I spent time recently in the science and engineering classes and labs at the Mississippi School of Mathematics and Sciences in Columbus, Mississippi, which I wrote about here and here, and my husband Jim did here. I watched students tuning up their robots, which they had programmed to fight like sumo wrestlers, conduct search-and-rescue operations, and lift small objects. I listened to a lecture on wave theory from physics teacher Jed Leggett, himself a graduate of MSMS, who also helped students with the projects presented in the videos below.
Here are some short videos I took of the students in the electronics lab demonstrating their projects. Paul Rosenfeld of TheAtlantic.com video team edited the videos. Five are from seniors, who are new MSMS graduates and will be heading off to college in the fall. One video is from a junior who will be returning to MSMS for his final year. They're all offered to give a sample of the kind of work the school is encouraging.
The first is from Donely Gunn, a senior from Columbus. He is one of two students whom Don Bratton, a biology and chemistry teacher at MSMS, took to the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) in Los Angeles CA. Don Bratton said via email about Donely’s project, “Wind Turbines for Developing Worlds,” that “Donely designed, developed, and tested a small vertical-axis wind turbine capable of charging small electronics. Part of the turbine (the turbine blade) was 3D printed and to increase the sustainability of his project. Donely then set out to build an affordable 3D printer that could be used in the developing world to print the part."
In this video, Donely describes that his first idea was to make a small wind turbine, a product that could power things like cellphones, and that he imagined would ultimately help the economies of third world countries. Then, he decided to better that idea by making an actual inexpensive 3D printer for third-world countries, which could use online designs and readily-available products, like plastic bottles, to mold other elements necessary to make their own products, including things like small wind turbines. There is more about Donely here:
Donely Gunn is headed to Harvey Mudd College in Claremont, California, to study engineering. He is the winner of a Gates Millennium Scholarship.
Next is the other student who went to ISEF, Austin Li, a senior from Greenville, Mississippi. He will attend UC Berkeley to study chemical engineering. For his ISEF project, emails Mr. Bratton, “Austin was investigating how new processes affected various properties of cast iron.” His project there was titled: “Novel Process for Observing Phase Transformations in and Strengthening Cast Iron via Controlled Cooling."
The project Austin demonstrates here here is his Arduino LED Cube, which he built from available online supplies and designs and then programmed to appear to shoot fireworks.
Coby Anderson is the one junior in this group, from Hernando, Mississippi. He will return to MSMS for his senior year next fall. Coby said that he likes building new things, which he usually does every few months. He engineered and built a mechanically-powered grandfather clock out of small plastic pieces. On the hour, a golf ball is released at the top of the clock; it slides down a track, tripping levers that strike chimes. This is his own design and assembly, not based on a kit.
Michael Murphy, a senior from Caledonia, Mississippi, is headed to Mississippi State in the fall to major in mechanical engineering. Michael's project was building a generator to power a bike's headlight. This is obviously a well-known device; what he was doing for the school project was building it himself.
Rhiannon Hancock is a senior from Scott, Mississippi, in the Delta. She will go to the University of Mississippi in the fall to study biology. Rhiannon made a surprise rumbling box. She’ll present the box as a gift; the recipient will take the box and be surprised when it starts to vibrate. She said the lucky recipient will probably be her physics teacher.
Vikram Sachdeva is from Flowood, Mississippi. He is going to the University of Michigan to study electrical engineering. Vikram is making (from online designs and materials) an Ollie, an autonomous robotic blimp (a helium balloon) with little flappable wings attached to it. A microphone picks up a clapping sound, which will signal a mini micro controller to make the wings flap.
Now, an update on a few other graduating MSMS seniors. Last month I quoted essays from five seniors on what their school, and their background in Mississippi, meant to them. Many readers shared my opinion that this included some truly remarkable writing. For those who are interested, here is where those students are going:
Kimberly Sanford, "As I grasp the battered storm door of my unleveled mobile home..." is going to Harvard.
Rachel Jones, "The wind of my parents’ perennial unemployment has blown away my umbrella..." is going to Vassar.
Brendan Ryan, "my favorite things about living at a residential high school four hours from my hometown is the car rides home..." is going to Wenzao Ursuline University in Taiwan.
Sabrina Moore, "MSMS is often referred to as the most diverse square mile in the state of Mississippi..." is going to Mississippi State.
Joseph Messer, "I think that home is also wherever I make it..." is going to Deep Springs College in California.
Congratulations and thanks to them, and to the other members of the MSMS community who allowed us to learn about their lives, their ambitions, and their school.