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The Reflection

KAMSC students delve into research projects

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This is Baxter, the robot that juniors, Thorn and Flynn currently use at Western Michigan University (WMU) Department of Civil and Construction Engineering for their research project. Photo courtesy of Nathan Thorn

Those involved with Kalamazoo Math and Science Center (KAMSC) have been given the task of developing a research project for a their specific science class or independent research team.

In freshman biology, student have to do a reading research project, where they have to review scientific literature and write a review article to pull together all the current research on a cutting edge biology topic. Sophomores in Chemistry have to design methodology and conduct an experiment on something in the field and demonstrate lab techniques through real life application.

“We pick a chemistry related topic that we would like to investigate, make our own methods, and then actually produce our own data by running the experiments necessary,” said sophomore KAMSC student Benjamin McWilliams.

McWilliams’ group project is about testing the enthalpy of certain salts in water with a calorimeter. He is working with two other students, from Parchment and Portage Northern. Others in the chemistry class are doing projects using spectrophotometers, and various chromatography experiments.  

“Overall, we get to work on our experiment for about 2.5 months, and I have been working on it for about a month now,” McWilliams said. “Hopefully, my group will start running trials this next week.”

In KAMSC, there is a specific team that juniors and seniors can join just for research, and while on that team, they work with the college of science at WMU–and they do compete in research competitions.

The research team combines the reviewing of literature and experiments of the past years to see what they can improve on.

For the science of project of Thorn and Flynn, Baxter will sort the colored blocks. Photo courtesy of Nathan Thorn

“This is an independent research, so you take any field that you want and you are paired up with people in the industry that you want to research,” said junior KAMSC student Nathan Thorn. “Harvey Flynn and I wanted to do a computer science and engineering project, so we were paired up with a professor at Western.” 

Ekkenhard Sinn is a Chemistry Professor who does a lot with artificial intelligence, virtual reality and machine learning.

Thorn and Flynn are working at the Western Michigan University (WMU) Department of Civil and Construction Engineering with a research robot that they have named Baxter. They are using visual reconstruction to determine the color of the blocks and using a sorting algorithm to sort them by color.

“It’s a basic start to being able to sort more advanced things because we could extend it to sort by shape, but currently we can only sort by color,” Thorn said.

“It’s not boring, it’s just hard, it’s cool though,” Thorn said. Photo courtesy of Nathan Thorn

The freshman and sophomore students show the research they have done for the year at an exhibition night, where people from WMU, and KAMSC teachers grade the projects. They then give out awards to projects they think excelled and then a final award for the best board.

While the junior and senior research teams show their projects at the regional Science and Engineering Fair on Thursday, March 30. The finalists from that are going to advance to the Intel Science and Engineering Fair in Los Angeles to compete at an international level.


About

My name is Lexi Warren, I'm a senior this year. This is my third year on the Reflection staff. I play varsity girls tennis for Gull Lake High School. I work at Gull Meadow Farms in for the fall season and up until Christmas. I have two older sisters and an older brother. This year I'm taking college classes and a Teacher Academy Education for Employment (EFE).

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