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MENDOTA HEIGHTS, Minn., May 7, 2019 – Saint Thomas Academy has selected Trent Eigner as the next head coach of its hockey program, effective immediately. Eigner is currently head coach of Lakeville North hockey, where he has led the Panthers to 1 state championship, 1 second place finish and 2 additional state tournament appearances; 7 consecutive Section I championship games; and 3 conference championships since taking over the program in 2011-2012.

“Through a robust search process, we evaluated many candidates with outstanding hockey credentials and successful coaching records,” said Headmaster Matt Mohs ’90. “Ultimately, Trent was chosen because he understands that Saint Thomas Academy places a high value on both character development and the pursuit of athletic excellence. He is the man I want coaching our Cadets.”

Eigner, a father of 6, prides himself on mentoring his players to become both outstanding hockey players and upstanding young men. “The opportunity to coach cadet hockey was one I couldn’t pass up,” Eigner said. “Saint Thomas Academy is an institution I have admired for some time. The administration’s and broader community’s commitment to excellence on and off the ice, the boys’ passion for hockey and the resources available to extend the Academy’s tradition of success made it a very attractive program to lead. I look forward to furthering Saint Thomas Academy as one of the premier high school hockey programs in the country and developing young men that reflect the school’s core values of faith, excellence, integrity and respect.”

As head coach of the Panthers, Eigner had a career record of 133-68-1. In the 2014-2015 season, his Panthers went 31-0 on the way to winning the state championship. The team was voted one of the top 5 teams of all time. The year prior, the Panthers went 26-5 and placed second in the state tournament.

“I strive to create mutual respect between the players and coach, and an environment in which players feel confident they can compete within the team concept,” Eigner said. “I believe strongly that individual and team success are directly related to attitude, effort and personal accountability.”

Eigner developed Lakeville’s players to compete beyond high school, including one player currently in the NHL, 3 NHL draft picks, 14 Division I players, 1 National Development Training Program player and 3 Mr. Hockey candidates. He has been recognized as both South Suburban Conference Coach of the Year and Section I Coach of the Year. He has served 6 years as liaison to the Lakeville Hockey Association.

“I attribute much of my success as a player and a person to Coach Eigner,” said Ryan Poehling of the Montreal Canadiens. “He taught me many lessons throughout my three years having him as my head coach. I felt the most important ones were what I learned off the ice. These lessons have continued to help me throughout my career and are staples for what it takes to succeed at any level in hockey. I was blessed to have a coach with such great character for three years.”

Eigner was previously a head coach in the Western Professional Hockey League for two years, leading his team to the playoff semi-final round in his second year. In 2001, he was honored with the Rick Kozuback Award for exemplifying the qualities of perseverance, determination and commitment to the game, sport and business of hockey.

Eigner’s professional playing career includes 4 years in the Western Professional Hockey League, where he was a team captain and contributed to 2 President’s Cup Championships and 2 years in the East Coast Hockey League. He played Division I hockey for Miami of Ohio from 1990 to 1994, helping the Red Hawks win a CCHA championship and NCAA tournament berth in 1993. He served as alternate captain in the 1992-93 season, and team captain in 1993-1994. Prior to college hockey, he played juniors for the USHL Madison Capitals and high school hockey for Rosemount.

MENDOTA HEIGHTS, Minn., May 6, 2019 – This past Wednesday, Caroline Little, a teacher at Saint Thomas Academy, an all-boys, Catholic, college prep, military leadership school, was surprised with the news that she is a recipient of a 2019 WEM Outstanding Educator Award for Teacher Achievement, an honor that is accompanied by a $15,000 award.

Little is one of six educators being honored by the WEM Foundation and Synergy & Leadership Exchange for outstanding accomplishments and contributions to student learning. She is one of two recipients of the Teacher Achievement Award, which recognizes exemplary teachers who support, inspire and assist students to attain greater learning as evidenced by student achievement.

Little has been teaching for 18 years and currently teaches French and is co-moderator of the Experimental Vehicle Team. She takes great pride in bringing STEM into her French language classroom. Translating commands involves not so much about telling someone to wash their hands or brush their teeth, but more of where to put the solder or how short to cut the wires. Little finds these and other unique ways to marry STEM into the world of language. Her French students hear about the International Space Station and the newest advances in engineering.

“Madame Little combines hands-on, active learning with listening skills as well as written text to create a unique learning environment that my child benefits from,” said a parent. “One of my child’s favorite activities in class was the opportunity to build a robot. All directions and interactions with other students and Madame were done in French. Students in her class learn and enjoy learning.”

Most recently, Little completed more than 50 hours of professional development at NASA's Microgravity University for Educators. She worked with her advisory students to develop and build a Satellite Launching Experimental Device that was tested on the Precision Air Bearing Floor at Johnson Space Center. Little connected with her students during a virtual meeting and showed them how well their SLED design worked. Always thinking of ways to engage others, Little has created a series on Twitter, tweeting out new and original pieces of artwork to connect with people around the world and build excitement for space travel.

“Little’s success is due to her acute ability to understand adolescent and adult learning styles, ability levels and technology comfort levels, as illustrated in her daily interaction with students and faculty at various grade levels,” shared Michelle Mechtel, director of academic life. “She has a warm style that results in being uniformly loved by students, parents and faculty.”

In addition to the Teacher Achievement Award, other educators are being honored with the Academic Challenge Coach Award (teachers who are exemplary coaches of student teams that participate and compete in academic challenges), Ethics in Education Award (exemplary educators who embody ethical behavior and promote ethical development for students through classroom or school activities, policies or curriculum) and Athletic Coach Award (teachers who are exemplary coaches of athletic teams).

Educators are first nominated for the WEM Outstanding Educator Awards Program by students, parents, colleagues or community members. Those who accept the nomination provide additional information for consideration by Synergy & Leadership Exchange and a blue ribbon selection panel, which reviews and ranks the nominees. In addition to the six statewide honorees, additional educators have been selected as regional honorees for 2019. These honorees will be announced in May. Synergy & Leadership Exchange is a non-profit organization dedicated to fostering collaboration to advance the development of ethical citizens, providing educational resources, and celebrating achievement and best practices in Minnesota schools, businesses and communities. For more information on the WEM Outstanding Educator Awards Program and Synergy & Leadership Exchange, visit:

MENDOTA HEIGHTS, Minn., May 6, 2019 – Anne McQuillan, assistant to the middle school director at Saint Thomas Academy, was recently honored with the Behind the Scenes Award from the Minnesota Independent School Forum (MISF). McQuillan, who also serves as assistant to the facilities director, liaison to both the mothers’ club and the fathers’ club, and assistant coach for track, Nordic ski and cross-country, was honored at an awards ceremony on Sunday, April 28 with other recipients in MISF’s Private and Independent Education Awards.mcQuillan award2.jpeg

According to MISF, “The Behind the Scenes Award recognizes the quiet and essential work of an individual who supports the school outside the classroom. These individuals go out of their way to make the school environment welcoming, friendly, and caring. School staff, coaches, volunteers and other behind the scenes workers may be nominated for this award.”

Middle School Director Jamie Jurkovich said, “Anne fills many roles and uses many skills in her day-to-day responsibilities, all of which she executes with grace and excellence. She is unfailingly kind, resourceful and helpful. She is extremely valuable to our school as she positively intersects with so many different groups in our community.”

McQuillan has been with Saint Thomas Academy since 2008. The mother of two Academy alumni, McQuillan has a bachelor’s degree in exercise science and nutrition from the University of St. Catherine. She resides in Saint Paul (Summit-Hill).

"Anne creates a warm, safe, and positive environment for both the students and faculty,” said one parent. “That is beyond her job title. She is like another parent to the boys. The parents really value Anne. She reassures them and counsels them."

A video on McQuillan is available here. Additional photos are available from MISF at

Team beat all but two university teams before falling in a tiebreaker to European Space Consortium for high school students

MENDOTA HEIGHTS, Minn., April 17, 2019 – This past weekend, the Saint Thomas Academy Experimental Vehicle Team placed second overall, and first in the U.S., in the high school division of the NASA Human Exploration Rover Challenge (NASA news release). The team tied for first with a European Space Consortium for high school students from around the world but then lost the tiebreaker.

In addition to its performance completing the course and mission tasks (video), the team earned:
-    Rookie of the Year Award
-    Technology Challenge Award (beating all universities and high schools) for the student-designed and built carbon fiber wheels
-    Featherweight Award for the lightest high-school rover (117 pounds)
-    STEM Engagement Award for its outreach work with Girl Scouts and elementary students

Student Director Joe McMahon ’19 (Lynnhurst) said, "As a rookie team, we needed to quickly figure out the best way to earn the maximum amount of points and still stay under the time limit. We had prepared for every possible obstacle and task, but there was a definite disadvantage seeing it for the first time. We already have a long list of changes for next year!"

The competition saw nearly 100 teams from around the world competing in high school and college divisions. Saint Thomas Academy beat all but two university teams, including Auburn University, Drexel University, Purdue University, University of Houston, University of Memphis, University of Miami and Ohio State University. Team members also had the honor of being interviewed by NASA Astronaut Sunita (Suni) Williams.

About the Competition
The NASA Human Exploration Rover Challenge is an engineering design competition in which teams design and assemble a vehicle capable of traversing the simulated surface of another world and facilitating mission-objective tasks such as gathering environmental samples of the extraterrestrial terrain. This is the team’s first time competing in the annual challenge, which is held at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Ala.

"Entering a new competition every few years is always exciting,” Team Adviser Caroline Little said. “The students get to experience the engineering design process from beginning to end. Watching their project grow from scratch work on paper to a NASA rover being raced at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center is very rewarding for a teacher."

The multi-faceted competition awards points based on the team’s ability to assemble its rover in the allotted time; designing a rover that is lightweight; successfully completing course obstacles; performing tasks throughout the mission; and meeting pre- and post-challenge requirements. The challenge’s weight and time requirements encourage compactness, light weight, high performance and efficiency.

As part of the competition—before their first time on the course—rover entries are tested to fit into a lander equipment bay, a maximum 5 feet by 5 feet by 5 feet in volume.

Teams then navigate their rovers around the .5-mile course with only a virtual six-minute supply of oxygen and a one-minute reserve. They gain points as they progress through all stages of the competition. They earn additional points by returning the results of their mission tasks and finishing without using their oxygen reserve. The course includes a simulated field of asteroid debris—boulders from 5 to 15 inches across; an ancient stream bed with pebbles approximately 6 inches deep; and erosion ruts and crevasses of varying widths and depths.

About Saint Thomas Academy’s Rover
For the competition, EVT designed a rover with a 4-wheel suspension system and a parallelogram design to give more ground clearance. Independent front and rear transmission systems allow the two drivers to decide which of the 8-speed, internally geared hub works best individually at each bend of the course. The house-made, carbon-fiber seats and wheels provide light-weight durability. The 4130 chromoly steel frame has varying diameters and wall thickness to maximize strength and minimize weight. The rover weighs 107 pounds.

The students designed and engineered two lithium-powered task tools for gathering liquid and solid samples from the course. There’s also a mechanical filter that gathers spectrographic analysis of the area being explored. Perceiving the mission-objective tasks as equally important as the rover itself, the students spent as much time designing, prototyping, and testing the task tools as they did the rover.

The team faced many learning opportunities throughout the design and testing process, the most challenging being the fabrication of tread for the carbon-fiber wheels that had to be strong enough to withstand the different surfaces on the rover course. After testing multiple samples, the team chose a two-part urethane rubber with a durometer of 60. Attaching the urethane to the carbon proved to be an even larger problem as nothing adhered to the cured urethane. Applying ingenuity, the students used a foam intermediate pierced with tiny holes and placed it into the urethane before curing. Using an aerospace epoxy, the foam had great adhesion to the carbon.

Through the design process, the team learned to design in Fusion 360, V-Carve Pro, CoralDraw and TinkerCAD, and used the laser cutter to make templates and parts, 3D printers for rapid prototyping, a 3-axis mill for making molds, a plasma cutter for metal parts, and a TIG welder to assemble the 4130 Chromoly steel tubing for the rover’s frame.

The Team
From September 2018 through March 1, 2019, the 15-student team clocked more than 1,400 hours on the NASA Rover – all outside of class time. Student Director McMahon alone has worked on the project more than 140 hours since September.

Team members include:
Wil Applebaum ’21– Task Manager
Sam Cunniff ’19 – Wheel Design
Joe D’Agostino ’20 – Public Relations
Michael Hankee ’20 - Frame
Peter Holmes ’19 – CAD
Will Hoppe ’21 – Task Manager
Nicholas Kettler ’20 – Fabrication
Luke Kolar ’19 – Male Rover Pilot (MRP)
Yong Jae Lee ’20 – Fabrication
Murphy Lynch ’20 – Fabrication
Joe McMahon ’19 – Student Director
Lucas Montpetit ’19 – Mechanical Director
Daniel Staelgraeve ’21 – Task Manager
Jenna Westlake ’20 – Female Rover Pilot (FRP)
Robbie Wolfe ’19 – Wheel Design

Faculty Advisers:
Caroline Little
Mark Westlake

Team sponsors include: Power Systems Research, Saint Thomas Academy and Express Composites.


About the Experimental Vehicle Team
The Experimental Vehicle Team is a co-curricular program that teaches budding engineers real-life problem-solving skills. Founded in 1997 as the Supermileage Team, past Experimental Vehicle Teams have built multiple solar vehicles, a safer electric motorcycle for urban commuting, a one-person car that got more than 1,300 mpg and an electric car that traveled 50 miles on two car batteries. The team has won 15 national championships, one international championship and set numerous national records in its history.

MENDOTA HEIGHTS, Minn., April 10, 2019 – In the final match of the season, the Saint Thomas Academy “New Shooter” Rifle Team lost to Pacific MCJROTC, of Pacific, Mo., 1,058 to 1,037 in the National Air Rifle “New Shooter” League (box score). The team finished the season in 5th place overall with a 5-3 record (team page).

Saint Thomas Academy was led by Joe Brennen ’21 who shot a 264. The remaining contributing members were Bennet Kotok ’23, Joey Farrington ’21 and Jack Martin ’21. Saint Thomas Academy is coached by Chief Warrant Officer 4 Paul Preblich, U.S. Army (ret.)

These two teams are competing in the National Air Rifle “New Shooter” League. Sponsored by the Orion Scoring System, the league is a national team league exclusive to athletes in their first year of competition. Teams are from high schools and junior rifle clubs throughout the United States. Over 10 weeks each team competes in 8 games. Each week, each team is paired with another team with a near equal win-loss record.

In each match, the teams compete in a Three-Position Air Rifle match. The match is modeled after Olympic rifle competitions but adapted to high school athletes. Each athlete shoots 10 shots in three different shooting positions, prone, standing and kneeling. Each shot is worth a maximum of 10 points. The sum of points scored in the 30 shots is the athlete's total. The team score is comprised of the best four athletes from each team.