Keeping Up With the Spartans

Learn what our students did to continue fueling their minds over the summer.

School may have been out for the summer, but that doesn’t mean our students stopped growing and learning. This summer, students shared their unique educational experiences with us through a series of student-written articles with accompanying photos.


Diving into Medical Research: Interning at VCU's Goodwin Research Labs

By: Jess Jordan '18

It was 6:30 a.m., and my alarm clock woke me up. I promptly groaned and rolled over to the other side of the bed to make the noise stop. “This is not what summer should feel like,” I thought to myself.

This summer, I had the opportunity to intern in the Goodwin Research Labs at Massey Cancer Center. While my summer wasn’t particularly relaxing, I ended up having an incredible experience in the lab, and I learned a lot.

In the summer of 2015, I met a VCU medical student who recommended that I reach out to a certain doctor about spending some time in the lab one summer. A year and a half later, I took his advice and secured an internship for the summer of 2017. At the time, I was beyond excited; I would get to spend my summer conducting research in a college lab.

The morning of my first day, however, I was less than enthusiastic. What in the world had I signed myself up for a year ago? What part of me thought that spending my summer doing more work would be fun?

With that attitude, I eventually got out of bed, scarfed down a quick breakfast, and grabbed my car keys. I was utterly unprepared for the day ahead, and every part of me was wishing I was still asleep.

My first day was terrifying; before stepping foot in the lab, I had to conquer the rush hour commute from Short Pump to the heart of downtown Richmond. After braving the highway, I then had to navigate the parking deck, which was an adventure all of its own. By the time I made it to the lab, I was already exhausted, and I knew I was in for a long day.

When I stepped foot into the building, however, I started getting excited. I’d met the head researcher earlier in the year, and he immediately introduced me to everyone else in the lab. From undergraduate students to MD / pHDs, the lab was full of researchers with all levels of experience.

After meeting everyone, an MD student explained our project to me. Our goal was to research varying toxicities of radiation following chemotherapy treatment for breast cancer patients. The data would hopefully be helpful in predicting whether cancers would be recurrent.

I proceeded to shadow the med students as they mixed samples, added chemicals, treated cells, and recorded data. We managed a few complex processes that aimed to isolate various parts of the blood samples we were working with, such as the miRNA or the exosomes.

After about a week, I was able to follow the procedure on my own. My hands no longer shook when I used the pipet, I could set up the centrifuge correctly, and I was much more confident handling the liquid nitrogen when looking for specific blood samples. The spare lab notebook slowly became my own as I added notes, tips for procedures, and data regarding each sample I worked with. Over the course of my time in the lab, I became more confident with lab procedures, medical terms, and navigating the professional world.

I spent over a month in the lab and learned a great deal about research. However, I learned about a lot more. I learned about professional mannerisms and expectations, and I learned how to be a bit more independent. I became comfortable driving in rush hour traffic and navigating a parking deck. I learned how to pipet chemicals and split cells. I mastered the hospital cafeteria and the valet parking, and I found my way around downtown even when I’d used up my cell data and couldn’t rely on Google Maps.

Out of all those aspects of my experience, however, I honestly might have learned the most in the hospital cafeteria. Each day, I would buy a meal and then proceed to sit amongst students, patients, and doctors for the next half-hour. I heard medical students excitedly talk about the surgeries they got to watch, and I heard them less excitedly discuss their upcoming exams. I spoke with patients, who asked about my experience working in the lab. I heard doctors comparing various medications and rehab techniques. What was most interesting, however, was that many of these people seemed a lot like me. They weren’t a lot older, and all of a sudden, the idea of studying medicine started to feel real.

In all those hours in the lab, in the cafeteria, and in the car, I learned about research, I learned about independence, and I learned about myself. I acquired new skills and techniques, whether that be using research equipment or parallel parking. I discovered which aspects of research interest me and which don’t. Above all, I learned that a job that helps make the world a better place, in big ways or small, is a job I want to have.


Space Camp for the Summer: Building Rockets, Studying Oceans, and Meeting Astronauts

By: Abby Dwelle '19

This summer, I went to space camp. I earned my spot by participating in Virginia Space Grant Consortium’s online course throughout the last school year, and was excited to be one of 120 kidsout of 400picked for their Summer Academy.

It took place in August at NASA’s Wallops Island Flight Facility in Accomack County, Va. Wallops Flight Facility (WFF) is operated by the Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland and is the only flight facility NASA fully owns. While attending the academy, we were challenged to create a mission based off of a specific launch platform: airborne science, expendable launch vehicles, scientific balloons, or sounding rockets. My platform was airborne science.

On the first day, we met with our platform teams and selected our jobs or “office” for the week (for me: environmental impact). Within the first ten minutes, our team was already friends and working well together. I never realized how important teamwork was until this program. It was my job to obtain any grants needed, make sure we were following all the laws and regulations, design ways to make the mission as eco-friendly as possible, and determine how our mission would affect the environment, from the air to wildlife.

That evening, we were given our first design challenge. In an hour, we had to build a functioning model rocket that could hold as much “cargo” as possible and still fly to a height of at least 50 feet. Before doing this, I thought to myself, “there is no way my rocket will work after an hour,” but to my surprise when we launched them, mine worked really well!

The second day was even busier than the first and each day after would continue to get busier and busier. Our platform teams worked together all week to design our mission’s goals and analyze the logistics. This meant lots of brainstorming and lots of debate on how it would ever work and most importantly, asking the question, “has NASA done it before?” (by the way, NASA has done everything). After coming up with more than 30 possible topics, narrowing it down to three that NASA hadn’t yet researched, and talking with an airborne science expert, we finally decided to study the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (GPGP).

My team created a mission that we called Coastal Airborne Research for Saving Oceanic Environments, or “Operation CARSON.” Its main focus was to understand the GPGP's effects on the environment using aircrafts. We planned to use digital mapping systems to create a detailed model of the volume and mass of the GPGP. We also planned to collect air samples to test O2 levels and greenhouse gas levels around the patch and to track their effect on the marine life migrating through the patch.

To do this we would use two aircrafts. The ER-2 would be sent out prior to the start of the main operation to scan the patch and determine exactly where we would need to study since the GPGP is so large. The second aircraft would be the C-130 Hercules, which would be used to complete all of our goals and objectives of the mission. Our instruments included dropsondes that would measure pH, TDS (total dissolved solids), and the conductivity of water. CARSON would also use a cholormeter, gravimeter, and other digital mapping systems. We planned for the mission to fly out of the Armstrong Flight Research Center in California and the Hickam Air Force Base in Hawaii. While planning the mission, we had to come up with a launch commit criteria plan, a safety plan, and a contingency action plan.

My main role was to study the environmental impact of the mission and learn about the current environmental impact of the GPGP. Some of the biggest environmental impacts I found for the mission were noise pollution, the impact of an emergency such as a plane crash or fuel leak, and engine pollution. I also had to find all of the laws and regulations and worked on finding a group to help us with the marine life study. After finding and planning all these details, we had the opportunity to present to a panel of NASA employees who critiqued and asked us questions about the mission.

While at the summer academy, we also toured the facilities of WFF, one of which has two hangers full of planes. We had the chance to go inside both the C-130 and C-23 Sherpa. We sat in the cockpits, which was really cool because we got to see all the controls. I visited the control room for both the Global Hawk and Antares Rocket, as well as the launch pads. My favorite tour we went on was to the HIF (Horizontal Integration Facility), which is where they built and hold the Antares Rocket. Seeing the Antares Rocket was by far the most amazing because most employees at NASA have never even been to the HIF. While there, we learned about the history of the rocket, saw some engineers working on it, and talked to the man who is in charge of the launch site for the rocket.

At the summer academy, I also heard the son of one of the Tuskegee airman speak, made a hydraulic arm, and met a former astronaut. Overall this experience was truly once in a lifetime and I hope to be able to attend the program for rising seniors next summer at Langley Research Center. Through this program, I not only made great friends and new connections with college professors and NASA employees, I also learned the importance of teamwork and communication—without it, we would never have been able to accomplish as much as we did.


Training Hard during National Lacrosse Week

By: Saara Qureshi '21

From July 17-21, I had the opportunity to participate in the National Lacrosse Week here in Virginia. I played in two back-to-back lacrosse events that included girls and boys from across the U.S. in many different age groups.

My week started off with the Warrior National Prospect Invite. This was a two-day showcase tournament where I was placed on a team with girls my age. Players on my team were from Virginia, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, New Hampshire, and Connecticut. A college or high school coach was assigned to each team. My team had one high school coach from Georgia and one from Maryland.

The first day was filled with agility training, station work, practices, and games. The games were at the end of both the two days and were against the other teams in my age group. Our practices and station work were with our assigned teams so that we could get to know each other and learn how everyone plays. Many teams had a rough start in the first game but improved once the girls became comfortable with each other. After a very long day of lacrosse that ended at 8 p.m., I was lucky to head back to my house, unlike many people from out of town who stayed in nearby hotels.

The second day was a shortened version of the first. We had one practice with our team but the rest of the day was filled with games. During each of the games, there were people who were evaluating to see which girls would be selected to play in the all-star game at the end of the day. I was lucky enough to be chosen as one of the all-star athletes, who were watched by college coaches. The Warrior all-star game was an incredible experience where I was able to play with very talented players from across the country.

The opening ceremonies for the Brine National Lacrosse Classic were right after the Warrior game, which was delayed by weather. I had to change into my Brine team, Virginia uniform as fast as I could so I could rush to the opening ceremonies. There were 2,400 athletes from 30 states and Canada present. The announcer called each team onto the field individually and, when we screamed and cheered, so did our parents. Once all the teams were on the field, many speakers spoke to the crowd. It was incredible just looking around because there were so many teams, made up of boys, girls, high schoolers, and middle schoolers. Once the speakers were done, everyone left and rested up for three more days full of lacrosse.

The first day of Brine was rough. It was almost 100 degrees and we were outside all day. Like Warrior, Brine had station work and practices with your team before games. We had two games the first day, one against Georgia and the other against New Jersey. Although we had a huge win over Georgia, we lost by a few points to a very strong New Jersey team.

The second day of Brine was shorter than the first but just as hot. Like the first day, we had one practice where we worked on drills to help us in our games. We also had two games on the second day, one against Wisconsin and one against the heavily favored Metro New York team. We won both those games including a one-point win against Metro New York.

The top two teams in each bracket advanced to the winners’ bracket to play for the championship. Since we were the second seed in our bracket, we played the next day in the winners’ bracket. Our first game was against Pennsylvania, and we knew they were one of the best teams. The game was great because the other opponent played hard but we kept the score close. Sadly, we lost the game by a few points, and Pennsylvania ended up going to the championship and winning against New Jersey.

Although the week was hot, long, tiring, and hard, I am so glad I was able to play in both showcases and fortunate to have such a great experience in my hometown. I improved as a player, met new people, and had so much fun doing something I love. I wish I could have similar experiences every week!


Exploring Nanotechnology Through “I Am Nano”

By: Drew Thompson ’21

During the end of June and in early July, I was honored to attend the “I Am Nano” course through the Summer Regional Governor’s School at the MathScience Innovation Center. This program is supported by the Virginia Department of Education and the MathScience Innovation Center and it offers six course options to students in grades 6-8 in the fields of math, science, and technology. Students in school divisions from 13 counties and cities are eligible to apply and participate.

Over the course of two weeks, I explored nanotechnology and discovered the many applications it has in our everyday lives. The first day of class provided two fundamental lessons in developing an understanding of nanotechnology. First, I learned that nanometers, the measurement for nanotechnology, are larger than a picometer and smaller than a micrometer. Secondly, the term ‘nanotechnology’ encompasses all technology that is smaller than half a micrometer (500 nanometers) and makes our lives better.

While I thoroughly enjoyed learning the science behind nanotechnology and its applications in our everyday lives, I also loved hearing the four VCU professors who visited us discuss what they each teach as well as share their groundbreaking research. First, Dr. Jayasimha Atulasimha visited the class and taught us about magnetism and the shape of electron clouds in atoms. The next day, Dr. Joseph Reiner shared how he has cleverly made use of nanopores in a cell membrane to measure objects at the nanoscale. Dr. Jason Reed then paid us a visit and showed how scanning tunneling microscopes and atomic force microscopes work. Finally, Dr. Shiv Khanna and his associate, Dr. Arthur Reber, told us about “superatoms,” which are clusters of atoms forced together in a lab, and how their special magnetic properties may be able to replicate those of rare earths.

Another aspect of the class that I enjoyed was the hands-on experiments that we did throughout the course. I was fascinated by the nanopants that I was given the opportunity to play around with and how they repel water by using nano-fibers to increase the surface tension of water on the pants to prevent the water from being absorbed. The class also used small tea cups (no, not nanocups) to observe how, when the small cups are filled up with water and turned upside down, the water remains in the cup. This happens because the water better adheres to that side of the cup due to the smaller scale, and this demonstrated how forces at the nanoscale are stronger than even gravity. Additionally, we put a drop of clear nail polish in water to create an iridescent field on the surface of the water and then learned about how iridescence is caused by structures at the nanoscale. Finally, we blew bubbles to show how an object as simple and common as a bubble is, in fact, nanotechnology.

The course culminated with a group project through which we developed a product application using nanotechnology, and then these projects were presented to the parents of the “I Am Nano” participants. My group designed the “penfinity,” which utilizes iron nanoparticles in place of ink. After use, the iron nanoparticles can be vacuumed up by an electromagnet and saved inside the pen for later use. Other projects focused on medical applications of nanotechnology, improvements in entertainment with nanotechnology, and products that would even reduce frizzy hair with nanotechnology! I truly enjoyed taking this course and now have a better understanding of nanotechnology and its use in our world.


Experiencing France as an Au Pair

By: Crary Moore ’20

My mom has always been pushing me to be more adventurous, so when she suggested that I try to become an au pair (a young person who helps with housework or child care in exchange for room and board) in France this summer; I was like, “sign me up!” I advertised myself as dedicated, hardworking, and someone who has the energy to go all day with kids in a paragraph that a friend posted to some “mom” sites to draw attention to me. My mom told me not to get my hopes up, but I was still hoping that a family would want me for the summer. When Amy De Leusse contacted me, my excitement soared at the opportunity to be a “big sister” for three kids and to live in the countryside of Burgundy, France for six weeks. Amy is originally from London and her husband, Pierre Emmanuel, is from Paris, which means that their kids are becoming bilingual! Amy and I kept in contact, figuring out details and the expectations for me when I “joined” the family. I wanted so badly for them to like me! When my mom booked my plane ticket—direct to Paris!I realized my summer was going to be incredible no matter what I faced.

When I said goodbye to my family, it hit me that six weeks is a long time to be gone from the people I love most. My mom drove me to Washington Dulles International Airport, came to the gate with me, and waited until I boarded the plane. I knew she was happy for me and had complete faith that I would be great, but the butterflies did not fully leave until I called her from Paris. Even though I have flown on planes many times before, I was most worried about crossing the Atlantic by myself, having to get through customs alone, and then finding Pierre Emmanuel at the airport when I arrived.

When I exited the plane, I followed the flow of people and looked for signs everywhere. Everything went well and I felt empowered after accomplishing something that forced me to observe all the specifics. The first two nights, we stayed in the family’s Paris apartment. It was so fun as I got to pick the kids up from school, walk around alone, and have dinner with Pierre Emmanuel’s sister and friends. It was only when we made it to the country house in Burgundy that I realized I would in fact be an asset to the family. As time flew past this summer, I got to know Amy pretty well; she is a hip mom and what I like to call a ‘foodie’she is always trying new recipes from health blogs, etc. We did not eat a lot of meat, the kids only drank almond milk, and the 'goûter' (snack) was normally fruit. There was not a lot of snacking because each meal was a proper meal, and right off the bat I knew I would like Amy’s cooking.

It definitely took some time for Jean (three years old) and Alice (a year and a half) to warm up to me, but Camile (five years old) and I got along well from the start. After three weeks in, everybody gained a rhythm and although there was still screaming and crying, I figured out that Alice will calm down if you take her to look for cows, Jean needs his dad when he’s in a bad mood, and Camille needs a hug and a story after a tantrum. From puzzles to ridiculous hide and seek games, I have grown to view these kids as my own siblingsalthough they can be pains sometimes, they are pretty great youngsters. I cannot tell someone how happy it makes me when Alice cuddles close to my chest or when Jean lets me play with him. These little moments of satisfaction make living here the absolute best!

Whilst here, I have been exposed to so many different traditions (like kisses on the cheek) and introduced to so many people. For example, Amy’s godmother came to visit and she has a daughter my age, Amelia, and we clicked instantly. I hope that I will stay connected to that family and that we cross paths again because I do not want to give up a friendship that seemed to work so well. Amy and Pierre Emmanuel’s friends have come and gone all summer and after meeting them, I am so impressed with how cool these parents are.

There have been many ups and downs and decisions that might not have been the smartest but we all overcome them as a small army of teamwork and positivity. Being a part of a different family allows me to appreciate my parents more and understand that every family has their own routines, and even eating habits. The only way I feel I can truly value an opportunity as incredible as this one, is to find myself as an inhabitant and not a tourist. I cannot stress my gratitude to my mom for trusting and believing in me, and to Amy who opened her home to me and treated me as a part of her family. Hopefully during the next summers I will find myself back with the De Leusse family!


Pursuing Architecture as a Career at Tulane University

By: Lauren Cantor 18

This summer, I was given the opportunity to attend Tulane University's Career Explorations in Architecture. It’s a three-week program that takes place on Tulane's campus in uptown New Orleans. While attending the program, I stayed on campus in one of Tulane's finest dorms and experienced college life first hand.

The program offers three elective credits, should the student later matriculate to Tulane. We had class every day and began with lectures from world-class Tulane professors. After the lectures about the city of New Orleans or Tulane, we had studio time. During studio, we were given assignments. The first week we had to draw shoes as a “floor plan,” “elevation plan,” and “section plan.” This experience was really difficult as we dived right in with hard sketching and measured every curve and almost every design element in our shoe. The second week we built models in the shape of cubes to explore the concept of space. The third week, we drew our cubes and explored the scale of our models. In addition to class time, we had field trips to explore the beautiful city around us. We visited the French Quarter, Grow Dat Youth Farm (farm created by Tulane Architecture students to help the community), the Ninth Ward, and all over the rest of New Orleans.

In addition to studio, we had other assignments every day. Typically, we had sketching due every morning and other long-term projects due throughout the program. For example, we researched famous architects and gave a presentation on them. The architect I researched is Liz Diller. We were also assigned numerous reading and creative assignments.

I really enjoyed this experience as it was super eye-opening to what architecture school is like. After completing my internship earlier this year during minimester at Gresham, Smith, and Partners, I really got excited about pursuing this field. Architecture interests me because architecture is always innovative. Despite lots of late nights and early mornings to finish projects, I still remain extremely interested in this field and want to pursue architecture school in the future.

 

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- Dan and Kathi Campbell, Parents of Abbie ’19, Emma ’17, and Ben ’14

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- Grace Henderson ’10

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Steward provides Andrew with a nurturing environment which fosters his individualism, develops exemplary character traits, and continuously provides him with creative learning experiences. Consequently, Andrew ‘loves’ school and anticipates each day with joy, enthusiasm, and excitement.
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I love all that The Steward School has done for Trace. Steward has uncovered Trace’s talents, celebrated his individuality, and strengthened his belief in himself. The faculty and staff offer an amazing balance of challenge and comfort, encouraging the best from all students. I can’t imagine Trace being anywhere else. Thank you, Steward School.
- Ron Coles, Father of Trace Coles ’19 and Grade 5 Teacher

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Being a member of The Steward School international program has been an awesome experience. The community has helped me tremendously along the way.
- Bowen Chen ’15

 

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