Presentations to the School Board – Independent Research Class Students at Liberty HS Seniors from Liberty High School’s Independent Research class awed the Issaquah School Board, administrators and community members with presentations on their science research projects at a recent school board meeting. Integrating computer, mechanical, and electrical engineering with chemistry and physics, students learned to rely on their ingenuity and ability to problem solve to advance their projects along to completion. Following is a short synopsis of the projects, views from the students, and their plans for the future.
Joel Tinseth, Trevor Sytsma, and Quinn Magendaz – Cosmic Ray Detection and Shielding Following up on the work of a former classmate, Joel and Trevor spent the past school year quantifying the relationship between flux and angle to cosmic rays. Using cosmic ray detectors the school had on hand, the two built an inclinometer to measure cosmic ray intensities at angles between 0 and 70 degrees. The experiment verified that cosmic ray intensity decreases following a cosine squared relationship as the angle relative to the horizon increases. This suggests that cosmic ray intensity increases substantially as altitude increases. This has implications for space travel, including degenerative effects on the health of astronauts and disrupting electronic systems. “It took a lot of perseverance and outside resources, shared Joel. We came to a lot of dead ends and had to re-plateau or re-calibrate.” “It was monotonous and surprisingly difficult at times,” adds Trevor, “for every one success we had ten setbacks. The process requires trial and error and a lot of analytical thinking.”
Quinn Magendanz worked on a parallel project involving testing various shielding options to protect equipment—and people—from cosmic rays. He found that physical shields, such as lead, aluminum, and steel plating didn’t work. However, building an electrically charged Faraday Cage provided 12% shielding. He was surprised at how many times they failed, but found value in the process of “dealing with the unexpected, taking in what’s happening, innovating and problem solving.”
Trevor is headed to Pepperdine University to study Pre-Med and Economics. He says his experience at Liberty helped him select that path. This project helped him realize he was not as inclined to do this type of research and is more into bio-chemistry, which fits in with Pre-Med.
Joel is definitely in the engineering camp, he says the insight he gained into the scientific process was very valuable, and he could see that his passion was in taking the research and then pulling together the resources needed to solve a problem.
Quinn credits this research project as an opportunity for applying learning beyond what he could learn from a book— a valuable experience he will take with him to MIT where he’ll study Computer Engineering.
Christine Chappelle and Jordan Raymond – Building a Submersible Water Quality Detector Building a remote-controlled and submersible to monitor water quality was the perfect collaborative project for Christine and Jordan, bringing the two’s unique interests together. Christine is interested in practical applications and mathematics while Jordan is drawn to solving environmental problems. Together they began the first stage of a three year plan to build the submersible. They’ve built the submersible, are writing the data collection software, and trying to solve a waterproofing problem, while acquiring probes to later attach. The project will be taken up and continued in its future stages by students in next year’s independent research class.
Christine is headed to MIT to study Aerospace in the fall, and it’s the perfect place to connect her interest in aviation with her desire to find a field that balances hard core science and engineering.
Combining majors in Bioengineering and Mechanical Engineering, Jordan will attend Washington State Unviersity where she will also be a part of the Honors College. Her passion is in alternative energy and she wants to combine designs with hands-on work to help improve the field. She is looking into researching biofuels, specifically those created from algae.
Building and Developing an Aquaponic Cycle – Jin Chen and Anne Wu When Jin and Anne began their Aquaponics project, they thought it would primarily be an opportunity to learn about the Nitrogen Cycle and Aquaponics as a sustainable method of farming. And while they certainly learned about that, the major challenge was actually building the plumbing system. It took hours of research on different types of pipes and many YouTube tutorials, but the piping system was built. Anne, who initially was just into the chemistry of the project, found she actually liked the building part and that has led her to consider engineering.
The infrastructure includes a fish tank with water circulating between the tank and a tray of plants. They first got the system going without the fish for a six week cycle. Bacteria was introduced into the water to convert ammonia into nitrites, to then be taken up as nitrates, food for the plants. Once established, the fish were placed in the tank with the fish waste providing the ammonia to continue the cycle.
Jin, who is planning to attend the University of Washington and study Computer Science or Statistics said the project allowed her to look at engineering in a different way than the view from the textbook. She notes that the stats being collected on the system can be used by future students to research patterns and solutions.
Anne is also headed to the University of Washington to study either Neurology or Computer Science. “I want to work with people”, says Anne, “This class helped me develop independence. We have to research a lot on our own and take the initiative to contact people outside of school to get answers.”
Polar Sea Ice Melting Trends - Signe Storming Signe Storming, with no prior computer programming or Statistics training, took an enormous data set of polar arctic sea ice and analyzed it for temporal and spatial melting rates. The goal was to figure out where the ice was melting the fastest and then delve into the question of why. To do so required getting up to speed on thermodynamics, arctic climatology, and polar sea ice with research on the National Snow and Ice Data Center’s website and in several textbooks. Knowing how ice worked was the first step to understanding the data she was looking at. Soon, her teacher, Mark Buchli, connected Signe to Dr. Ron Lindsay, from the University of Washington, who had mean ice thickness values for geographic coordinates going back to 1979 and shared that data set with Signe.
“The challenge was that there was so much data and I had to figure out a way to sort in a way that was legitimate, made sense to me, and could be conveyed to others in an understandable way.” Signe used Microsoft Excel to develop a map to present the data visually. She sorted and labeled ice thickness with a color and graphed the coordinates. At that point Signe thought “OK, I have this map, but it just shows the ice thickness at a certain point of time, but I have data from 1979-2012, I have a snapshot, but I want to see change over time.”
The next step was to split up the Arctic into sectors to show calculated ice volume over a large area over time. Using the Pan-Arctic Ice Ocean Model supplied by University of Washington, Signe plotted the rates to find out where the greatest impacted regions are. The results: Siberia, Alaska and Canada are losing ice the fastest. That led to looking for a correlation between change in ice volume and surface temperature, requiring additional data analysis of temperatures over time. Signe’s work will offer future Independent Research students an opportunity to work with this data to investigate the cause(s) of this result.
According to Signe, “the independence of the class made it a valuable experience for me. I worked solo, but would have to actively seek out support from my teacher or Dr. Lindsay when I needed it. I started with a goal and had to figure out for myself how I was going to get there. Knowing I can teach myself a complex topic is definitely something I will take with me into my future studies and career. Signe will be studying Foreign Affairs at Georgetown University.
Congratulations to Matthew Bellavia, Beaver Lake Middle School student, who was one of eight middle school winners selected in the fourth annual National STEM Video Game Challenge competition. The competition featured 13 categories from top original video game design to game design concepts. Matthew was recognized as a GameMaker for his video game “Gravity Galaxy,” which was selected from nearly 4,000 entries.
The winners were recognized at a family gaming celebration on June 27 at the Fred Rogers Studio at WQED in Pittsburgh.
The STEM Challenge, presented by the Smithsonian in partnership with E-Line Media and the Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop, aims to motivate interest in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) among students in grades 5-12 by tapping into their enthusiasm for playing and making video games.
“The National STEM Video Game Challenge helps unlock the incredible potential of the next generation of game designers,” said Michael H. Levine, Executive Director, The Joan Ganz Cooney Center. “We are thrilled to honor the great work of these students who demonstrated creativity and the 21st century skills needed to build engaging and educational games.”
Congratulations to Michael Guo, Beaver Lake Middle School student, who won second place at the 2015 American Protégé International Piano and Strings Competition. Michael competed in the Junior Category and performed “Flight of the Bumblebee” at Carnegie Hall in New York.
Congratulations to Vincy Fonk, Lorrin Johnson, Issabelle Hayden, Lauryn Hepp, Carlyn Schmidgall, and Sally Rim who placed sixth in the nation at the recent National History Day Competition in Washington D.C. The team of Vincy Fonk, Lorrin Johnson, and Issabelle Hayden were awarded for their senior group exhibit of Edward R. Murrow and the team of Lauryn Hepp, Carlyn Schmidgall, and Sally Rim were awarded for their senior group website featuring John F. Kennedy and the Cuban Missile Crisis. Along with placing sixth in the nation, Vincy Fonk won a trip to New Orleans for the opening of the WWII History museum this fall.
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