STEM Week 2023
Welcome to STEM Week at Solebury School, a time when we celebrate the exciting fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. This is not your typical week - it’s an exciting journey that deepens our students’ understanding of these important subjects and motivates them to explore careers in STEM. This annual event showcases the teamwork between our math and science departments, featuring a wide range of interesting events, hands-on activities, and enlightening presentations from guest speakers.
Jamie Pfister, Training Coordinator at NOVA (Network of Victim Assistance)
Monday morning kicked off with a presentation by Jamie Pfister from NOVA, the first and only rape crisis center in Bucks County. NOVA provides various programs to meet individual needs including, but not limited to, a 24-7 victim helpline, forensic exams in area hospitals, forensic interviews for children who have been sexually or physically abused, trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy, and legal advocacy and support through the justice system. Jamie’s role at NOVA as the Training Coordinator is focused on prevention, education, and training. During Jamie’s presentation, she explained the role of a forensic nurse and how they, along with the NOVA staff, assist victims of sexual violence throughout their recovery journey. She also highlighted the resources available to Solebury School students and how they can be utilized.
CJ Myra, CPA and Senior Director of Tax and Treasury at PowerSchool
CJ is a CPA and Senior Director of Tax and Treasury at PowerSchool–a company building “Personalized Education for Every Journey.” PowerSchool develops cloud-based educational software to help educators, administrators, and families support their students' learning needs. CJ presented an interactive session to help students learn about CPAs (Certified Public Accountants) and the different roles in the accounting field. CJ shared his career path from H&R Block to his current role at PowerSchool before breaking the students into groups to play a game. Each team member was assigned a different role (spokesperson, income and expense tracker, results person, and banker) and tasks to manage the team’s money. Teams started the game with equal amounts of fake money and tracker sheets. They had to answer trivia questions to earn additional income, but incorrect answers resulted in lost money. Some of the questions included educational hours and certification requirements to become CPAs. At the end of the game, the teams had to calculate their income and expenses to pay taxes based on their earnings. CJ wrapped up the session with candy bar treats for everyone.
Michael Knapp, Beekeeper & Bridge Teacher
Michael Knapp was back with the bee's knees this year! Michael dove deeper into the crucial role of honey bees as mutualistic beings in our ecosystem. He explained the process by which bees use pheromones and a “little dance” to communicate which area has the best pollen and the direction of potential threats. Michael shared that honey bees are not aggressive by nature and will only sting in defense and detailed how bees prepare for the winter season. Bees produce wax from glands on their belly. Each bee only makes a very small amount, but after each adds it to all the others, it creates the wax combs. This is where the bees walk, honey is stored, and where the queen lays eggs. The bees eat honey over the winter to survive and it becomes a form of carbohydrate for them while pollen is a source of protein. In the spring, the colony must go and create a new batch of honey to last for the following winter. Lastly, students had the opportunity to put on the protective beekeeper gear and hold some of the honey frames.
Dr. Carly Gossard, PT, DPT, OCS, PRPC
Dr. Carly spoke of her journey from Physical Therapist to Pelvic Health Specialist and the important role of the pelvic floor muscles in everyday health. Dr. Gossard explained that weak or overtaxed pelvic muscles can lead to issues like incontinence, constipation, chronic infections, and hip/back pain.
Carrie Magee Sargeant P’26 ’27, Forestry
Carrie Sargeant began her forestry journey at the University of Wisconsin where she studied abroad at Earth University in Costa Rica for a semester. After returning and earning her bachelor's degree, Carrie went to Uganda to join the Peace Corps for two years. During the expedition, Carrie worked to expand long seedling nurseries, fodder for animals, and bring in eco-tourism while learning under the first African Nobel Peace Prize winner, Wangari Maathai. She explained forestry to be the science and practice of stewarding communities of trees and their components to meet the social, economic, and environmental needs of today without compromising the quality and availability of the resource for future generations. Collaborative, community-based forest management is about listening to and working with the people who live, work, play, and learn amongst trees and forests every day. After discussing her story and the general overview of forestry, Carrie showed a video about the Kalinzu Forest Reserve in western Uganda. It was made by Byamukama Lawrence, a Forest Guide and Educator who lives adjacent to the forest and works on the conservation of the Kalinzu Forest Reserve and the valuable wildlife that depends on it. He taught about the medicinal uses of the trees and the creation of local nurseries to grow the needed trees outside of the forest reserve. He also showed us the various local uses such as pit sawing for lumber, gathering of wood for cooking, and charcoal production. It is important to invest in people to conserve and manage the world’s forest resources today for tomorrow.
David Hunt P’21 ’26, Software
In his presentation "How software is made in the real world," David Hunt told the students that no matter what career they end up choosing, they will likely have interaction with a software development team at some point (if they aren't developers themselves). He gave an overview of how the software development process has changed since it began in the 1970s. Then it was a "waterfall" approach where tons of time was spent researching and documenting a huge project. This long time horizon often ended up with failed projects because things changed for what was needed from the product but the process had no way to adapt to the changes. In the early 2000s, the Agile model of software development evolved to do projects in smaller pieces that could be completed in much shorter timeframes and therefore be more adaptive to changing needs. Now that technology is a part of just about every aspect of our lives, every industry needs software development in some form (hence, his original message). David is currently working on a generative AI program that helps data entry workers avoid mistakes by looking at what they're doing and pointing out potentially missing pieces of information.
Kerian Bray, Master Aesthetician
Kerian is the owner of Skin ‘n Tonic, located in New Hope, PA. She joined the class to talk about skincare and potential problems when the skin is not treated properly or is subject to products that are not compatible with it. Kerian is an internationally trained spa professional with an extensive background in skincare education who has been working with skin for more than 40 years. Kerian explained the three layers of skin (epidermis, dermis, subcutaneous tissue) and the importance of keeping the skin properly cleaned and hydrated. “Don’t believe what you see on the computer or the internet because most of it is not true,” she told the student as she referred to blemish-free, perfect faces displayed in marketing ads, posed shots, and candids. Kerian continued with the science of skin layers and how each depends on the other to function properly. She illustrated how blackheads and pimples were formed and shared the dos and don’ts of how to prevent and treat them. She also shared tips on product selection and telling when facial cleansers are stripping the skin. Students learned about choosing the right textures in exfoliation products, the difference between three oil categories (oily, normal, and dry) and humectants, and pricing related to product effectiveness. Finally, she shared recommendations when developing a skin care regimen.
Marcus Wigler P’24 ’26, Police Officer
Officer Marcus Wigler is a member of the Northampton Township Police Department Traffic Safety Unit and spoke about Crash Reconstruction. There are four members in his unit and they get called in the case of serious or fatal crashes. It’s a science, and because of that most cases are solved, but it also has an emotional element for them, because they’re able to give some closure to grieving families. Everything about crash reconstruction is based on science and math; think about speed limits on roads, “black radar box” information in newer cars, and speed calculations from a skid mark or an ABS mark. These tire marks can give a minimum or actual speed of a vehicle at the time of a crash. Officer Marcus then discussed what the Traffic Safety Unit does, besides reconstructing serious and fatal crashes. His unit does traffic surveys, and traffic enforcement, assists patrol officers with crashes, approves all crash reports, and educates the public by going to libraries and schools.
Levi Dahlstrom, Apple Coding Software Developer
Levi presented virtually to multiple classes on Tuesday morning. He discussed his career path as a developer and some of the most important things he’s learned along the way. He’s created apps, worked on various video games, and IT support programs. Among the many things he’s learned, he shared insight about the developing languages that he’s worked with, his thoughts on how to make a resume stand out in the industry, and the importance of being able to work effectively on a team. Additionally, he took the time to answer thoughtfully constructed questions. Levi was inspired to get into the industry when he created his own app after being frustrated with what at the time, was a lackluster solution to opening and reading PDFs.
Philip Doerle, Pre Formula 1 Racer
At the age of five, Phil’s father placed him into a Quarter Midget race car for dirt tracks. By the age of ten, Phil moved onto hydroplanes otherwise known as speedboats. Hydroplanes are fascinating, as they are designed like a wing to float above the water on a cushion of air with minimal drag and optimal speed. “The sport relies on the principles of engineering, physics, aerodynamics, and a little bit of courage,” said Phil. Recently Phil’s family inspired him to race Pre Formula 1 Karts. It is physically and technically challenging but an incredible experience for him. When racing, Phil discussed the need to be mentally present by not allowing outside distractions to hinder your ability to race at high speeds. As Phil discussed a multitude of functions of his engine, tires, brakes, and design with the students, he noticed their curiosity for racing was immense and felt the need to leave the students with a few words of encouragement. “My hope for everyone is that they remain fearless in everything they do and don't worry about trying and failing at any age, just keep trying. At sixty one I'm a rookie again.” Phil ended his presentation by giving the students a look at what his Pre Formula 1 race car could do by test-driving it up and back through campus.
Dr. Erin Saltzman P’25, Endocrinologist
Dr. Erin Saltzman gave a presentation on the science of obesity. She explained that this health disorder is often not a simple matter of calories in vs. calories burned, but a complex interplay of biopsychosocial factors including hormonal imbalance, a disordered relationship with food, and one’s culture. Dr. Saltzman discussed current treatments for obesity, including surgery and weight loss medications used under a doctor’s supervision.
Ariel Warszawski P'24, Life in Finance
Ariel provided a tremendous opportunity for students to hear his story and how taking the path less traveled helped shape him into the successful entrepreneur he is today. After successful forays into strategic consulting and investment management, he's currently considering his third endeavor and has stories and practical advice to share with our students. Ariel's presentation included incorporating self-reflection into choosing the career path that's right for you and the importance of persistence in growing the career that you desire. Students engaged in a sample interview brain teaser that Ariel has used in hiring that's designed to assess thought processes and logic over accuracy.
Courtney Douds, Birds of Prey
Courtney Douds came into STEM week to speak about falconry and brought a red-tail hawk and an owl. She explained that Red-tailed Hawks are fairly common in the Northeast region, having strong feet, curved bodies, and are primarily carnivores. Courtney proceeded to bring out the front half of a deceased squirrel for the hawk to eat while she continued to discuss the intricate details of the animal. She explained the process of molting (losing all their feathers). Students learned that a pair of hawks with red tails are more likely to be mated together, while a young pair with brown tails are most likely siblings. Lastly, female hawks tend to be bigger to protect the nest while male hawks tend to be smaller to hunt. Once Courtney brought out her owl, the students’ engagement skyrocketed as the cuteness of the bird caught everyone by storm. She went on to describe that owls understand their surroundings through sound more so than eyesight. According to Courtney, owls can triangulate from the sound hitting their ears to figure out exactly where the noise came from. She then discussed when owls are nervous they stretch tall and pointy to act as one with nature and become. Of course, the infamous question, “Can owls turn their head 360 degrees” came up. The short answer from Courtney was no, humans have 7 vertebrae in the neck that give us the ability to turn about 90 degrees, while owls/birds have 14 vertebrae giving them access to about 270 degrees of rotation.
Remington Scott, Founder, CEO, and Chief Architect of Hyperreal
Remington Scott joined the Solebury community for a presentation about generative AI. Remington is the Founder, CEO, and Chief Architect of Hyperreal which uses digital twins that actors can hire out for films or performances. While digital twins have been used by studios for years, Remington is creating these for the talent who will own the rights. He is also known for his work in a multitude of different media, including Spider-Man 2, Gollum in Lord of the Rings, and Call of Duty. Remington discussed how he and others created a sphere that has flashing cameras when set off at the same time and creates the closest illusion to humans we have seen in media to date. The work Remington does with Hyperreal includes three spectrums of individuals. First is Gemini, for stars like Madison Beer who his company works with to create music videos and other synthetic characteristics. Second is Fountain, for artists like Paul McCartney who are trying to make a comeback but need to be younger to travel and tour. His company can bring him back to his youth and use his voice to help promote him globally. Lastly is Phoenix, where he works with deceased artists' estates, management, and families to create the most authentic version of people like Biggie Smalls. Towards the end of Remington’s presentation, students raised concerns about ethics, the writer's protest in Hollywood, and general human worth post-AI integration into our jobs, art, and daily lives. Remington assured the students that his work is all about giving individual entertainers back the ownership of their likenesses and only creating with their consent. There are tons of companies that are using artists' faces, voices, and language for their benefit without paying for the rights to do so, and it is a travesty. However, the use of generative AI is not going away, so Remington would like to be a safe place for artists of any media to work with his business knowing their individualism will be intact and they will obtain monetary value throughout the process.
Rishabh Kancherla ’19, Analytical Chemist at Ingredion
Rishabh graduated from Ursinus College with a BS in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and now works as an analytical chemist at Ingredion, a leading global ingredients solutions company. They make sweeteners, starches, nutrition ingredients, and biomaterials that are used by customers in everyday products from foods and beverages to paper and pharmaceuticals. Rishabh explained how, as part of the Research and Development team, he uses instruments such as ultra-high-performance liquid chromatography, UV-Vis, gas chromatography, and many other techniques to analyze samples. He is currently working on a stevia project and brought samples of drinks sweetened with sugar, stevia, and a texturizing product for students to try. Rishabh shared with the students what it takes to be a research chemist and what his day typically looks like.
Diane Smith, Bucks County Audubon Society
Diane Smith, Director of Education at the Bucks County Audubon Society, joined Solebury for STEM Week and brought with her educational reptiles and amphibians for an amazing interactive classroom experience: a tree frog, an eastern box turtle, an aquatic turtle, a bearded dragon, a corn snake, as well as two different types of turtle shells. Diane allowed students to hold them while asking the students questions and explaining their specific characteristics and their important role in the ecosystem. The students were very engaged and asked Diane lots of great questions. By allowing the students to hold the frog, snake, bearded dragon, and turtles, students were able to get a sense of not only their physical characteristics but their personalities, too.
Ben Pritzker ’22, EMT and Surgical Veterinary Nurse
A self-described anatomy nerd, Ben has always been fascinated by medicine. As a surgical veterinary nurse at Califon Animal Hospital in New Jersey, it is the applied physiology and anatomy that excites him about the job. Ben shared x-rays of various animals and walked students through the abnormalities shown, helping them understand how to read imaging. He talked about the medications used in surgery, how each is administered, and what the effects are. Ben recently completed his national EMT certification and shared the four levels of Emergency Medical Services: Emergency Medical Responder (EMR), Emergency Medical Technician (EMT), Advanced Emergency Medical Technician (AEMT), and Paramedic. He ended his talk with an overview of pharmacology.
Justin Botts P’25, Pilot
Retired Pilot Justin Botts joined us in the PAC Friday morning to discuss his life as a commercial and Air Force Pilot. He piloted for 24 years and visited 79 countries such as England, Kuwait, and Iraq. Justin flew commercial 767 and 757 aircrafts but in the Air Force, he flew C-17 planes to Afghanistan that were big enough to fit a helicopter and could refuel mid-flight. Justin discussed the harsh but rewarding life as an air pilot, missing family events, and 12 to 16-hour work days. However, the rewards come with family trips to Honolulu, sightseeing and even gaining a brief amount of Spanish-speaking ability. Justin explained to the students that to get into flying planes you must have a degree in some sort of math or science due to the amount of technical work you will have to do as a pilot. Justin ended the presentation by letting students come up and try on his equipment from his piloting days.
Julia Wigler ’26, Solebury School Sophomore
Julia Wigler ‘26 led classmates in an upcycled arts & crafts presentation, in which students created “gratitude jars” from plastic bottles and donated craft items including paint, tissue paper, ribbon, gems, and decorative trim. Gratitude jars will be placed in various locations throughout campus where passersby will be encouraged to leave a note of thanks, gratitude, or encouragement.
Every year, Solebury School comes together for a school-wide event on the final day of STEM Week. Spearheaded by Kim Johnson and the SEAC club, granted the students the ability to attend and host activities for the day. Some of the workshops were mushroom info and spore prints, tree planting, eco-bricks, making a compost bin, renewable energy activity, environmental justice and food insecurity, pickling, trail clearing, and cleaning up the rain garden. Each group had a SEAC member to help.
Thank you to all presenters, faculty, and staff who had a hand in this year's STEM week.