Showcasing the efforts of students laboring in science research, Colonia High School hosted Science Symposium 2011. It was an opportunity for the science students of Woodbridge's three high schools to strut the stuff they've worked on all year to an appreciative and frequently fascinated audience.
“The students are the scientists,” explained James Danch, a Science Research teacher at Colonia High School. The program is modeled after graduate-level science programs, with the teacher acting more as a mentor towards students who do research in fields of personal interest.
“They are the ones discovering new things,” Danch said.
Science Research, which is designed as a three-year program, requires that students design their experiments, collect data, and so on. “It’s not all laboratory work,” said Danch. “A lot of research happens in the field. The field is a laboratory too.”
Stephen Hill, a Colonia High School senior who will attend Penn State University in the fall, presented an overview of his three-year study on shear-thickening fluid – a liquid that takes on solid characteristics – and it’s applications in Kevlar, the material used in bulletproof vests.
“Both of my parents were in the military, it’s how they met,” Hill explained. “I wanted to do something that I knew.” His study involved attempting to find a cheaper alternative to military-grade silica (used in Kevlar body armor) using a cornstarch, modified by Hill.
A member of the Woodbridge police department was so impressed with Hill’s research that he helped move the project along. “Every time I presented this research, everyone wanted to know if I tested it on body armor,” said Hill, who didn’t have the equipment necessary for such testing. “One of the police officers who works in the schools thought it was interesting, and he offered [to help test Hill’s modified cornstarch infused Kevlar versus the military-style silica-infused Kevlar]. It really helped further the research.”
Alex James, a senior at Woodbridge High School, presented his project, “The Quantitative Measurements of Boat Hulls on Stability and Roll Angle,” a study that he conducted with the assistance of the Stevens Institute of Technology.
“My interest is engineering…when I was looking online for project ideas, I found a similar project done in Florida,” said James. “I didn’t have the money on equipment, but Stevens does. I contacted the professors there, and they let me use their equipment.”
James, who will attend the New Jersey Institute of Technology in the fall with plans to major in Electrical Engineering, was enthusiastic about his work. “It was very interesting,” he said of the three years in the Science Research program. “I got to learn a lot.”
In addition to conducting their own research, some students in the Science Research program also help out with the Science research Club Students at Colonia Middle School. “They come in…mentor them, help them set up experiments, make posters, and so on,” said Jennifer Hutchinson, Science Club advisor at Colonia Middle. The students who did not serve as direct mentors served as judges for the Science Research Club students presentations at the symposium.