At the age of 18, Emily Whittie has reinvented the crutch and created a prototype which distributes a person’s weight more evenly and comfortably to reduce injury. She is currently pursuing a patent.
A senior at Aberdeen High School, Whittie is pursuing a project that some wouldn’t have attempted until much later in life. But she’s only one of 43 other local graduating high school students who have worked on individual science and math projects that go far beyond a typical high school assignment.
The students belong to the Science and Mathematics Academy at Aberdeen High School, a four-year program that spans a student’s high school career. Whittie’s project is just one example of the capstone projects to that program which were presented at Aberdeen High School Tuesday night as part of a presentation and award ceremony for the members of the academy.
The program requires students to enroll in various math- and science-related honors and AP classes, culminating in a senior capstone project based on unique research the student does under the guidance of a faculty mentor.
Sarah Voskuhl, the acting program specialist and a math teacher at Aberdeen High School, said the program seeks to “teach students how to problem solve through science,” and to encourage hands-on experience in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics in order to better students’ futures.
Other capstone projects on display ranged from a tactile MP3 interface for the blind to the effect of pH on the fundamental interactions between gold nanoparticles and DNA.
“The toughest part [of the program] was the amount of work we had to put in,” Whittie said, “We had to balance everything from clubs, to sports, to class…anything we were involved in.”
Whittie said the teacher mentors involved with the program were an integral part of pushing the students to complete and succeed in their capstone projects. She said she holds a deep appreciation for the experience the program has given her.
“I’ve really enjoyed the program and project a lot… going in the field and working with the engineers has been a great experience,” Whittie said.
In his opening remarks, William Lawrence, associate superintendent of curriculum, instruction, and assessment for Harford County Public Schools said that the students involved with the academy “understand things that a lot of adults can’t even imagine.”
Among those present were Aberdeen Mayor Michael Bennett, City Councilwoman Ruth Ann Young, and District 35A Delegate Wayne Norman.
Also in attendance was Dr. Peter Emanuel, former assistant director for chemical and biological countermeasures at the White House, who described the students as “some of the finest graduates of the finest programs in the country.”
Five students were singled out for particular recognition: Andrew Carver received the Doctor Bill Richardson Award for Creative Vision, Briana Elmore received the Robert Johnson Award for Perseverance and Problem Solving, Jon Smeton received the C. Warren Mullins Award for Leadership Potential, Christopher Purdy received the Doctor Dennis Kirkwood Award for Exceptional Work Ethic, and Prettany Overman received the Donna Clem Award for Spirit and Purpose of the SMA.
Clem has been the coordinator of the Science and Mathematics Academy since 2003 and has worked closely with the academy since its inception in 1999.
“The program has grown over the seven years since it first started,” Clem said, “What [students] learn are life skills like perseverance, hard work, and what it is to be part of a school family.”
For more information on the Science and Mathematics Academy, or on how to get involved as a mentor, visit www.scienceandmathacademy.com