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Physics end of the year project takes full flight

Gracie Murray works on attaching components of the physics project together for the final showcase.
Photo By: Zak Sleeth

RAHS physics teacher Dona Bien-Aime is implementing within the AP Physics 1 and 2 classes a comprehensive end-of-the-year project applying physics concepts taught throughout the year to investigate why the Concorde jet was so inefficient.

Senior Matthew Arnold sees the project as a means of applying what he has learned throughout the year in a cumulative showcase.

“We were asked to point out where the Concorde was inefficient, said Arnold. “Namely how the wing is inefficient [and] create a poster to show, using physics that we know, the Concorde wing’s inefficiency.”

More specifically, the project focuses on the factors related to wing efficiency instead of calculating the exact wing efficiency. This is because of the complex nature of flight analysis and the time-limit for the end-of-year project.

“It’s more about seeing what factors affect [wing efficiency] in a more general sense, not necessarily finding how efficient a wing is,” said Arnold. “It just about seeing the factors of the design of the wing how that affects its efficiency.”

Bien-Aime agrees with the function of the project in the context of solidifying important concepts learned throughout the year in an aggregate way.

“[The project applies] concepts that [students have] learned definitely in [AP] Physics 2 like Bernoulli’s Principle, conservation of energy, and conservation of momentum,” said Bien-Aime.

The projects’ main objective is to prepare students for a future aerospace-related career.

“The main objective of the project is to apply physics to understand aerospace engineering, so you can see what exactly is going into a plane — how we design the wing, how we design a big massive thing that can defy gravity and move,” said Bien-Aime.

For the students who may not necessarily want a career in aerospace, the project provides and example of practical engineering.

“Aerospace engineering would be the most practical engineering,” said Arnold. “If you were to give this project to an aerospace engineer, they would probably have the best chance of solving it.”

The culmination of the project is mostly a poster showcase in lieu of a question-answer gallery walkthrough or a presentation.

“[Physics students] don’t have to do a presentation,” said Mr. Bien-Aime. “They’re not going to do a presentation for class, but they are going to have the poster standing there. Probably, in class or preferably in the cafeteria, so people can walk by and ask them questions.”

The information necessary for the project, including wing detail specifications, is available online from a variety of sources.

“I go online,” said Arnold. “There’s lots of good websites. Concorde has its own website with specifications.”

Astronomy class discovers new cosmic concepts

RAHS’ UW Astronomy class is preparing for presenting their end of year projects to astronomers and physicists on 12 June.

Astronomy student junior Paul Richards is excited to present what he and his group have discovered to students, astronomers, and physicists.

“We are going to be presenting to two people from the University of Washington,” said Richards. “One a physicist, and the other in a field of astronomy whether that be an astronomer or an astrophysicist.”

Richards has been working on projects relating to the spectra of an astronomical object.

“The project that I am doing entails the determination of the nature of two objects in a binary system [a system where two stars orbit each other],” said Richards, “based off of the spectra [color wavelength] and Doppler shift of the H-alpha line [wavelength of ionized hydrogen].”

Students have been working hard to prepare by creating a poster, writing a scientific paper, and building a strong presentation. Senior Eleanor Pahl is making sure she understands all of her work, particularly the math, so that her group is able to answer any questions.

“On top of just practicing presenting,” said Pahl,  “we are also looking at going over the math a lot and going over the graphs making sure we understand everything so that if they ask questions we will be able to explain.”

Astronomy teacher Nikhil Joshi decided that these projects (Binary Stars, Stellar Properties, and Galaxy Rotation) are perfect for students to get a taste of what astronomy is like in college and in an astronomical career.

“The goal of the projects is for students to apply what they’ve learned over the year to analyzing data and creating models similar to how professional astronomers work,” said Joshi. “The goal is for students to understand how scientists work in general and astronomers in particular.”

The project that senior Thomas Kirby has been working on provided an opportunity to see how everything that was taught throughout the year can be applied.

“It’s been an interesting way of applying the things we learned throughout the whole year,” said Kirby, “[as] each of the components [within the project] such as how to get the information to find the area of isolated parts [within the project], only now we get to do it.”

The class was assigned to three different projects at the end of April and groups were separated into their particular project based on their mathematical level.

“[Sections are] based on our abilities in math,” said Richards, “and what math class we are in.”

Pahl has been working on the Galaxy Rotation project, and is trying to understand the relationship between speed and the rotation of galaxies.

“We are looking at the rotation speed of galaxies,” said Pahl, “and we are trying to model that using calculus.”

In order to do this project, astronomy students had to understand both astronomical and mathematical concepts.

“We primarily needed to have an understanding of sine waves and basic pre-calculus mathematics,” said Richards, “and just beyond that we had to have a lot of background in astronomy.”

In senior Thomas Kirby’s project, the group needed a strong understanding of blackbody curves—the thermal radiation of an object.

“We are analyzing the spectra of two stars to find information about them,” said Kirby, “which includes the temperature of the star based on its blackbody curve, the distance a star is away from the Earth, the radius of the star, and potentially its rotation speed.”

Students had to refresh their Microsoft Excel skills in order to calculate and graph the computations they have made.

“We mostly had to learn excel in order to do all of our calculations,” said Kirby. “We started by plugging in data of the emission spectra and then matching it to what the spectra should look like and them from there find out how hot it is [the object] from the maximum wavelength and how far away it is from us.”

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RAHS space projects are out of this world

Senior Andrew Struthers(left) and Sophomore Carson Klein (right) are working on two Raspberry Pi’s that simulate the RAHS board and the UW system to test CAN communication and picture sending.
Photo By: Sam Hart

This year two RAHS projects will be sent into orbit. One of the projects is from the after school club Satellite Club (SAT Club). SAT Club has been working with the University of Washington to launch a satellite into space. The satellite needs to be finalized before 1 Aug. 2018 for NASA review and the launch will then take place near the end of 2018.

Senior Andrew Struthers joined SAT Club when it was formed. This year he has been working with his team on creating a satellite to photograph different parts of the Earth. Struthers hopes the student-made satellite will be able to complete its given tasks.

“The board is going to take pictures of the earth from low Earth orbit and send them back to Earth,” said Struthers. “The board is non-professionally made, the software is all written by students, and every part of the project is under student control. Hopefully, if everything works right, we will be able to take our own pictures of Earth.”

Struthers joined the SAT Club because he realized it benefits his STEM skills and he can use those to his advantage later in the future.

“I decided to join this club because it provides me the perfect opportunity to advance my passion in the STEM field. I have gotten the opportunity to code and work on an actual project, which has taught me many things about software,” said Struthers. “These skills that I have gained in SAT Club will help me in college and my future careers.”

Personally, Struthers feels like joining SAT Club enhances his technical and project skills.

“I gained many different skills from this project, including being able to stay focused on a single project for a long amount of time. I have also learned many valuable things including data handling and software communication,” said Struthers. “I have also learned about working on a project where deadlines and other parts of the project are being held up by something besides myself, and I’ve learned how to deal with the frustrations that [it] brings.”

An additional project that is being launched into space is from the Aerospace Engineering class taught by Scott McComb. McComb decided to launch high-altitude weather balloons with his class over the Memorial Day weekend. The launch for the first balloon will take place near Vantage, Washington. McComb was inspired to do this project after working at the rocket company Blue Origin.

“Last summer, I worked at Blue Origin to help educators break down barriers to launching materials to space,” said McComb. “Since Flight by Design is already working with Blue Origin at our school, I decided it would be fun to use high-altitude weather balloons to excite students about engineering and aerospace.”

Freshman Etnna Elizalde-Castaneda is in Aerospace Engineering and her part on the team is to deal with sound and how it works with fire.  

“My team and I are doing a sound fire suppression system,” said Elizalde-Castaneda. “It amazes me how sounds or bases [chemicals that put out fires] that we may not be able to feel or hear very well can put out flames very easily.”

Elizalde-Castaneda decided this was a good elective that will help her in the future.

“I chose to take this class because I am interested in engineering and it’s a career I would like to pursue and I believe that it’s a potential field I could work in,” said Elizalde-Castaneda. “I came in wanting to learn CAD and more about electrical [fields].”

The balloon project McComb has created for his class has a lot of benefits for the students

“Engineers make dreams turn into reality,” said McComb. “It’s exciting to create something from nothing and fly it to space!”

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Has the dissections unit been helpful?

Rat dissection provides insight on the function of an organism.
Photo by: Chloe Cho

The thought of cutting open a dead animal is disgusting, but the learning behind this unit is critical for students. Though many students find the dissection unit helpful, some say otherwise.

Sophomore Joseph Pacini thought that the dissections unit was a beneficial experience.

“I think the dissection[s were] worth all the time we spend working up to it and during it,” said Pacini. “It comes to show how we can apply our knowledge to a real world situation and do it well.”

Although the dissections were time consuming, he believes that it has helped everyone.

“Knowing what goes into a dissection takes a lot of time and work,” said Pacini, “and I think that although it was challenging, we needed the challenge to prepare us for possible future endeavors.”

Pacini thinks that the dissections unit is essential to those looking for an engineering career.

“Knowing how somethings works and understanding what happens in a machine is crucial to [being] an engineer,” said Pacini.

Pacini would like to pursue a job in the engineering field and because of this he has grown to appreciate this experience.

“I think this unit has shown me how decisive dissections are,” said Pacini, “not just in the field of natural sciences, but in engineering sciences as well.”

Although the dissections unit is important, Pacini also feels pressured during the process.

“Remembering to take a picture of everything, documenting it, and making the correct incision is very important to our success in the lab report,” said Pacini, “and sometimes it is very difficult to do this with just another partner.”

Carson Klein, a sophomore, personally, doesn’t find the dissections practical because it has no major connection to his want career.

“I would say that the dissection unit hasn’t really done much for me,” said Klein. “Primarily because it is irrelevant to my planned career path as a software developer.”

Besides it just being irrelevant to his field, it has actually turned him away from any fields with dissections.

“If anything, it has made me less interested in the field as a potential career path,” said Klein.

Although dissections won’t help him with his career in the future, Klein still finds the dissections a valuable lesson.

“This unit has provided me with my first ever chance to do a dissection. Because of this, the first dissection was, understandably, somewhat intimidating,” said Klein. “However, the initial exposure has given me a better perspective of the subject, and that by itself makes the experience worth it.”

Caroline Tran, a junior, was not able to do dissections during her sophomore year but thinks that it would be a great opportunity to help students widen their view of possible careers.

“As a high schooler, this would probably be the only time they would be able to experience this type of exposure to the workforce before actually choosing a specific major or career path later after high school,” said Tran. “I think it would be a fun way to not only teach the students about anatomy but to also help them figure out what types of work they enjoy doing.”

Tran believes that dissections would allow students to find out what they are comfortable doing and what they are passionate about.

“I feel like dissections unit would help them dip their toes into an occupation that might surprisingly interest them,” said Tran. “These dissections might help students figure out if they are comfortable cutting into humans as surgeons or they would rather do something that doesn’t make them feel queasy.”

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Flight by Design projects are coming in for landing

Connor and Hunter finishing up their remote control model airplane.
Photo by: Will Garren

In the start of September, Flight by Design (FbD) let loose by giving their students more freedom by the students breaking off into teams to tackle their year-long projects of interest. There are six different projects; each team ranges from three to eight people in each team.

Nikhil Joshi is the teacher of the second period class, FbD. Joshi takes a unique approach to the course; instead of telling students what to do, Joshi lets students figure out their projects by themselves.

“Students have been working on them since September,” said Joshi. “Students design their own project, I have no idea what they have in mind in the start of the year. They design a project, break themselves into teams, and assign assignments on the project for a whole year.”

Senior Brynne Hunt is working on the Rainier 2 project, which has six team members. They are working on payload that tests the magnetic field.

“It is an experimental 2U payload that will launch on a sub-orbital flight,” said Hunt. “It is to test the critical magnetic field needed to deform ferrofluid in microgravity.”

Working on this project helped Hunt understand how real-world projects work and the difference between short-term, semester projects and year-long projects. Learning these skills now will help her with her future career.

“Working in year-long projects is similar to the real world and allows for projects to go more in depth and be more complex,” said Hunt. “The amount that you can accomplish with a team in a year drastically outweighs what you can do in a week or two.”

Hunt is interested in this class because it gives her a chance to learn and improve skills that she does not explore in her other classes.

“I am really interested in space and [I] wanted to gain more hands on technical skills. I also wanted to focus on my project management skills,” said Hunt. “This project allowed me to gain more technical skills and leadership skills.”

Senior Grace Zoppi and her project team are called the  International Space Settlement Design Competition (ISSDC) which is named after the annual competition taking place in the end April. The project is worked on in FbD class and in a separate club.

“I’m on the ISSDC Team, we are designing a 6000 resident orbiting space station around the moon,” said Zoppi. “There [are] 8 people in the class that work on ISSDC, but we also have a club [that has] 20 people in total.”

Both the club and in class ISSDC team will submit their project at the end of April for the competition taking. If they succeed, they will be competing in Florida this summer.

“At the end of April we submit it to the competition head,” said Zoppi. “Then they decide the essential regional winners and then if our team wins we will go to Kennedy Space Center at the end of July for the finals. Each year the Competition organizers develop a new design scenario with its own special requirements and we have to build off the scenario.”

Zoppi has learned a lot because of the project, she learned skills that will help her academically. She also learned technical skills working on the project for the whole year.

“I learned a lot through this project,” said Zoppi. “I improved my academics skills like my CAD skills and learned about engineering documentation because it is needed particularly for my project, but a major thing I learned [are] my leadership skills. Working on the same project for the whole year taught me a lot of leadership.”

Joshi wants students to understand that the project should be started early, and it is unrealistic to procrastinate because other students other students depend on each other to do their work.

“You have to plan for it, you have to deal with setbacks. You have to be able to work together productively for a very long time,” said Joshi. “You have divide and conquer when people are working on different parts of the project that are codependent on each other. These are real world workplace skills.”

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Wind Team hopes to blow away the competition

The RAHS Wind Team’s turbine awaits its upcoming trials at the Collegiate Wind Competition in Chicago.
Photo by: Zak Sleeth

Wind team is upping the ante by taking their turbine to Chicago to prepare for collegiate-level competitions. While they won’t technically be competing, the team will travel to the Collegiate Wind Competition on 7 May through the 10th in order to test their turbine for a consistent power output under the same conditions as the college teams, and to present their progress to the Department of Energy.

Although the higher level competition will be much more challenging, Junior Tom Connolly feels the team will benefit from the surplus of high-quality materials to test their turbines.

“I am really interested to see how the turbine will perform in a real wind tunnel because we haven’t really had the opportunity to test it,” said Connolly. “It would be nice to compare ourselves to the college teams to see how much we have achieved.”

Junior Cooper LeComp, a founding member of the team, is enthusiastic to see how their turbine will compare to the college level teams. They have been working diligently to prepare for the competition.

“We are constantly working on making upgrades to the turbine to improve power output and optimize controlling systems,” said LeComp. “The tolerances are very high for the turbine, so getting everything to function properly is hard work.”

To help handle all that hard work, their team is divided into collaborative groups, each to handle different components of the project. Even though they are separated, they are all working hard together to learn about the different technical skills required to work on the turbine.

“Typically these collegiate teams are done by groups of students at colleges in degree fields applicable to the turbine (Electrical Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, etc.),” said LeComp.  “Since we are not in those programs yet, we have had to build up understanding on the properties applicable to the turbine including electrical circuits, mechanical design, manufacturing techniques, etc.”

Connolly feels he has benefited greatly from the work the team has done. Their bold attempt to catch up to the college teams’ knowledge on the task pushes them to work more efficiently.

“I‘ve learned a lot about how to use different pieces of software,” said Connolly. “I‘ve learned how to design complex mechanical systems and I‘ve also been able to interact with mentors a lot more than I would otherwise.”

Because they have these supportive mentors, students are able to tackle topics they have little to no prior experience with; sophomore Jon Wick was up for the challenge.

“I have learned so much about electronics,” added Wick, “I had never done anything like that before, but they needed someone to do it so I said I‘d do it.”

The team was formed after student success in the Kid Wind Competition. Connolly agreed that this was the natural next move.

“I really enjoyed the Kid Wind competition, and a lot of our teams were successful at the competition,” said Connolly. “We decided that we wanted to move beyond Kid Wind and this seemed like the next step.”

Exposure to new fields of study is very valuable to a student’s academic career. Sophomore Jeremy Boyle thinks that this team has shown him a new angle to approach a field he was already interested in.

“I‘m interested in aerospace engineering and a lot of the stuff that I’m doing with the blades; involving the fluid technetics and the forces are similar,” said Boyle, “which makes it a good fit.”

Due to the timing of the trip and its close proximity to AP testing, on the 7th, the team will not be gone for long. However, their time there should be very revealing about the status of the team, and the payoff of all their hard work.

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Driving hard to finish senior final projects

Teo Bagnoli’s go-kart sits completed in his garage, waiting to be displayed in the senior showcase.
Photo Courtesy of: Teo Bagnoli

As RAHS seniors rapidly approach the end of the year and graduation, the select few who have chosen to participate in the Senior Showcase are wrapping up their projects before their presentations. But with too few putting forth projects for the Showcase, they may not get the chance.

Teo Bagnoli has been designing and building a Go-Kart for his submission to this year’s Senior Showcase.

“I set up the frame design myself, and it’s constructed from square tube aluminium in the interest of weight reduction,” said Bagnoli. “The whole kart is going to weigh under 150 lbs in the end and it should be a lot of fun to drive.”

Initially, Bagnoli planned on building the Go-Kart as a way to improve his automotive knowledge and create his own vehicle.

“I chose to submit the Go-Kart because I was already planning to build it,” said Bagnoli, “and I realized I could also submit it as my senior project.”

While enrolled in the CAD course now taught by Mr. Gudor, Bagnoli designed models of the kart he wanted to build before assembling it at home. Despite some help and a CAD design, there were still some issues along the way.

“There have been a lot of small issues along the way, such as linking the throttle and mounting the steering,” says Bagnoli, “but they’ve all been caused by improper planning on my part.”

Although the requirement for senior projects has not existed for several years, Bagnoli believes removing the requirement has increased the quality of the projects submitted.

“If they’re mandatory, the quality of submissions would definitely be worse,” said Bagnoli. “Voluntary leaves the opportunity out there for those who want to do it but doesn’t force them.”

Humanities teacher Ms. Wombold also believes that making the senior project optional has created both benefits and drawbacks.

“Participation has gone dramatically down,” says Wombold, “but the projects have been ones that are authentic to the student.”

Although having quality and interesting projects has been beneficial, low participation from students has become an ever increasing issue.

“We have too few students right now to do a showcase,” said Wombold, “unless I have more seniors sign up, the showcase will not happen.”

With the current number of students at 8 and a minimum of 10 needed, the showcase–and the scholarship opportunities it presents–may vanish.

“The method in which the scholarship is selected requires a presentation,” says Wombold. “Without a method of presentation like the showcase, there won’t be a scholarship award.”

Although the potential for total discontinuation seems a very real problem, Wombold doesn’t know what else could be changed.

“There’s no paperwork, you don’t have to get projects approved,” said Wombold, “they [PTSA] want to support what you’re doing, they’ll even give you up to $50 to get your project started.”

Wombold strongly encourages students to sign up for senior projects this year and hopefully the next year as well, before the opportunity completely disappears.

“There’s no requirement for subject matter,” said Wombold, “there’s nothing to do except a project you’re already going to do and that you’re passionate about.”

Seniors like Teo Bagnoli will continue to work on their projects as the Senior Showcase still hangs in the balance, hoping that last year’s will not be the final iteration of Senior Projects.

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Balloon Team looks to the sky with upcoming balloon launch

Cole Evans works with Satellite Team balloon payload and flight systems.
Photo Courtesy Of: Andrew Struthers

In the past, Satellite Club (Sat Club) has struggled to accomplish their goals pertaining to satellites on their original timelines. However, this is starting to change as the club is starting to find success on a scale larger than just the classroom.

Originally, the goal was to build a cubesat and launch it by the end of 2016.  A cubesat is a 10cm by 10cm by 10cm cube that functions just like a regular satellite, but on a smaller scale. A simple satellite consists of some proof of concept (eg. a 3-D printed satellite), along with a communication system to talk to the earth. Building a working cubesat on the first try, with a group of people who have no experience building satellites proved more difficult than they previously thought. As a result, a subgroup attempted a simpler goal by deciding to make a high altitude balloon, with senior Cole Evans as team lead and Miles Durnwirth as co-lead.  

“When you think of a cubesat, it is a very complex thing,” said Evans. “There’s a lot of subsystems on there, and there’s a difference between doing something for real and on a test bed. The balloon is an effort for Sat Club to build something that actually flies [that is] built to the quality of a space-ready cubesat, including software.”

The balloon is a solid first step towards launching a cubesat, as the subsystems and software are almost identical. The balloon has to have computer chips, or microcontrollers, that handle data and run the entire system, and a satellite (SAT) phone communication system in order for the team to communicate with the payload after launch.

“We have a few microcontrollers, a SAT phone com[munication] system, GPS systems, and other subsystems,” said Evans. “It will be very similar to how they would be on an actual cubesat.”

As with every project, there are a multitude of challenges that the team has to overcome. Launching a balloon seems like it wouldn’t be too complicated, but even after getting it to work, the FAA can still shut the project down.

“[The launch date] depends on our FAA certification,” said Durnwirth. “We do not have a flight termination system on the balloon, so we need to get an exemption from the FAA rules.”

The goal of this launch is to build something that can operate as a learning platform for the future members of the team.

“Hopefully this balloon can be reusable,” said Durnwirth, “and hopefully we can fly it multiple times to gain knowledge for people who have no knowledge or experience with cubesats.”

One of the main struggles for getting a good test balloon is getting the communication system to work well. The communication system is used to track, monitor, and talk to the balloon throughout its flight.

“Some balloons uses HAM radio to communicate with the ground,” said Evans, “but that requires line of sight. So we use a SAT phone running off of an Iridium network, which works anywhere around the earth if it has a clear view of the sky. The com[munication] system can send 300 bytes per packet of information.”

Not only will this balloon be a test of concept for the cubesat launch, but the project has the potential to provide some really interesting pictures and videos of the payload as it goes up, reaches its maximum altitude, then goes back down to earth.

“We are trying to get a lot of cool video from the flight,” said Evans, “so we have 4k cameras with fisheye lenses, and we should get some really cool videos of the flight.”

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Teachers working to open robotics space to creative students

The robotics space sits empty during the day, when it could be used to teach hands-on skills.
Photo By: Zak Sleeth

Teachers Nikhil Joshi, Michael Gudor, and Scott McComb are working with seniors James Mitchell and Erik Harang on the development of a Makerspace, a place for students and classes to not only design creations, but to have a hands-on experience in creating them. The makerspace will consist of the Large and Small Project Lab and the CAD Lab.

“Mr. Gudor and I have been talking about it along with Mr. McComb, to maybe convert the shop from being more of a robotics space, that was used primarily by the robotics team, into a more open and welcoming space for the rest of the school, and other classes, and teachers, and students,” said Joshi.

This Makerspace is meant to be a resource for the students, a place for them to do more hands-on work on projects, and for them to become more acquainted with industry-oriented skills.

“All of these tools and skills are being used out in industry, to degrees of depth and breadth,” said Joshi, ”and I think a student might not really know what it means to be an electrical engineer until they’ve sat down and figured out how a microprocessor works and how I hook it up to things and read data from sensors and make decisions with software and build a working component.”

A Makerspace gives students a chance to do something more with their hands.

“For me I try to put myself in a student’s position, like if I were at this school and a student. I know for me, I like to design things, but I really want to see them actually made and built,” said Gudor. “I don’t like to just design them in the computer and be happy, I want to actually physically touch them and use them.”

This concept of a more hands-on workspace is really important to Gudor.

“The Makerspace would fulfill that need of actually producing what I thought might work for something and see if it works. That would give me motivation to do more, versus just building it in the computer and theoretically it works, but I really don’t know,” said Gudor. “I like to see and touch my creations, so I put myself in my student’s position, and I’m like ‘that would excite me to try something new and see if it works.’”

The Makerspace also gives students an opportunity to learn something about what they’re really interested in.

“Look at it this way, a kid might think they want to be an electrical engineer, then they do a project that involves it and they discover ‘well, that wasn’t as much fun as getting all the mechanical stuff hooked up,’” said Joshi. “Now they can say, ‘okay maybe mechanical engineering is something I’m more interested in’, because they actually did a project that required all of these things to be put together, the software engineering, the mechanical engineering, the electrical engineering, the manufacturing technologies put together.”

In a project-based school like RAHS, using the tools sitting in the robotics lab to expose students to a real project workspace can be extremely beneficial.

“Those are tools that are here and right now sitting idle most of the time that could be readily used making projects to help students learn. And nothing engages the brain more than getting the hands engaged also, and building real world projects,” said Joshi. “I think it’s a huge asset that we’ve underutilized, but finding out efficient ways of using assets requires time and energy and thinking.”

Of course, it’s not as easy as opening the robotics lab up to any student who wants to cut wood and grind metal.

“A lot of the equipment down there is dangerous, there’s saws, table saws, band saws, there’s machines that could crush your hand,” said Joshi. “Certainly we have to take into account student safety. In general, policies are that students need to be supervised by teachers pretty much all the time when they’re using building resources, so there are these policies we have to figure out.”

In order to make sure the lab is a safe environment, there needs to be someone present anytime there is a student in the room.

“The main problem right now in between having a student space for that [a makerspace] specifically is just the fact that we need mentors, or we need an interesting insurance plan,” said Mitchell. “Why this hasn’t happened before, and why it’s being so slow now, is because of that room being so hard to access. We might even need to hire somebody to overlook that for a couple hours in the week.”

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Flight by Design takes literal flight through drone

Senior Connor Whitlock works diligently on the project next to his team’s autonomous drone.
Photo Credit: Ryan Lipour

At RAHS, it is no secret that project based learning is a large part of curriculum. One of RAHS’ elective classes, Flight by Design, takes that to the next level. A group of students in Flight by Design is currently developing an autonomous drone.

Senior Eli Benevedes is a member of the team. He is currently developing software for the drone.

“The Flight by Design class is one of the capstone classes that is mostly upperclassmen,” said Benevedes, “where you combine all your skills previously learned in your other classes like physics and programming and your math courses, and put it together into an actual real life project.”

There are multiple project groups in Flight by Design, covering a myriad of different project types. Senior Connor Whitlock is another student on the team.

“There is one team that is trying to create a robotic hand, that will copy a glove that they make, there is one team that is trying to make their own music synthesizers, given only the basic electronic pieces,” said Whitlock. “There is another group that is doing their own drone, but where ours is trying to be autonomous, their drone is remote controlled to make a map of the terrain.”

The team’s vision of the project is for full autonomous functionality.

“The idea is that we will be able to pre-program a flight path, and it will be able to follow it without any human input, including takeoff and landing,” said Benevedes.

This goal has, as one could imagine, a host of obstacles

“We have had some issues with the gyroscope we have been using,” said Benevedes. “We have been having some problems doing the math to get the rotations correct, and we are just now working it out.”

There have also been a few difficulties as far as the construction of the drone.

“For me specifically, since I am focusing on build, my issue has been coming up with way to make the things that we have wanted to build,” said Whitlock. “We may want a fuselage, here’s what we want it to look like in CAD, but actually making it has been difficult at times.”

Whitlock also believes that his classes beforehand have been integral to his work on the project in Flight by Design.

“Obviously in Mr. Hoene’s class, we did a lot of group projects, which kind of factors into this when it comes to picking people you work well with, rather than just people you will mess around with,” said Whitlock. “And also the normal project skills like making a schedule and making sure you keep to it. Flight by Design just takes it a step up because it is such a long project.”

Besides being used as a capstone class, Flight by Design has also been instrumental in teaching students other lessons, such as time and product management.

“It really teaches you about holding to a timeline and planning multiple different aspects of a project in parallel to get it done on time, or stay consistent with your schedule,” says Whitlock.

Whitlock has learned many other important skills in Flight by Design.

“I’ve gotten a lot better at documenting stuff as I go,” said Whitlock. “When we started the project I was like ‘oh I’m just gonna build a glider,’ and I did, but then I had to go back and take it apart to take pictures of each piece. Now that we are building our second iteration, I have been way better at taking pictures as I go and writing down the process as I do it.”

Flight by Design has given students the opportunity to accomplish amazing engineering goals with the skills they already have.

“It [Flight by Design] has taught me that if I apply my skills, I would be able to do something I hadn’t thought I could do before,” said Benevedes.

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Cryptocurrencies gaining popularity at RAHS

Just like the price of bitcoin as shown in this graph of price fluctuation, the popularity of cryptocurrency is on the rise.
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With all the recent news about bitcoin, it is no surprise that students at RAHS are getting invested in cryptocurrencies.

So what are cryptocurrencies? Cryptocurrency has been gaining popularity but not many know how the whole system works. Teo Bagnoli, senior at RAHS, has been investing in cryptocurrency for over a year.

“Basically, cryptocurrency is a digital decentralized form of currency,” said Bagnoli. “Decentralized means that it has no central authority that issues it, which allows it [to avoid] government manipulation and interference.”

As Bagnoli stated, one of the key aspects to cryptocurrency is that it is decentralized meaning it is not controlled by the government. C.J. Crowder, a senior at RAHS, claims that because cryptocurrencies are not backed by government, they have the potential to change the way we think about money.

“Cryptocurrency is an electronic, decentralized form of peer-to-peer monetary transaction, sort of like digital cash,” said Crowder. “People think crypto is just something to invest in. It was never intended as a way to hold value; it was created as an alternative to cash, so let’s let it change the world already.”

Bagnoli first got involved in cryptocurrencies a long time before it was so widely covered by the news.

“I started getting involved in cryptos about a year and a half ago as they were simply interesting to me,” said Bagnoli, “but since the beginning of this last summer I’ve really become involved in them and started investing more into them.”

Despite owning various forms of cryptocurrency, Bagnoli does acknowledge some of the flaws involved with the system.

“I think that cryptos may have a hard time being mass adopted by the public as there is still a lot of hesitation around them due to misinformation and ignorance,” said Bagnoli. “However, they have huge potential as not only currencies but also as methods of data transfer.”

The great part about cryptocurrency, as Bagnoli states, is that you can dedicate as much or as little time as necessary.

“If you’re trying to day trade, its going to be pretty stressful and a large time commitment but if you just buy with the intentions to use it as an investment platform and not necessarily a currency, its not that big of a time commitment,” said Bagnoli. “If you’re using it as an everyday currency, it can be more time consuming depending on what crypto you primarily use.”

Bagnoli recognizes current cryptocurrency success due to two reasons.

“First, in my opinion it’s the future, so the general public is starting to realize its potential and value as a technology,” said Bagnoli. “Second, there has been a lot of media hype around it recently, and the rare examples of early investors making millions in profits only adds to the attention.”

Crowder has invested lots of money into various cryptocurrencies and, as a result, can take up a lot of his time.

“When I had around $2,000 invested I was checking prices every fifteen minutes,” said Crowder. “I have invested thousands in bitcoin, IOTA, Litecoin, and Ethereum and I was always researching ways to make my investment more secure, or to redistribute in order to maximize my profits.”

Crowder realizes there is a lot of common misconceptions about cryptocurrencies such as it being untrackable.

“One, it is not truly anonymous. With enough time and effort someone can and will track you down,” said Crowder. “Two, it does not work like stocks. It is real money, and owning crypto is very similar to buying another country’s currency.”

Crowder has provided some tips for getting involved in cryptocurrencies.

“Never store your coin in an online exchange. Several notable exchanges have collapsed, taking the money of the entire user-base,” said Crowder. “Buy crypto on these exchanges, and then store the keys in a hardware wallet. If you control the keys, it is your money.”

Most people view cryptocurrency as a get-rich-quick option but Bagnoli does not agree and instead believes it is a way of fighting back against the one and only form of government-backed currency that is most frequently used.

“Cryptocurrencies aren’t about investing and individual monetary gain at all,” said Bagnoli. “It’s main purpose is protesting the financial system that we have been forced to use. It lets you control your own life more.”

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