ODA STEM Students Featured at Sarasota Institute

ODA student presentations receive high acclaim at local symposium focused on the future of education.
Honors science independent research students Bryce Berkowitz ‘20, Andrew Dowdell ‘20, Brian Lutton ‘20, Supawadee Surattanont ‘21, and Reece Whatmore ‘21 presented their work at The Sarasota Institute’s 2020 Conference: “An Educated Person in 2035.” Their session, “Engineering Impact Projects,” focused on how design learning environments allow students to solve problems beyond the classroom.

Upper School Instructional Technology teacher Mr. Ryan Kinser led off the session with an overview of the growth of ODA’s STEM program, particularly the student pathways from Engineering to Independent Research. He shared the process of design thinking used at ODA, a combination of strategies championed by Stanford University’s d.School and The University of Texas Cockrell School of Engineering. Mr. Kinser explained to the audience that this model requires educators to reimagine their roles, releasing control over content in favor of curating resources, opportunities, and new skills for students. The student presenters then demonstrated the projects yielded by this approach.

Reece Whatmore and Supawadee Surattanont presented their Toshiba grant project, “STEMming the Tide,” in which they are building 3-D printed oyster reefs using filament made of crushed oyster shells in an effort to reduce the occurrence of red tide. They demonstrated their student-built 3-D printer, shared sample reef models, and explained how their utilizing specific shapes and textures in their reef designs were intentional in order to attract oysters that will breed. "This experience added to the overall project as sharing our journey with the community is a key aspect of our research,” said Reece. “This project is centered around improving the environment of our bay to improve our community so the project needs to be centered around the community itself...Creating connections with the community and gaining feedback was very helpful."

Bryce Berkowitz discussed his area of interest–artificial intelligence (AI)—sharing his findings with the attentive audience members. His research explored the benefits and drawbacks of AI in a variety of fields including healthcare, environmental science, and cybersecurity. Bryce also showed a video of one of his prototype programs, a small vehicle learning its way through a path, after which a University of South Florida professor expressed interest in partnering with Bryce on this project.

Brian Lutton and Andrew Dowdell shared the story of their 6,000-mile journey to and from Canada last summer in their restored 1980s Mercedes converted to run on recycled cooking oil. They then talked about their work retrofitting ODAs golf carts with solar fuel cells in hopes of reimagining student bus transportation. “The most positive part of the experience was making new connections with people and hearing new ideas about our topics,” said Andrew. "This experience helped us start thinking differently and we were able to learn a lot more about possible user needs with our projects and talk to real people who would be interested in purchasing our product."

Throughout the session, the audience remained engaged, asking a myriad of questions. At its conclusion, our ODA students were surrounded by attendees who wanted to further the discussion, offer new opportunities, or simply congratulate them on their work.

"During the College President's Panel, ODA was mentioned several times for the full crowd and as an example of why colleges have to change to be prepared for students like yours," said Becky van der Bogert, event organizer and former Head of School at Palm Beach Day Academy.  “We asked participants to write down what was meaningful to participants and many responded that hearing about what ODA was doing and hearing from the students. They were a real life example of everything our guest speakers were talking about. Students like yours will be the ones to make the changes and how optimistic about the future  everyone is experiencing what they've done."

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