46 high school seniors in the Science and Mathematics Academy at Aberdeen High School celebrated the end of four years of academic rigor and sleepless nights Tuesday with a display of their senior capstone projects, followed by an awards ceremony.
For her senior capstone project, Abby Webster, 18, of Abingdon, conducted an "occupational noise exposure assessment" to determine if workers at Aberdeen Proving Ground were experiencing noise levels above those set by the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists.
Benjamin Waida, 18, of Bel Air said he and his mentor at Stanley Black & Decker, of Towson, created a controller for a "terrestrial vehicle," which could be used to "control three degrees of freedom" for the vehicle.
And Danielle Sykes, 17, of Aberdeen, worked with Rose Satz, a computer scientist at the Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center, or CERDEC, at APG, to develop a smartphone app that would alert users when they are close to crossing a street.
Abby, Benjamin and Danielle were among 46 seniors in the Science and Mathematics Academy at Aberdeen High School who celebrated the end of four years of academic rigor and sleepless nights Tuesday evening with a display of their senior capstone projects, followed by an awards ceremony.
Students in the SMA program spend their senior years working with a mentor in one of the multiple commands at Aberdeen Proving Ground, or with an area private-sector company, to research, design and test their project ideas.
The visitors then filed into the school cafeteria for the Gallery Walk, and each senior stood by his or her poster and talked about the projects.
Manuela Perez, who works at the Kirk Army Health Clinic at APG, talked with Benjamin about his project to design and build a controller for a remotely-operated vehicle. Perez had been one of several mentors who worked with Benjamin's classmate Abby.
"It's amazing what these young men and women have achieved," Perez said. "Without these opportunities, they would never be able to apply what they have learned – and can imagine."
Benjamin said the user of his device should be able to move the vehicle backward and forward, in a circle and side to side.
Benjamin said the design for the controller was created with computer-aided design, or CAD, software, which allows the designer to create a 3-D model of the prototype. He noted a decision to take an elective class in CAD was "probably the best decision I've ever made."
She said her mentors "were all very helpful and supportive, and they were great resources."
Abby said she plans to study public health science at the University of Maryland at College Park.
"I've learned a lot about the research process, which I think has prepared me very well for college, for my career," she said of her time in SMA.
Danielle said her smartphone app project grew out of the high number of deaths, including that of an Aberdeen High student, in recent years because people are using their smartphones while crossing the street or railroad tracks and they do not see oncoming traffic.
"Even though it's not a well-known issue, it's as big an issue as distracted driving," she said.
Danielle said she tested the app with her classmates, and "they had a lot of good ideas I didn't think of."
"She's smart," her mentor Satz said of Danielle. "She knew what she wanted to do, so I just guided her based on my experience."
Satz said that "this application is very timely, because we're losing a lot of lives."
Parent Ben Cachiaras, of Fallston, described the benefits of the SMA program for his 17-year-old son Andrew, who plans to study computer engineering at the University of Maryland, as well as for Andrew's classmates.
"They have the benefit of the larger school and the public school system, and yet, within that, the SMA provides a smaller, more intimate setting, so they get a lot of focused attention," said Cachiaras, a senior pastor at Mountain Christian Church in Joppa.
Cachiaras said the students have gained hands-on experience, and they have a small group, in which they can study and socialize.
"The way the science and math community at large has embraced these students is remarkable, so many people with so much time and attention for these kids, it's just really gratifying to see," he continued.
The seniors moved to the school auditorium for an awards ceremony that featured remarks from State Sen. Bob Cassilly and Harford County Board of Education member Arthur Kaff and an opportunity for each SMA senior to walk across the stage, shake hands with Aberdeen High Principal Michael O'Brien and receive a certificate and a challenge coin.
SMA alumnus Andrew Carver spoke to the seniors, trying to ease any of their concerns about college life. He urged them to surround themselves with positive people, avoid excessive alcohol consumption, always go to class and take advantage of every opportunity to try something new.
Carver, who graduated from Aberdeen High in 2011, is in his fifth year at Drexel University in Philadelphia, where he is studying materials engineering. His time in college has included paid internships with the Rome Snowboard Co. in Vermont and the electric vehicle manufacturer Tesla Motors.
Senior Andrew Wood, of Fallston, also spoke to his classmates.
"We have been tried, challenged, and tested by one of the most, if not the most difficult high school program that this county has to offer," Andrew said.
Award were presented to:
• Jonathan Baldauf, Dr. Dennis L. Kirkwood Award for Exceptional Work Ethic;
• Peter Sheu, Mr. C. Warren Mullins Award for Leadership Potential;
• Kacie Bawiec, Dr. Bill Richardson Award for Creative Vision;
• Lauren Drumm, Mrs. Donna M. Clem Award for Spirit and Purpose;
• Mitchell Roberts, Mr. Robert L. Johnson Award for Perseverance and Problem Solving;