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December 2011

Check out the updates below to find out what students and staff have been up to in the science department!

How's That Made?: Students Visit Union Packaging Facility

On Wednesday, December 7, twenty students visited the Union Packaging company, a major paperboard packaging manufacturer in the Philadelphia region. The trip was part of the monthly Boys' Latin Science Excursions program.

As part of the trip, students learned more about the engineering and science behind a factory that prints, cuts, and ships a variety of packaging materials that are used by multinational corporations like Burger King and Frito-Lay. Specifically, the facility specializes in the creation of folding cartons, clamshells, and nested cartons. Students took a behind-the-scenes look at each process used to create high-quality products using a combination of worker skill and mechanical engineering.

Students also met the company's founder and CEO. They talked about the economics of running a major business. Students also asked questions about environmental policies as they relate to the operation of a manufacturing facility, energy usage in a factory, safety in the workplace, and the kinds of skills needed at various levels in an industrial setting.

The trip was facilitated by Mr. Mel Payne at the Philadelphia Math + Science Coalition. Union Packaging is a certified African-American owned Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) with the Minority Supplier Development Council of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Department of General Services.

Newton is Next in Physics

The seniors really started to take charge of their own learning in December! After deriving an initial scientific model for Newton's Second Law (relating force, mass and acceleration), the young men began to ask their own questions about the way objects will move. We then set up experiments as a class to answer those questions, which uncovered a deeper understanding of the way force, mass, and acceleration interact. Then, the real challenge began! Students started to solve real-world problems to predict the way an object would move based on its mass and all the forces acting upon it. They then used their conceptual understanding of Newton's Laws to develop a cheat guide for several levels of the mobile app game, "Cut the Rope." 

Engineering Graduate Students from Princeton Speak About Lasers and Infrared Technology

On Thursday, December 8, Mr. Pierre Bouzi and Mr. Sabbir Liakat visited Boys' Latin for the monthly Science Speaker Series. Mr. Bouzi and Mr. Liakat are both graduate students in the Department of Engineering at Princeton University.

Students from University City High School also visited the school to participate in the event. 

Mr. Bouzi grew up in Jacmel, Haiti, and has an associate degree in computer science and bachelor and master's degrees in electrical engineering from City College of New York. Mr. Liakat pursued an electrical engineering degree due to his genuine interest in how things work, a desire that he has had since childhood.

The guests spoke about their work on the design of quantum cascade lasers (QCLs) for use in detecting and quantifying trace levels of gas and for addressing health and environmental challenges. QCLs emit light in the infrared portion of the electromagnetic spectrum. Their work is part of the Mid-Infrared Technologies for Health and the Environment (MIRTHE) center, a major National Science Foundation-funded research consortium based at Princeton.

At the end of the talk, students were able to take photos using an infrared camera.

The Science Speaker Series is inspired by traditional guest lectures that occur at universities throughout the world and the high-energy TED talks popularized in recent years.

Sophomore Alec Stith Wins Math and Science Video Contest

Representatives from Apple, Inc., the Philadelphia Math + Science Coalition, the Science Cheerleaders, and the Philadelphia Phillies came to Boys' Latin on Friday, December 9, to congratulate sophomore student Alec Stith on winning a city-wide video competition.
The challenge for the students entering the competition was to create a video that addressed the question, "Why is math and/or science important in your life?" All of the videos were uploaded to YouTube and were submitted to a public vote. Alec's video was among the top three videos to make it to the semi-final round. The final winner was selected by a panel of judges from Apple, Inc. Alec's video was based on the idea that advances in science and technology have changed the way we are able to communicate with others.

A special "science pep rally" was held in Alec's honor. Representatives from the Phillies gave out prizes to the students who attended. In addition, cheerleaders from Drexel University, LaSalle University, and the Science Cheerleaders were on hand to support the celebration.

Alec received $100 in iTunes gift certificates and a field trip with his peers to tour of Jill Scott's professional recording studio. Alec's teacher, Mr. Smith, also won $250 in classroom funds from Staples, and Dr. Tennant received a signed John Legend CD. A special thanks also went out to Mr. Hasty for promoting the contest in his technology classes at Boys' Latin and for ensuring that the largest number of student entries came from Boys' Latin. Students and Mr. Hardy visited Jill Scott's recording studio on Tuesday, December 13.

Thank you to Fran Andrews and the Philadelphia Math + Science Coalition for coordinating this event. 

Family Members Participate in Workshop on Creating a Scientific Investigation

On Monday, December 19, family members of Boys' Latin students visited room 303 to learn about the process of creating a science experiment. The workshop was for parents and guardians who wanted more information about the independent science investigations being undertaken by students in the Introduction to Biology and Chemistry classes.

Mr. Smith and Ms. Galib were on hand to answer questions about specific student projects and also led family members through an example of a project. As part of the workshop, participants discussed possible challenges and opportunities associated with creating the projects.

Once complete, students will share the findings of their experiments at the second-annual Science Symposium, on Wednesday, March 14.

Honors Students Begin Blogging About Science

Students in the Honors Introduction to Biology and Chemistry class are taking their science investigations public by blogging. Students are keeping online journals of their progress and invite others to comment on their work. Check out some of their projects and let them know what you think!

Parts Per...Billion

Students experimented with serial dilutions to create a solution that contained 1 part per billion of food coloring.