Aberdeen High's SMA Class of 2017 shows their Capstone projects Tuesday

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Aberdeen High School senior Daniel Collins, of Bel Air, researched how the City of Aberdeen could make its trash pickup routes more efficient.

Matthew Abramson, of Aberdeen, worked with the Army Research Lab on materials to make soldier body armor more effective.

Kristen Twigg, of Fallston, built the remote-controlled Robo Raven II to study how airspeed affects the amount of power consumed by a "flapping wing aerial vehicle."

These projects were among the 42 capstone projects on display in the AHS cafeteria Tuesday for the annual gallery walk of the senior projects completed by students graduating from the school's Science and Mathematics Academy magnet program.

"It was really fun," Matthew Abramson, 17, said of his project, which involved working with staff at the Army Research Lab at Aberdeen Proving Ground.

"It was an experience that I think really shaped what I'm going to look into in college," he continued. "It shaped my major, some of my interests."

Matthew plans to study mechanical engineering at University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

He studied ways to improve military body armor, which has been a topic for past capstone projects. Matthew noted prior testing of ceramic body armor has shown plates made with boron mixed with silica is "one of the better ceramics they had tested."

Matthew said he was "diving into that further" with his project, to learn more about silica's impact on the armor plates.

"We're saying that if a ceramic is made with silica infused inside of it, it has a better chance of standing up to a bullet," he explained.

The four-year SMA program, which started in 2004, is open to high school students throughout Harford County and is considered one of Harford County Schools' signature programs.

Seniors spend their final year working with a mentor in a math- or science-related field to complete their capstone projects. The projects were on display for the public Tuesday during the gallery walk.

Ann Bizzano, a resident of Bel Air who has mentored SMA students in the past, attended Tuesday's event to see this year's capstone projects. Bizzano, a stay-at-home mother, mentored SMA students when she worked as a physical therapist.

"I've been impressed with what they're able to do," Bizzano said. "They do so much hard work, and it shows."

She checked out Kristen Twigg's Robo Raven II. Twigg, 18, was telling Bizzano how much she learned about aerospace through her project.

"[The knowledge] didn't stay in the lab, she's actually able to do this here [through school], which is cool," Bizzano said.

Twigg said she collected data about the drone's airspeed and power use, and she later processed and analyzed the data. She worked with staffers at the Army Research Lab; they launched the drone from APG's turf field and the roof of a building.

The Robo Raven II's wings are made from Mylar plastic, and the frame is carbon fiber. Some of the smaller components were made using a 3-D printer, Twigg said.

The remote-controlled craft is powered by a battery, she said.

The ARL and the University of Maryland have experimented with other versions of the Robo Raven to develop an unmanned aerial system that mimics a bird in flight, Defense Systems, a publication that covers developments in military technology, reported in 2015.

"This definitely helped me understand aerodynamics a lot better," Twigg said of her project.

She plans to study mechanical engineering and computer science at the University of Maryland, College Park.

Twigg praised the SMA program and its instructors for preparing her for college-level work, and she noted the close relationships that develop among students in the program.

"It gives students a chance to bond with other people," she said. "You become really close over the course of four years."

Daniel Collins, 18, worked with Jason Kolligs on his project. Kolligs, who has mentored SMA seniors in the past, works for The MITRE Corporation, one of many Harford County defense contractors.

MITRE is a non-profit entity that operates federally-funded research and development centers around the country to help the federal government with research, analysis, development, acquisition and systems engineering and integration, according to its website.

The organization also has an independent research program for research on matters that affect multiple segments of society, in areas such as cybersecurity, health care and communications. There is a MITRE facility in Aberdeen.

"We're looking to reduce costs to the city by finding better routes for garbage and recycling trucks through Aberdeen," Daniel said, describing his project. "We're thinking about fuel costs and overall trying to save the city money."

He studied the number of houses along the Department of Public Works routes, along with the speed limits and distance of each route.

He plans to give a spreadsheet with his data to the Aberdeen City Council, to see "if they can use it as a starting-off point for rezoning Aberdeen's trash services," noting new residential development in the city recently.

Collins plans to study systems engineering at the University of Virginia.

He discussed his project with visitor Nichole King, of Churchville. King said she has a son who will join the SMA program next year as a freshman.

She noted the gallery walk is a chance for seniors to demonstrate their projects, "which is exciting, getting to see the end result of what my incoming freshman will experience."

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