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The Power of Grants in Student Development

By Camille Banson, VI Form and Ryan Lee, VI Form

Editor’s Note: The Matthews Educational Fund provides grants to students of any form who are good citizens and solid students. Grants are made for special needs such as tutoring assistance, special instruction, seminars, academic experiences of a national or international nature, and personal growth and advancement opportunities. ​Awards are based on merit and need as determined by a faculty committee. Last year, Camille Banson and Ryan Lee received the Matthews Fund Award to pursue their educational endeavor. Here is an overview of their experience.

Camille Banson:

Over the summer, I participated in a Boston University Summer Program. It ran for two weeks during which I took two seminars that met each day for two hours. There were numerous seminars to choose from, ranging from Abnormal Psychology to Photography. This program intrigued me because I wanted to get a feel for what subject truly interests me, how the college dorm life would be, and what it would be like to study in an urban school. The BU program did all of these three things that, before, persistently wandered my mind since life after SM as a day student was drawing near.

In the middle of June, I packed my bags and was dropped off in this tiny and old room in Tower B. I had a roommate from Saudi Arabia and a dozen other girls in my hall. Already, I felt the independence, openness, and engagement that went with living away from home. After settling in, I was directed to my seminars. I took the ‘Building a Business from the Ground Up’ and the ‘Infectious Disease’ seminars. I decided upon these two seminars because I did not quite know if I wanted to pursue a career in business or science. Taking part in the program made it clear as to which one I am currently leading toward.

The business seminar was focused around building our own product. We were put into small groups where we came up with a product that we wanted to sell. During each class period, the professor gave us lessons on the different aspects that went into producing a marketable product and later that evening we would reconvene with our groups and apply what we learned to the development of our product. Our group’s product was called the “Clip n’ Sip.” It was an accessory that you could clip onto any hard surface and it would hold your drink sturdily. Therefore, we learned how much it would cost to make the product, how much it would sell for, who we were selling it to, where it will be sold, and how the business would be organized. At the end of the two weeks, we gave pitch presentations to the class and parents.

The science seminar that I took concentrated on infectious diseases. I learned about the transmission and history of viruses and bacterial diseases such as Ebola, chicken pox, and tuberculosis. Most of the class time was dedicated to lab experiments. My favorite lab was using the electrophoresis process. We set gel plates with ten wells in them in which we pipetted the cut-up strands of our DNA. The DNA was sliced at certain nucleotide sequences using restriction enzymes. When we ran a current through the plate, the segments traveled along the current at different rates due to the varying lengths of strands. We were testing for a certain gene sequence that is presumed to be an ancient virus that integrated itself into DNA hundreds of years ago. It turned out that one of my parents has this ancient virus! For the final project, we were divided into small groups and reported on a disease. The disease I reported on was Ebola, which at the time was just an emerging epidemic.

From this experience, I learned what it means to live in a dorm, that science is definitely my calling, and that I want to study in an urban school. I have made many friends that I still keep in touch with and have continued pursuing my interest in the sciences.

Camille Banson is a day student from Hopkinton and is in the VI Form. She enjoys traveling, writing, and listening to music.

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Ryan Lee:

Last year, at the end of the Advanced Mathematics Research class, Alex Padron, Luya Wang, and I reviewed the contents of linear algebra. With reviewing the Linear Algebra, I thought I had a good grasp of the first few years of college math: Multivariable Calculus, Linear Algebra, and Differential Equations, as I had studied the other two by myself using MIT Opencourseware. However, MIT Opencourseware, while being a great online course website to learn the first two years of college-level math, did not offer many complete online courses beyond 18.06 Linear Algebra. Still, I hoped to further my knowledge of mathematics. With the generous gift from St. Mark’s, I was able to take a course in edX called ‘Autonomous Navigation for Flying Robots.’

The course, as the name suggests, was about developing a method to make quadrotors move autonomously. Although it was a course specified on autonomous flying, it taught me general knowledge of optimization, a field of applied mathematics. Until last year, my scope of mathematics was quite “pure;” I only studied fields of pure mathematics such as graph theory, set theory, number theory, and topology. Although I was aspiring to be a pure mathematician, it was great to experiment with applied mathematics. I love the theoretical part of pure mathematics which the applied mathematics did not offer, but I was captivated by how diverse fields of math (probability, linear algebra and geometry) were used to fly the robot autonomously.

Furthermore, the course integrated mathematics and computer science. It not only used complex linear algebra, but also used Proportional-Integral-Derivative (PID) control system with various sensors. (PID controlling is a widely used mechanism that is used to minimize error.) I had learnt about the basics of PID controlling and sensors from my tenure on the ST. Mark’s Robotics Team. However, it was refreshing to be able to integrate math that I learned in my class with the computer science that I learned in my extracurricular activities. Truly, it was an “intellectual spark” experience.

I was able to enjoy a very exciting experience thanks to the Matthews Fund Award. I was able to further my knowledge of mathematics as intended. Furthermore, I was able to integrate the various fields I have learnt separately before. I would like to encourage all my peers to apply for this fund since it can be a great opportunity to try out something that you could not attempt. Although the idea of writing a proposal could be unfamiliar, this process will help you organize your thoughts as you do some background research on the topic you wish to pursue.

Ryan Lee is a VI Former from Seoul, Korea. He is passionate about math and computer science, and he often writes a post in his blog on math and computer science.

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