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Monday, February 27, 2012

Montgomery Blair HS Science Program Extends Work Of Galileo, Newton, Einstein, Mendeleyev, Lovelace, And Some Famous Scientists As Well!


Jim Disbrow has been a Science Judge with the Junior Academy at the Washington Academy of Sciences for almost as many years as he has been a presenter at the Professional Development Institute (PDI) hosted annually by the Virginia Association of Science Teachers (www.VAST.org ). Props he lent were from his collection of PDI discrepant event props. He is currently WAS Vice President for Administration. 
 
Montgomery Blair High School (MBHS) has one of the country’s top magnet high school science programs. The MBHS Magnet Program had the 2012 Senior Research Project’s Convention and Program’s Poster Exhibit in Silver Spring, Maryland, on Thursday afternoon and evening, February 22nd. Students made presentations of their individual research projects. On display were the results of 90 research projects covering the physical sciences of astronomy, biology, chemistry, earth/geospace and physics, as well as the behavioral, computer, and social sciences.

The Junior Academy of the Washington Academy of Sciences provided 16 volunteer judges to evaluate the projects of these young scientists - and to decide which special recognitions were deserved by each. The judges spoke directly with the students, inquiring on the research and study behind their presentations. Many of the judges commented on the enthusiasm and excitement the students brought to their work. 

The students presented their research as the judges moved about the room in small groups, each group evaluating posters addressing a specific field. The judges engaged the students in a free flowing discussion of ideas and lessons learned, including how much fun they have had during their project’s unfolding process.

When the judges heard the initial presentation by a student presenting a poster on Astronomy, one judge offered the student an opportunity to review and display some additional props that had bearing on his research subject:
  • Complete facsimile of Einstein’s 1912 Manuscript on the Special Theory of Relativity (in German - with a complete robust set of equations - and with an English translation);
  • Lexicon sharing knowledge on the current status of the Millennium Prize Problems, posed in 2000. Of seven of the world’s greatest unsolved mathematical puzzles, six apply to his topic: Poincare Conjecture, Hodge Conjecture, Birch and Swinnerton-Dyer Conjecture, Yang-Mills existence and mass gap, Navier-Stokes existence and smoothness, Riemann hypothesis); and
  • A prop that demonstrates field theory via Maxwell’s Equations (rare-earth magnets that drop through a foot-long plumber’s copper pipe).
When the student came on stage to receive his recognition as the 1st Prize Winner in Astronomy, this offer was pointed out to the audience, including where to see the props.

Over 50 individual special recognition awards were made at that evening’s ceremony. Jim Disbrow, Washington Academy Vice President of Administration, made these individual awards on behalf of the Washington Academy of Sciences.

After the awards ceremony, the young scientist kept running the prop through its paces in front of a gaggle of people, using both a cow magnet and the rare-earth magnets - drawing spontaneous laughter from the amazed parents, teachers and students as he explained and they realized why it worked so far differently than they might have ever imagined. With event props demonstrating different physical realities, the student was engaged and drank from each of these three fire hoses, understanding what topologies he had in hand - and responding appropriately.

The students’ hard work was demonstrated in their presentations and response to inquiries. The judges were continually amazed at the ingenious ideas and approaches the students took, often under the guidance of professional scientists associated with local Universities, Government Laboratories, and private corporations. Those mentors present were introduced and honored by their student-proteges.

One aspect that struck every judge was each student’s personal involvement in their projects. Many students had received scholarships and internships that led directly to the hypotheses and results reported on the posters. The posters were made by the students in school facilities that supported making wonderful professional-quality posters - and they made good use of them.

The judges evaluated the research on scientific thought, creative ability, project thoroughness and clarity, and exhibit presentation. Judging the presentation on the accuracy of the science, the merit of science, and the challenges of the research along with the enthusiasm of the student made it a difficult task for all. In line with the non-competitiveness of science poster exhibits, each participant received an award suitable for inclusion in their college applications. However, after much deliberation and reevaluation by the judges, 50 projects received special recognition.

It was good to see that science and technology exploration is in the hands of qualified and enthusiastic young scientists. At the awards ceremony, the keynote speaker was an MBHS graduate (a participant of this same poster presentation event 6 years prior) told his story about what he had experienced in higher learning since he had graduated from high school, where he was now in his career, and, based on the lessons he has learned, encouraged the students on making the most of their futures. He gave some very insightful comments to these students whose paths are still open.

The Washington Academy of Science provided formal certificates to each student in appreciation of allowing us to be a part of their experience, with the hope that each of the students will continue with their enthusiasm and interests in Science, Technology, Reading, Engineering, Art and Mathematics (STREAM) - wherever the currents take them. 

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