STEM Week 2017
October 23-27, 2017
Solebury School's 3rd annual week of celebrating Science, Math, Technology and Engineering was designed not only to engage all students in these subjects, but to inspire serious thinking about potential future career paths. Guest speakers shared what they do and why they love their work, the skills and degrees required, and the career possibilities within their fields of interest.
Our Honors Environmental Science class hosted three experts to discuss climate change and how it's changing our weather patterns: Dr. Andra Garner, NSF Earth Sciences Postdoctoral Fellow at Rutgers University (shown middle); Dr. Greg Garner, an associate research scholar at Princeton University; and Jennifer Walker (shown right), a post-grad student in the research group at Rutgers.
The trio discussed their backgrounds and education, as well as their current research, including Dr. Andra Garner's research on the changing flood risk in New York City due to tropical cyclones, storm surge, and sea level rise. Her research hit the news the day after her visit; read this Washington Post story or this story from The Atlantic for more. Dr. Greg Garner shared how learning computer programming helped inform his career and projects, including air quality forecasting. Jennifer Walker explained how she has used sediment archives to inform and guide wetland protection, restoration, and resilience in New Jersey.
Inspired by the vertical farm shown in this video, teacher Dr. Jen Perez challenged students to construct steady "food skyscrapers" using graham crackers and cake icing. To earn more crackers, each group of students had to correctly answer questions about architecture.
Shown in the photo: the winners with the tallest food skyscraper!
Later that morning, we offered a screening of the National Geographic show “The Science of Stupid.” The show features amateur scientists going head-to-head as they test scientific principles like torque, gravity, and Newton's laws. As the amateur scientists learn the hard way, if you try and break the laws of science, the laws will break you. It's the "science of stupid."
And finally, virtual reality producer/director Remington Scott visited our Engineering and Digital Filmmaking classes. A 25-year veteran in computer graphic imagery, Remington has worked on everything from the video games Mortal Kombat and Call of Duty to the Lord of the Rings trilogy. He talked about the field and evolution of VR and answered questions about the future of the medium. He also showed them a preview of his next project and then gave them a demo of VR.
In the photo, our Swiss exchange student Jasmijn wore VR goggles and toured an exact replica of the Oval Office!
Solebury School alum Sam Faulkner '11 returned to campus for STEM Week. Sam is now an RN working in the ER at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and spoke to Cari Nelson's Anatomy class about the field of nursing. (Sam is one of Cari's former students.)
Why are there so many roundabout intersections in New Jersey? Because the state is home to a great number of transportation experts, like our STEM Week guest Dr. Thomas Brennan. (Roundabouts are generally safer than traditional intersections as well as cheaper, since they don't require traffic lights). Dr. Brennan is currently a faculty member at The College of New Jersey's Civil Engineering School. His research and interests include traffic operations, the development of traffic mobility performance measures, anonymous vehicle tracking (using Bluetooth and cell phone data), and infrastructure asset management. As he shared with students, thanks to America's aging infrastructure, transportation is a lucrative field to pursue. He also discussed the pros and cons of driverless cars, his research on GPS cell phone tracking, and much more.
Denise Vacca, from Stars on the Move Inc., brought her portable planetarium to our Athletic Center! Her presentation, “The Sky Tonight,” offered students a general overview of the current night sky -- including Tuesday's crescent moon -- astronomical events, and more. Shown in the photo: our Middle School students during their planetarium visit.
Physical therapist Dr. Gianna Bigliani, the founder of Fluid Physio, LLC, has worked with athletes of all kinds and ages to maximize performance and treat chronic conditions. She explained the types of injuries she commonly sees, what causes them, and how she works to correct them. "The body and how it works and how it can recover is amazing. I love my job," she told our students.
Solebury School is located in an area known as a hub for the pharmaceutical industry. This year, we hosted John Kulp from the Baruch S. Blumberg Institute -- a rapidly growing biotech company in nearby Doylestown, PA -- who spoke to students about drug design and discovery, and the passion and dedication of his coworkers for improving the world around them. John is a Ph.D. Associate Professor and Director of Academic Affairs for the Institute.
Solebury School's Director of Safety Jim Becker spoke to students about the science of fire and fire prevention. Prior to working at Solebury, Jim was a Navy fire chief and fire investigator for decades. After the lesson, he brought students outside (in a highly controlled environment) for a demonstration, setting a small fire and teaching them how to use a fire extinguisher. Here's science teacher Sarah Lanzetta taking her turn!
Jack Murphy, a former Solebury School teacher who is currently working on a Ph.D. in Climatology at Princeton University, returned to campus to give a presentation that touched upon aspects of geology, geochemistry, paleontology, and more. "There are questions about our earth that are still unanswered, and if you choose one of these fields, you could help find those answers," he said, adding that these fields of interest are great for students who want to pursue hands-on science work that often requires travel.
Our Debate Club hosted a lunchtime debate about an issue where history and science intersect: "Are humans fundamentally different from animals?"
Later that day, all students divided into different rooms per house (Holmquist, Erskine, Lathrop, and Washburn), competing to answer correctly the same STEM questions. Holmquist won, earning points for their house!
Solebury School alum Jon Leyland '94 and Federico Ferreri (husband of alum Laura Rosko Ferreri '98) hosted a drone racing event. John and Federico are local residents and drone enthusiasts who are involved in drone photography, as well as building and flying RC airplanes. They're affiliated with Safety Third Racing, a nationally recognized FPV Drone Racing organization whose diverse community of makers and pilots in NY, NJ, PA, OH advances FPV sport through inclusive education, open innovation, and competitive racing.
Brian Herbert is a computer programmer for the social media app MeetMe based in New Hope, PA. The app matches up people of similar interests platonically. Brian described the Calculus techniques he uses to write more efficient programs, and shared how math skills are applied in app development and game coding and are used to solve real-world problems, such as how to package Amazon's shipments most efficiently to save money. "There is some really high-level math going on behind the targeted advertisements you see online, too," he added, reiterating that these skills can be used in various modern career paths.
Jason Winwood of the Universal Technical Institute spoke to our Physics and Engineering 1 classes about the physics and math involved in NASCAR racing to allow cars to hit top speed on the track, as well as how the technology used in everyday cars has grown rapidly in recent years. "If you're the type of student who likes to take things apart and put them back together, automotive technology might a field for you," he said, adding that his institute offers a 51-week program that leaves their grads ready to enter a growing industry.
ExxonMobil's central research labs are located nearby in Clinton, NJ. Robert A. Johnson, Ph.D., works there as the Section Head, Modeling and Optimization for the Process Technology Department. He spoke to students about green technology and his work in reducing the amount of carbon dioxide that's generated when electricity is processed.
In the photo, Robert had students participate in an exercise that demonstrated how difficult "carbon capture" can be.
Scott Marshall CFP, president and CEO of Bucks County's Marshall Grezlak Financial Planning, spoke to our Financial Math class about his work and the application of various branches of mathematics. His best piece of advice for our students? Learn how to make a budget and use it. "Most people don't have one," he said, explaining that nothing is more important that knowing exactly what's coming in and what's going out of your bank account. He also discussed everything from credit cards and credit card debt, 401ks, 529s, why people most commonly seek his professional advice (retirement, and saving for college), and more.
Our Physics students took a field trip to the Doylestown Airport to meet Bill Brady, father of Riley Brady '13 (who is Solebury School's director of activities). Bill showed students the airplane he constructed and explained how he created it and how it works.
The Final Event of the Week
Every year, we wrap up STEM Week with an all-school event. This year, Director of Studies Rick Tony (who also teaches math) had students, faculty, and staff create a human histogram outside, lining up in columns according to each person's height in centimeters. Rick challenged math classes to answer the following questions based on how they felt the histogram would take shape.
1. How many bins (columns) will be empty? (5 points for correct, 4 points if off by one, 3 points if off by two, etc.)
2. Which bin will be the highest? (5 points for correct, 4 points if within five, 3 points if within ten, etc.)
3. How many people will be in the highest bin? (5 points for correct, 4 points if within five, 3 points if within ten, etc.)
4. In which bin will the 90th percentile be located? (5 points for correct, 4 points if off by one, 3 points if off by two, etc.)
5. What will be the value of the Interquartile Range (the 75th percentile minus the 25th percentile)?
Dr. Jen Perez's Algebraic Concepts II class bested our AP Calculus BC class by a nose!