for programs to help raise student achievement.

The schools are Academy of Accelerated Learning, Alcott Elementary, Clement Avenue Elementary, Curtin, Elm Creative Arts Elementary, Milwaukee French Immersion, Garland Elementary, Hawley Elementary, IDEAL, Lowell Elementary, Morgandale Elementary, Rufus King High, Milwaukee School of Languages, Milwaukee Spanish Immersion and Whitman Elementary.

Speaking of Milwaukee French Immersion, I got a tour of that school yesterday from Principal Virginia McFadden, who was proud and eager to show off not only a lovely building, but also what appears to be an amazing program.

Great Schools, which rates schools according to numerous criteria, gives French Immersion an 8 out of 10 ranking and notes that it has high attainment on 4th grade WKCE tests in both reading and math.

It also clearly has high attainment in other areas, too. We visited nearly every classroom and saw nary a moment of misbehavior. Instead we saw kids as young as 4 who comprehend -- and in most cases speak -- fluent French, studying math, reading aloud stories they'd written, reading together, doing art projects, singing and -- although I didn't see them, I heard them -- playing in the gym.

French Immersion has an impressive library and small class sizes, especially in K4 through third grade, where there is SAGE funding.

Saddest news of the day was that the loss of the SAGE funding after this year means not only that those class sizes will double in many cases but also that some of the dedicated, hard working teachers -- McFadden couldn't remember an instance when a teacher left French Immersion to transfer to another school -- would lose their jobs when that funding is gone.

Usually, retirement, relocation and the decision to be stay at home parents are the only reasons the school loses teachers, she told me.

McFadden started out at French Immersion as a teacher and all of her own children attended the school. A number of current teachers are graduates of the school, too, which got its start 33 years ago in 68th Street School, just up the street from the current location on the city's West Side. It later was housed at two other locations before landing where it sits today, on 52nd and North Avenue.

Check out the photos above to see some of the lovely architectural features of the 1929 building -- designed by MPS architect Guy Wiley -- which until seven years ago was home to Steuben Middle School, as well as murals -- including ones of Milwaukee and Paris -- that were created by artists in residence along with students.

Wiley designed many other MPS buildings, too, including North and South Division Stadiums (now razed), Peckham Junior High (later Jackie Robinson), Rufus King, Pulaski, Garden Homes, Tippecanoe and others.

It struck me on my drive back to the office that I suddenly felt a little torn. We have a child in one great MPS school now. I wondered if I could work out a way to have my kids attend two of them.

Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.

He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.

With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.

He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.

In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.

He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.