SMA inaugural class showcases Senior Capstone Projects
July 3, 2008
There was excitement in the air as the inaugural graduating class of 36 students from Aberdeen High School's Science and Mathematics Academy displayed and presented their Senior Capstone Projects to peers, mentors and teachers during a gallery walk on the evening of May 20, a week before they graduated from SMA.
The Senior Capstone Projects were the result of a year-long research class in which the students worked closely with a mentor who was a professional scientist, mathematician or engineer. Eighteen scientists, mathematicians and engineers came from Aberdeen Proving Ground organizations.
The Senior Capstone Project intended to accomplish three major purposes for the students:
Integrate science, mathematics, and technology in an authentic way.
Provide for interaction with the professional science community.
Allow for individual inquiry and discover using the tools, techniques and valid protocol inherent in real research.
The mentors volunteered their time to guide students and impart their expertise in an area that they are interested in studying. Many students chose a project in a field of study that they want to pursue in college.
Several students earned scholarships as a result of their academic achievements while attending SMA.
SMA at Aberdeen High School is a magnet program serving gifted and talented students enrolled in Harford County Public Schools. The academy offers a college preparatory program that provides students with the opportunity to experience challenging coursework integrating the sciences, mathematics and technology with emphasis on real-world application. With the exception of the fine arts, foreign language, and health and physical education, all courses are taken at the honors level with other members of the academy in a small learning environment. The program started in the 2004-2005 school year.
"I am very proud of these students," said Dr. Dennis Kirkwood, supervisor of science for Harford County Schools, during the gallery walk. "They have challenged themselves throughout their academic career. Not only have they learned new skills, the students are confident in their research and have presented their work in a professional manner. Our graduates will be in great demand."
Kirkwood, along with SMA Coordinator Donna Clem and the former AHS principal, David Volrath and current AHS principal Tom Szerensits, were the driving force behind the development of SMA.
Students that attend SMA learn valuable skills that will help them in their academic success in the future.
Kelly Colopietro, a graduating SMA student who was the APG's Youth Volunteer of the Year for 2008, conducted a comparative analysis of competitive athletes and vital capacity.
"I think that the time management skills that I have learned while attending SMA were very valuable," Colpietro said. "It taught me how to balance difficult classes while still participating in extracurricular activities."
Sarah Farely, who plans to attend Drexel University to study electrical engineering, studied the best way to view a laser light.
"I really feel like my time spent at SMA has prepared me for college--we're here learning concepts and doing projects that other students do not get to do until college," Farely said.
Jeff Woods, who plans to study engineering at Harford Community College said, "I feel like this program opens a lot of doors."
Wood's mentor was Dr. Mike Forster, who works at Black and Decker. Woods added that he would like to work at Black and Decker someday, and having a mentor that works at Black and Decker is a way to network while in high school. His project was on designing a switch mode paper supply.
Bob and Sharon, parents of Christine Harvey, a senior at SMA, said that they are very pleased with the progress that Christine has made throughout her four years attending SMA.
"It is a challenge for the students going out of their comfort zone," Bob said. "Prior to attending SMA, Christine went to a school with the same students for nine years, so she had to make new friends by coming to SMA. We feel that the easiest choice is not always the best choice. We wanted her to stretch herself by attending this school. She has always been at the top of her class, and we felt like she could really excel at SMA."
David Webb, who works at APG's U.S. Army Research Laboratory, mentored Christine.
"It is very rewarding to see a student learn the material so quickly, and she was able to grasp the majority of the work independently," Webb said.
Christine's project dealt with the analysis of the effects of bin width on the estimation of the dispersion of the M1028. She used computational science to gather her data. She plans to attend the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey, where she received a full scholarship to study computer science.
"We are the first class at SMA, the 'guinea pig class,' and so the teachers tested a lot of ideas with us, and changed some of the program as we went along," Christine said. "I am glad that I went to SMA. It was nice going to a small school where we got individual attention."
During the celebration program that followed, parents, students, teachers, mentors and special guests dined on food catered by Tidewater Grille. Later that evening, awards were given out in the Aberdeen High School auditorium, celebrating the students' academic achievements.
For more information about the academic program, consult the SMA Web site, www.scienceandmathacademy.com.
Four inaugural annual awards were presented to outstanding SMA seniors:
Aca,!Ac The C. Warren Mullins Award for leadership potential was awarded to Vikesh Patel.
Aca,!Ac The Robert L. Johnson Awards, named for the Army Alliance treasurer and former Aberdeen Proving Ground civilian leader, named for perseverance and problem solving was presented to Alyssa Ramirez.
Aca,!Ac The Dr. Bill Richardson award for creative vision went to Emmalyn Landbeck.
Aca,!Ac The Donna Clem award for spirit and purpose for SMA was awarded to Michelle Guignet.