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Aberdeen High SMA seniors mark end of high school careers with capstone project gallery walk

Forty-eight seniors in the Aberdeen High School Science and Mathematics Academy magnet program put their final Capstone projects on display for the public Tuesday.

Aberdeen High School senior Stephanie Jones took inspiration from her recovery after an ankle injury when designing her Science and Mathematics Academy capstone project, which is based on whether strength and balance training, or wearing a brace, is the better option for athletes who want to strengthen their ankles and prevent an injury.

"I really wanted to get back on my feet, and the brace was too confining," she said.

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The 17-year-old Havre de Grace resident, who plays volleyball and basketball for the Eagles and will play for the University of Maryland women's basketball team, learned through her experiments with fellow AHS athletes that there is no significant difference between strength training and wearing a brace for stabilizing one's ankle.

"As long as you incorporated balance training into daily exercise, you didn't need to wear an ankle brace," she said.

Stephanie and 47 other seniors graduating from the Science and Mathematics Academy magnet program at Aberdeen High displayed their Capstone projects in the school cafeteria Tuesday evening.

The gallery walk was open to students, family members and mentors, as well as incoming SMA students and their parents.

Barb Linz, of Forest Hill, attended with her 14-year-old daughter, Emily, who is in the eighth grade at Bel Air Middle School and has been accepted into the SMA program for her freshman year.

"It's very interesting," Emily said. "It seems like their projects had a lot of hard work."

Stephanie's older sister, Brionna, who was a standout on the Eagles' girls' basketball team and is currently a junior at Maryland and All Big Ten Terps basketball player, attended Tuesday's gallery walk.

She completed the SMA program and graduated from Aberdeen High in 2013.

"I'm just really impressed to see how much SMA has grown and the breadth of the projects," Brionna Jones said.

The SMA program is open to high school students from throughout Harford County. Seniors spend their final year in the program working with a mentor employed in a STEM-related field in the private or public sector to develop the Capstone project.

A number of SMA mentors are drawn from the various testing commands at Aberdeen Proving Ground or defense contractors with facilities in Harford County.

Senior Christian Olson, 18, of Abingdon, worked with technicians at the Army Research Laboratory at APG, testing ceramic plates for soldiers' body armor.

Christian said his project was an expansion of the study Andre Andrada, a member of the SMA Class of 2013, did for his capstone project to determine how the stiffness of a back plate, worn in the rear pocket of a body armor vest, affects the level of damage sustained by the ceramic tile in that armor plate when a round strikes it.

Christian used thinner ceramic tiles than Andrada did for his tests, and Christian's experiments showed a lower density of cracks in ceramic backed by a stiffer plate.

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"If anything, this project it was a lot of fun; it definitely strengthened my interest in engineering," said Christian, who wants a career in either aerospace or materials science.

Senior Justin Young, 18, of Bel Air, designed an autonomous robot that uses motion sensors to detect rabbits invading home gardens and then scares them away with recordings of human voices and sirens.

Four motion sensors were placed on the front, back and sides of the wheeled chassis to give the robot "a 360-degree view," said Justin, who plans to study engineering.

Justin noted he used inexpensive sensors, and they did not always detect rabbits, and could not tell the difference between rabbits and other creatures.

He stressed his robot is a prototype and would be more useful with more advanced technology.

"Future [products] could incorporate better sensors, such as a thermal-imaging camera," he said.

Alexander Usselman, 18, of Forest Hill, analyzed the "street trees" in downtown Aberdeen for "their air quality benefits, as well as their effect toward Aberdeen's overall health."

He measured the trees' dimensions, and he cataloged each species. He then entered the information into i-Tree, a U.S. Forest Service software program available online at https://www.itreetools.org, to calculate their health benefits.

Alexander determined the trees remove "large amounts" of pollutants such as ozone and carbon monoxide from the air, and they store carbon, a greenhouse gas considered a major factor in climate change.

He studied trees in the downtown and residential areas between Route 40 and the railroad tracks, or about 15 percent of the city.

"I'd predict that the total results would be around six times the amount that I collected," Alexander said, if trees in all of Aberdeen were analyzed.

The students and spectators moved to the auditorium after the gallery walk for an awards ceremony.

They also heard words of inspiration from Joseph Voskuhl, vice president of the Harford County Board of Education; Cindy Mumby, from Harford County government, who spoke for County Executive Barry Glassman; Cynthia Lince, legislative aide for County Council President Richard Slutzky; Aberdeen High Principal Michael O'Brien, plus their fellow senior, Colin Schell, and the keynote speaker, 2008 SMA graduate Adam Zviman.

Zviman, who said he grew up in Aberdeen, is in his final year of medical school at the University of Maryland.

He encouraged the seniors to befriend people who motivate them to achieve, meet people who change their perspectives on the world and to use their skills and intelligence to help their classmates in college and make the world a better place.

Sarah Voskuhl, the SMA program specialist, also paid tribute to SMA math teacher Joel Leff, a resident of Havre de Grace who has taught at Aberdeen for 31 years and is retiring at the end of this school year.

"When you go out in the community, you represent all of us, so make your parents proud, make your teachers proud, make each other proud and make yourselves proud," Voskuhl told the seniors.

Award winners

The following SMA seniors won these awards for the 2015-2016 school year:

• Dr. Bill Richardson Award for Maintaining a Creative Vision for the Future – Ananya Tripathi;

• Robert L. Johnson Award for Excelling at Perseverance and Problem Solving – Orlando Romeo;

• C. Warren Mullins Award for Demonstrating Outstanding Leadership Potential – Benjamin Wade;

• Dr. Dennis L. Kirkwood Award for Demonstrating an Exceptional Work Ethic – Matthew Patrick;

• Donna M. Clem Award for Exemplifying the Spirit and Purpose of the SMA – Brayden Freitas;

• Brian Simmons Award for Demonstrating Character and Integrity – Julia Arbutus.

Julia also earned a $200 scholarship from the Chesapeake Chapter of the American Statistical Association for the best use of statistics in a project, and Matthew created the design used for challenge coins given to seniors and their mentors.

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