TJ’s built-in extracurricular 8th period provides a wonderful opportunity to tutor and mentor younger students at nearby schools, and many TJ students spend some of their 8th Period time reaching out, but an even larger number participate in after-school and weekend outreach activities. Students ignored the call of homework, AP exam preparations, and beautiful weather to attend the three all-day events featured below in order encourage youngsters to try their hand at STEM activities and consider TJ as a steppingstone to their own STEM future.
For the second year, AT&T was back as lead sponsor for TJ’s biggest STEM outreach event, organized by the students of TWIST and Biology Society and held offsite on due to continued construction at TJ. AT&T’s generous $5,000 sponsorship covered the fee to use Holmes MS; the cost of supplies for the hands-on booths covering the spectrum of science and technology; and food and lanyards for the dozens of student and corporate volunteers who worked the event in three shifts.
Fifty booths organized by TWIST, Biology Society, and other TJ clubs, as well as by companies invited to participate, were set up throughout the school’s gym, cafeteria, hallways, and outdoor spaces. At Northrop Grumman’s booth, ping pong balls were flying as students tested catapult designs. MathTree and Chemical Society of Washington, both of which donated to support the event, also manned activity booths. Biology Society received support from the Richard Slivoskey grant, which aids 8th period organizations that help enhance the TJ community. An additional contribution came from retired TJ Physics teacher Jim Rose, former TWIST faculty sponsor.
Groups participating for the first time this year were Medical Society, with their Human Anatomy booth (top), the Systems Administrators, whose booth examined the inner workings of a computer (above right), and Active Minds.
Running this year’s April 11th event on behalf of TWIST were President, Shivani Dimri, ’15; Vice President/Techstravaganza Supervisor, Angela Ma, ’15; Techstravaganza Coordinators, Pooja Rathnasham, ’15 and Amee Kapadia, ’17; Secretary/Webmaster, Sophie Zhao, ’16; Treasurer, Diana Chang, 15; Speaker Coordinator, Evelyn Mo, ’16; Publicist, Vivian Dong, ’17; Historian, Jenny Ran Zhang, ’17; on behalf of Biology Society, President, Heather Lukas, ’15; Vice President Nikhil Bhaip, ’15; Treasurer, Jay Gupta, ’16; and Publicist, Jay Warrior, ’16. and faculty sponsors. Computer Science teacher Ria Galanos is faculty sponsor for TWIST, and Biology teacher Dr. Sonia Del Cerro sponsors both TWIST and Biology Society.
Click here for more Science & Techstravaganza pictures.
Learning Pathways Project (LPP) (see March 2015 issue), held what is likely the area’s first hackathon for middle-school students on Saturday, April 18th at Nysmith School, generous host of numerous weekend outreach events. Following a brief session on programming basics, the thirty participants broke up into small teams, where TJ students worked with them for several hours (in lieu of the all-night model favored by college hackathons – see HackTJ)as they created a mobile app or website. After the teams presented their projects and winners were recognized, all participants received programming workbooks to take home, along with swag donated by the event’s corporate sponsors.
#firsthack was organized by LPP Founder & Director Satvika Kumar, TJ ’16 (at right) and her team: Product Development, Rachel Li, TJ ’16 (center); Curriculum Developers Shankar Balasubramaniam, TJ ’15, and Bhuvanesh Murali, TJ ’16; T-shirt Designer Bita Golshani, Langley ’16; and Social Media Communications, Christina Wei, TJ ’16 (at left).
Project BEST Holds Third Annual Innovation and Inspiration Conference
Also on April 18th, a few miles from Nysmith at Reston’s Langston Hughes MS, Project BEST’s third annual Science Innovation and Inspiration Youth Conference was under way. At this year’s conference, about fifty middle-school students enjoyed a full day of hands-on physics, chemistry, and biology activities led by a dozen TJ students.
The conference, which was completely student-run, included opening remarks from Michele Bolos, CEO of NT Concepts, a Vienna data analytics and software engineering company, along with a presentation by company Founder Scott Ostergard; a presentation by neuroscientist Dr. Roian Egnor, a former group leader at Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Janelia Farm Research Campus in Ashburn; and a presentation by TJ’s own Dr. Evan Glazer. Dr. Glazer, who has been recognized for his personal commitment to STEM education (see March 2015 issue), came to the conference immediately after delivering a keynote address at #firsthack (above).
In keeping with BEST’s hands-on approach, Principal Glazer’s presentation required student participation. Each student wrote on an index card what he or she hoped to be doing ten years from now. The cards were then passed around twice; each time students wrote suggestions for the person whose card they held. A team of four BEST volunteers then read aloud the ten-year plan and peer suggestions from several cards, offering additional suggestions. Finally, Dr. Glazer contributed a few of his own (right).
The exercise gave students plenty of food for thought: They learned what kinds of questions to ask of themselves, their parents, their teachers and counselors, as well as what subjects to focus on and some ideas for how they might best spend their summers. Dr. Glazer and the BEST volunteers encouraged participants to dream big, to think long-term, and to follow their passions. They also urged the students interested in STEM to consider TJ for all that it offers — the four TJ students made four very different but equally convincing cases — but to remember that there is no one route to success or fulfillment.
This year’s Project BEST conference was organized by the officers:
Operations: Shreyas Garg, ’15 and Jeevan Karamsetty, ’15
Media and Marketing: George Perry, ’18, Sahana Ramani, ’16, Rhamy Belayachi, ’16
Finance: Sam Desmairais, ’16, Kunal Naik, ’16, Anuraag Yachamenani, ’16
Program: Adarsh Kulkarni, ’17, and Rachel Alexander, ’17
Expansion: Kanu Gaba, ’17, Aneesh Reddy, ’16, Kaushik Venkatesh, ’16
Founded by TJ students, Project BEST conducts interactive STEM programs and runs after-school chapters in 17 locations across Fairfax County and in several other locations across the country (see June 2013 issue). This year’s corporate sponsors are: Kaplan Test Prep; MyDeltaSchool; and Capital Medical Specialties LLC.
In August 2014, Project BEST, in conjunction with TJ STEMbassadors and FCPS schools, received a $10,000 grant from the Community Foundation for Northern Virginia to support their outreach work. Project BEST’s officers will use the grant to introduce STEMkits, self-contained packages with protocols and key materials for their proprietary STEM sessions, for distribution to Northern Virginia schools located a far drive from TJ.