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February 2012

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

Students Participate in Pre-College Fair at Conference for Black Engineers

Fifteen of our top math and science students went to the Philadelphia convention center to participation in the 2012 BEYA conference. In addition to a college and career fair where students learned about hi-tech jobs and the paths to get there, they also participated in two breakout sessions to explore an area of STEM in greater depth. First, students learned about information technology and security from a technology security specialist at the CIA. Then, they learned about how companies are creating and using custom-made video games designed to train air craft carrier staffers on all aspects of operating the ship.

Here are some of the students learning about robots used by the army to detect and disarm IEDs (improvised explosive devices):

Students Present Research Findings at PJAS Region 1C Competition at Bensalem High School

On Saturday, February 25, eight sophomores and freshmen presented the findings from their independent science investigations at a showcase sponsored by the Pennsylvania Junior Academy of Science (PJAS). The PJAS Region 1C fair is an annual event that provides students with opportunities to investigate scientific topics of their choosing and compete for awards. This year’s fair was held at Bensalem High School and included students from schools like Central High, Science Leadership Academy, Council Rock, Baldi Middle, and Springside.

One sophomore, Joziah Green, earned a first place award and the opportunity to participate in the state fair in May, which is held annually at Pennsylvania State University. This is the second straight year that Joziah has earned a first place award at PJAS. Read a description of Joziah's project below.

The purpose of my research is to study the effects of too many calories or too few calories have on a fruit fly's lifespan. By doing this I can consider the effects on more complex organisms and find out a way to find a solution to America's obesity and anorexia conflicts. I cultured fruit flies and fed the cultures different amounts of food for different amounts of calories. I was able to do multiple experiments in sync because of how the fruit flies reproduced. I found that the flies died faster and had less offspring with more calories.

Congratulations to the students to participated in the fair.

Chief Pathologist at Penn Speaks about Study of Diseases 

On Thursday, February 23, Boy’s Latin was honored to have Dr. David Roth, chair of the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine’s Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, as part of the monthly Science Speaker Series. Dr. Roth presented to Ms. Galib’s 7th period class and other select students from other grades and classes.

Dr. Roth gave an inspirational talk about the history of pathology, as well as how to prepare for a career in pathology. Pathology is the study of disease. He also dispelled the myth that pathologists are anti-social by underscoring the fact that often times pathologists will look at specimens through a 20-person microscope.

Dr. Roth studied biochemistry as an undergraduate at Rice University and went on to earn both his MD and PhD degrees at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. Dr. Roth has worked in labs at Baylor, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, NYU School of Medicine, and the University of Pennsylvania. Boys’ Latin thanks Dr. Roth for taking the time to speak to us!

Students who are interested in attending the monthly speaker series should contact a science teacher.

Seniors in Physics Design Roller Coasters

The physics students are really kicking it into high gear during the final stretch of the second trimester! Over the course of several weeks, they are working on designing and experimenting upon roller coasters of their own making. Here's one of the works in progress:

The purpose of this project is to explore the principles involved with energy. Already, students have explored 2 types of energy - potential and kinetic - and have learned about how energy transfers between the two. Now, they'll be using those principles to predict the speed of their roller coasters at various points along their tracks and discover new forms of energy. They'll use this knowledge along with findings from experiments they conduct on their own to improve their roller coasters' design and make them as exciting and as possible. Look forward to viewing the finished products in March.

Energy Management Specialist for the City of Philadelphia Speaks to Ms. Galib's Bio/Chem Students

On Tuesday, the 14th of February, Ms. Carol Rosenfeld, currently an Energy Management Specialist for the City of Philadelphia, in the Mayor's Office of Transportation and Utilities, and Princeton University undergrad (Go Tigers!), spoke to Ms. Galib’s 5th period class. Ms. Rosenfeld’s primary focus is getting the City of Philadelphia to reduce how much energy it uses, by analyzing which buildings use the most energy, and in what form (steam, electrical, etc). Using a very interactive presentation, complete with Slinkies, Ms. Rosenfeld spoke about how the electric “grid” works—and how energy travels from a power plant to our homes. Further, Ms. Rosenfeld showed students a graph of peak times of energy use—what sources of energy are used, and at what time of day—and spoke with students on how they can reduce their energy use by turning off the lights, using shades to control the amount of sunlight in a home, and turning off electrical appliances that are not in use. Students asked Ms. Rosenfeld excellent questions relating to solar panel use, as well as questions on how to build an energy-efficient city. Boys’ Latin thanks Ms. Rosenfeld for taking the time to speak to us!

Robotics Team Competes in Philadelphia City Qualifying Tournament

On Saturday, February 4, the Boys' Latin robotics team, Deus ex Machina, competed in a local qualifying tournament at West Philadelphia High School. The top 7 teams, along with the team who won the Engineering Notebook award, would go to the State Championship to qualify for Nationals in St. Louis. There were 18 different teams involved in the qualifier, and the competition was fierce. 

Deus Ex Machina made a great run at the competition coming in 13th place, scoring almost 200 points altogether in competition. This was a great achievement, seeing that the team never competed with the robot before, and beating 6 other teams was great. Three members from the team also went to the judges room, where they were interviewed by three judges about the team and their journey throughout the year. The team had a chance to present themselves, as well as the Engineering Notebook to the judges.

FIRST Tech Challenge is designed for students who want to compete head to head. Teams of up to 10 students are responsible for designing, building, and programming their robots to compete in an alliance format against other teams. The robot is programmed using a variety of languages that students can learn. Teams, including coaches, mentors and volunteers, are required to develop strategy and build robots based on sound engineering principles. Awards are given for the competition as for well as for community outreach, design, and other real-world accomplishments. This video shows this year's challenge.

The team had a lot of experiences with other teams, as well as gained a lot of knowledge towards coming to competitions, and planning robot design for the team next year.

Ms. DeChant Participates in NSTA Fellows Program

As a New Science Teacher Academy Fellow with the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA), Ms. DeChant is conducting a year-long professional development program designed specifically for science teachers. She learns about strategies and techniques for teaching science, collaborates with a community of veteran and new science teachers to build knowledge and skills, and works 
closely with a 20+ year veteran teacher of physics for targeted guidance on a number of teaching issues. 

In March, she will participate in the annual NSTA conference where she will attend talks and further collaborate with other science teachers to hone her practice.

Bio/Chem Honors Students Propose Nanobot Designs to Address Greenhouse Gases

Students in Mr. Smith's honors introduction to biology and chemistry course wrapped up a unit on biogeochemical cycles with a look at an exciting, emerging field of scientific research: nanotechnology. 
Students were asked to create a hypothetical nanobot design that can address the proliferation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. 

Managing Microscopes

Students practice using microscopes before starting a unit on microbes.