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May 2012

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

Cube Odyssey Visits Boys' Latin, Students Engage in Conversations and Blogging about 3D Printing

On Monday, May 7, the Cube Odyssey team visited the Boys' Latin parking lot to engage students in conversations about the possibilities presented by 3D printing. The Cube Odyssey, sponsored by 3D Systems, is a two-month road trip that includes four drivers, five printers, and one car and showcases the potential of 3D printing. The team parked outside the school, and student groups took turns visiting the mobile printing station.

3D printing--the process of creating an actual object in three dimensions using a printer that moves along an X, Y, and Z axis--has been around since the 1980s. Recently, a number of news organizations have taken up the idea that 3D printing could challenge the ways that products are made, which is usually in mass quantities often far away from the consumer. Questions have emerged about new possibilities for individuals to create objects from scratch instead of relying upon companies to do it for them. More questions than answers exist. And that makes the topic an engaging one for students to consider. The Cube Odyssey team blogged about their visit to Boys' Latin and gave the visit a glowing review, remarking on how impressed they were with students' questions and ideas about 3D printing.

Students blogged about their thoughts and experiences before and after the Cube Odyssey visited Philadelphia. They engaged with questions about computer science, manufacturing, mathematics, economics, history, and art. Check out a video of the printer in action here.

The Cube Odyssey visited two schools in Philadelphia, Boys' Latin and Beeber Middle School. A special thanks goes out to Tanya Baker of the National Writing Project, who helped connect Mr. Smith with the Cube Odyssey team, and to Sam Reed, a teacher at Beeber Middle School who blogged about the trip for The Philadelphia Public School Notebook and included Boys' Latin in his blog post.

The Cube Odyssey team was featured as part of the monthly Science Speaker Series at Boys' Latin.

Former CIA Computer Systems Engineer Speaks to Students About Hacking, Cyberwarfare 

On Thursday, May 17, students met Mr. Charles Britt, an information technology (IT) and cybersecurity professional who works in Washington, DC. For more than ten years, Mr. Britt has worked with the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence to design and implement systems and projects that relate to our nation's cybersecurity.
Mr. Britt was invited to Boys' Latin to participate in the monthly Science Speaker Series.

Throughout his career, he has worked with NASA and the Department of Defense in addition to his work with the CIA and has contributed to work with the Hubble Space Telescope, Tomahawk missile systems, Predator drone systems, and the nation's "No Fly" list.

Mr. Britt spoke to students about the challenges of maintaining systems that support defense and that have the potential to positively and negatively affect human lives. He also addressed the ways that social media and sharing personal information on the web has given rise to concerns about personal safety and security. He urged students to be mindful about the kinds of information they choose to share on the internet.

Mr. Britt earned a bachelor's degree in information technology from Capitol College and a masters in management from the University of Maryland. He is also the co-founder of the Center for Minority Achievement in Science and Technology, which is a nonprofit organization with a mission to increase the number of students who are exposed to careers in science, technology, math, and engineering.

Ms. Galib met Mr. Britt when she took students to a convention a few months ago. Mr. Britt was excited to visit the school and speak to our students. He is also a former officer with the Region II National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE). Boys' Latin established a NSBE pre-college chapter this year and attended the national convention last month.

Boys' Latin Partners with Agnes Irwin School, Khumjung School in Nepal to Plant and Study Growth of Trees

On Tuesday, May 22, students were joined by Mindy Maslin from the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society for a tree planting ceremony. Students and Mr. Smith planted a juniper tree in partnership with the Agnes Irwin School, an all-girls school in suburban Philadelphia, and the Khumjung School, a co-educational school in Nepal.

Each school planted a juniper tree, which grows well in high altitudes and therefore is suited for Nepal. The Boys' Latin tree is named the "Khumjung Tree." As part of the project, students will monitor the tree's growth and share data amongst the partner schools. Data about the tree's growth and health will support themes of matter and energy in the first-year science course at Boys' Latin.

Additionally, students and teachers will have an opportunity to communicate and collaborate with students from our partner schools about issues of sustainability, ecology, cultural competence, geography, and peace. Each school will share pictures of the site, measurements of the tree, and thoughts about the value of trees on a common blog.

The project was created by Mr. Jeffrey Harlan and Ms. Sandy Crow, middle school English teachers at the Agnes Irwin School.
All three schools planted trees on May 22 as part of ENO Tree Planting Day, an international initiative to plant 100,000,000 trees by 2017. The project also supports Mayor Nutter and the City of Philadelphia's commitment to plant 300,000 trees by 2015 and the Plant One Million project led by the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society that aims to plant 1 million trees in Pennsylvania, Delaware, and New Jersey.

The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society contributed to support the purchase of our tree and to guide the planting process.

Students Learn About Forensic Science, Identifying Human Remains 

On Thursday, May 24, Marcy Engelman from the Mütter Museum at the College of Physicians of Philadelphia spoke to students about the methods that forensic scientists use to identify human remains.

As part of sessions with three groups of juniors, sophomores, and freshmen, Ms. Engelman showed images of forensic scientists and crime scene investigators and walked through the ways that television shows sometimes misrepresent the job of a forensic scientist.

She then guided students through a process of identifying the age, gender, racial background, and stature of an unknown human specimen--using only a femur and skull. She passed around samples of skulls, showed students the difference between a male and female pelvis, and explained the features that help scientists classify and identify humans using only skeletal remains.

Ms. Engelman was the third speaker this month who participated in the Science Speaker Series at Boys' Latin. Ms. Engelman works with Boys' Latin students who participate in the Karabots Junior Fellows program at the College of Physicians and has facilitated another session with students on the history of amputation.

Three Students Selected for Penn BOOT UP! Camp

This summer, the University of Pennsylvania will welcome three Boys' Latin students to a computer engineering summer camp. The BOOT UP! Camp is a week-long day program for students who excel in math and have an interest in computers. The camp is sponsored by the University of Pennsylvania School of Engineering and Applied Science and the Graduate School of Education.

Students will spend time working on a variety of computer programs, creating their own games and animation, and working with multi-media textiles. This year’s camp will run from June 25 to June 29. The program is open to rising 10th and 11th grade students.

Congratulations to Ezekiel Adens, Jason Footes, and Wesley Glover for being selected for the program.

Students at Boys' Latin have opportunities to apply for internships and programs during the summer and the school year. Over the past year, students have applied and been accepted to programs coordinated by The Franklin Institute,
College of Physicians of Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania, and Haverford College. Read more about internships and programs available for students.

Students Study Rotting Log, Address Diversity of Life and Laws of Conservation of Mass and Energy

Freshmen and sophomores in the introduction to biology and chemistry course have been studying the diversity of life and flow of energy and matter in ecosystems. As a culminating inquiry activity, students dug into a rotting log and described what they saw.

Throughout the year, students have studied trophic levels; relationships between producers, consumers, and decomposers; the processes of photosynthesis and cellular respiration; major biogeochemical cycles; and the classification of living things. Students observed the rotting log to develop descriptions of how the organisms in each ecosystem interact. 

During the most recent lab, students had to identify the types of organisms present in the ecosystem, draw diagrams to describes how matter and energy flow through the ecosystem, and predict how the ecosystem might change over time.

Teachers from the Boys' Latin science department applied for a "Classroom Innovation Grant" awarded by the Philadelphia Math + Science Coalition with sponsorship from Dow. The grants were awarded to 15 schools in the Greater Philadelphia region to strengthen science instruction and provide hands-on learning opportunities for students. Don McKinney, director of the Philadelphia Math + Science Coalition, visited Boys' Latin to see what students have been learning thanks to the support from the grant. Mr. Smith shared photos and video of the students in action at a June 4 meeting of the Coalition.

Mr. Smith Named "Outstanding Science Teacher" by Pennsylvania Society of Professional Engineers--Philadelphia Chapter

On Thursday, May 3, the Philadelphia Chapter of the Pennsylvania Society of Professional Engineers honored Mr. Smith with an award, naming him the "2011-2012 Outstanding Science Teacher" for the Philadelphia region.

Each year, the PSPE chapter in Philadelphia selects a teacher to honor. Selections are made through a nomination process. Dr. Tennant and colleagues submitted letters to nominate Mr. Smith.

Mr. Smith was a special guest at the chapter's final meeting of the year and was presented with a plaque. The organization also honored an outstanding math teacher and featured a speaker who facilitated a conversation about the ways that engineering professionals could engage with K12 science and math education.

Students Complete Dissections, Focus on Structure and Function

During the week of May 21, students in Ms. Galib's and Mr. Smith's introduction to biology and chemistry classes conducted dissections. Students focused on structures and functions that would have arisen over time through the process of natural selection. Students compared multiple specimens as part of the study.