The goal of this paper is to review my accomplishments so that you can write a more effective recommendation.
I have performed well in scholastic courses and in academic and service projects that demonstrate that I have been an effective leader while in high school.
My primary passion, to independently perform research, was fueled by the competitive environment of science fairs and by my high school’s Gifted Talented Independent Research and Intern/Mentorship programs
These experiences have taught me the value of having a predefined thesis, how to organize an experiment, collect data, analyze the results, draw conclusions, and articulate my findings every year of my career since fourth grade. The majority of my research has been collected in the science, engineering, and technology fields; however I have recently expanded, exploring the humanities as well – while maintaining a decidedly logical perspective. Many of these year-long projects built on each other as continuation projects.
AUTONOMOUS OPTICALLY GUIDED TOMATO HARVESTER
My scientific success was recognized (2008-2009) in receiving of the First Division Grand Prize of the Baltimore Regional Science fair, and the status of “finalist” in electrical/mechanical engineering at the most prominent exclusive student science research competition in the world: Intel’s International Science and Engineering Fair, held in Reno, Nevada of that year (2009). My goal was to develop an autonomous optically-guided tomato harvesting robot. The project grew over three years, starting in eighth grade; by tenth grade, I began actual building of the device in my own basement, largely without adult supervision. Though I’d worked very hard on my own project, I couldn’t help but feel small next to some international researchers my own age who worked with senior scientists. I met nine Nobel Prize winners and established peer contacts with whom I still keep in touch. This experience made up for every late-night moment of those past seven years, spent in near exhaustion and frustration over many failures. After seven years of science projects, slow progress in pushing myself and my presentations into the professional science world (e.g. National Science Foundation and Optical Society of America at NASA), and many runner-up trophies, I finally achieved significant recognition among the best students in the world during my last year of participation.
THE STORY TEMPLATE
The subsequent year (2009-2010), I decided to explore the humanities to broaden my experience and test the scientific method in a completely different arena. Now, I am continuing this past year’s research in which I scientifically evaluated a new fiction writing and analysis method developed by a local author. I interpreted this tool and adapted it into a 16-variable algorithm, so that I could evaluate its validity as a diagnostic test to identify what makes “classic” story. The initial findings of my study indicated that this tool had potential as resource for editors and agents in objectively identifying errors in novel-length fiction story construction. For this research, I was then recognized as the 2010 Gifted Talented Student of the Year by the Maryland State Board of Education. Though I have always loved the pure sciences, for the past two years, I’ve found that the scientific method can also be elegant when applied to artistic fields. Through this preliminary research, I combined science and art, finding one could describe and explain the other in a way that is useful to artistic creation and analysis.
JOHNS HOPKINS APPLIED PHYSICS LABORATORY
In the summer of 2009, I interned at Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab (2009). While at APL, I began learning to program the Linux operating system for navigation of a remote submersible device. This device utilized sonar for under-water mine sweeping. I worked on my own problem entirely alone, as I never saw another student in the building. I enjoyed the challenge of solo software development. However I also enjoyed experiencing the interworkings of a large team project (i.e. people-interactions, politics, networking, and hierarchy).
NASA GODDARD SPACE FLIGHT CENTER
At NASA (2010), I learned even more from graduate students who were closer to my age level than the senior professionals at APL. I was included as the one of three high school students included as an equal partner on a project team in a lab of 60 members. My team’s goal was to build an autonomous robot, called AstroBot, using SLAM (simultaneous localization and mapping) technology. Through that experience, I managed to build a foundation in C++ programming. I assisted in a few of the mechanical engineering adaptations to the robot, but most of my efforts were directed towards software development and later, presentation of the concept to potential sponsors. The atmosphere of that workplace was decidedly international because most of the student were from an exchange program. This opportunity offered the chance to put my basic knowledge of high school Spanish into practice, as many of my colleagues were from Panama, Puerto Rico, Mexico and Spain. Others came from Brazil or Sweden. This was my second experience in an international atmosphere (after the Intel ISEF fair in Reno, Nevada), and I found both experiences exciting and interesting enough that I hope to look into opportunities to work with international members in my search for a career.
From this final experience at NASA and from growing interest and involvement in the Intern/Mentor program at my school, I have decided that while I love the sciences, and find the humanities equally intricate, my inspiration lies most in the task of learning leadership itself.
My best experience in learning how to work through other people resulted from being promoted to the student leadership board of the school’s Mentorship program and Independent Research program. I was selected to participate in Independent Research program as a freshman when it had previously been open only to older students, and served as the youngest member ever to serve on the student leadership board that managed the entire Mentorship program. Glenelg High School’s GT Mentorship program is student operated and student led. Our resource teacher, Mr. Ashcraft, has a unique system of leadership/teaching, which has resulted in the explosive expansion of the Mentorship program in Glenelg High School and improved quality of its projects over the last few years. He treats the members of the student leadership board as true partners, rather than subordinates, as is in the practice in all other Howard County schools. From this leadership opportunity, venue to pursue independent research for credit, and observing Mr. Ashcraft’s management, I have learned how to communicate, network, and organize. I’ve learned that it is important to delegate work when working towards a large goal, rather than seeking to micromanage the endeavor. I’ve learned that leadership cannot be an excuse for neglect of ordinary duties, as respected leaders are competent in all of their workers’ jobs, and always do as much or more than they require their workers to do.
In my senior year, in addition to again completing my own research project, I have assumed the role of senior resident and leader of the student leadership board during my second year of service. I create assignment ideas, propose them to my team, recommend them for approval to Mr. Ashcraft, prepare written agendas, manage communications, and make the assignments to a class of more than 50 students. As a group, we have concluded that it is essential to include a junior on the board each year as a successor, because training a member who is already familiar with the program’s interworkings adds competence to the whole hierarchy. I am currently mentoring a junior who will take over my position next year, and shape the program in her own way.
I have added my own contributions, and am satisfied with the results so far enacted, though I still have a few goals yet to be reached before the end of this year. The duty of student leadership is to organize all students in the program, create assignments that will benefit the crafting of theses and experimental outcomes, inspire collegiate behavior, and expand communications/networking.
This year, I have done the following things:
- Developed and implemented the “thesis defense” assignment
- Created, organized, and am continuing to implement the establishment of a new society/social network called the Interns of America Foundation Organize the introduction of a competitive tone to the school’s internal annual GT fair
- Serve as student representative on the developing SIT (School Improvement Team); our foremost goal is to develop an outreach program to cultivate leadership skills in prominent students
INTERNS OF AMERICA
Interns of America is an organization under development that will be a network for scholarly research among students, sponsors, mentors, potential mentors, businesses, and other societies. My goal for the foundation this year is to collect members from my Glenelg High School, present the idea to the Howard County Board of Education, submit proposals to other high schools (including private), invite Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab mentored students/mentors, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Robot-Boot-Camp student teams, contact National Institute of Health, and invite business and small businesses that have already shown interest in mentorship. This network will improve communication between students, hopefully reducing the amount of energy and time wasted in reproducing similar research. The foundation will also offer an opportunity for professional presentation through which members may distinguish themselves in that academic community. By seeing the results and connections of their work from a larger perspective, it is my hope that students will be more inspired to search for challenging and real-life problems to solve, taking full advantage of resources that may be available.
This year, I hope to also add the element of competition, in the internal school-scale GT fair. Research deemed excellent in predetermined categories by experts in the field (will be invited from current contact list) will be recognized and awarded. It is possible that a competition may be added to the larger Interns of America Foundation as it establishes itself. The greater the pool of comparison, the more pressure students will feel to achieve. A healthy amount of challenge, and competition is the most beneficial thing in the world for alleviating personal standards, consequently affecting societal standards for progress in a similar way.
In addition to the mentorship program, I have taken other initiatives in expanding my own experiences while also outreaching to younger students. Continuing an effort from last year, I am serving as the primary student instructor of a peer support group called “Engineering Girls”. Every Friday, a peer of mine and I go to visit a group of advanced elementary school girls and teach them how to use the environment: Java Alice. As the current distribution of boys versus girls in the engineering/science fields is strongly in favor of boys, we hope to provide an early introduction of science to girls that boys seem to be finding naturally in their early tendencies to play with video games, gain an affinity for technical things, and proceed to teach themselves the basics of programming and later mechanical building as they grow older. I’ve found that I love to teach students of all ages.
In terms of clubs, responsibilities and activities outside academics, I have been involved with NHS (National Honor Society), AP Scholars (Advanced Placement), Key Club (Kiwanis Educating Youth), Teenage Republicans, Tae Kwon Do, piano, music composition, dance, swimming, oil painting, and graphic design. This year (2010-2011) is my second year as a member of NHS, fourth year as a member of AP Scholars, second year as a member of Key Club, and first year as a member of Teenage Republicans. It took me five years of dedicated training, particularly in the last two years, to earn a total of ten colored belts, ending in 1st Degree Black Belt (International Kukkiwon Taekwondo Certified). I took formal lessons in piano for eight years, becoming a master of the English Royal Boards Exams. I have since ceased in formal lessons and performances, but continue to compose my own music, play in volunteer situations (Fairhaven Retirement Community), and expand my understanding of technical facilitators of music (e.g. Garageband).
NATIONAL HONOR SOCIETY
At the conclusion of last year, I was elected and approved to serve as Secretary of NHS at our school this year, the third highest rank of six in our school’s hierarchy. My duties include organization of members, record keeping, and this year: implementing a specific endeavor to promote cancer research. Included in this goal is the organization of multiple large-scale fundraising functions, awareness events (Relay for Life for example), and activities (creation of a music video in honor of cancer research with whole-school involvement). NHS aims for moral integrity combined with academic competence. I value competence, sometimes found through talent, but most often through patient work and persistence. I also identify with the statement by Abraham Heschel, “When I was young, I admired clever people. Now that I am old, I admire kind people.” While kindness is not synonymous for integrity and strength of virtues, I believe that it is a symptom. That is why NHS is so dedicated in encouraging community service as well as academic scholarship. One can learn to be brilliant through school, but without grasping the perspective to understand why it is important to master that ability, and realize what knowledge and work will ultimately be used for, all that effort in becoming competent is wasted, or in worse cases: misguided.
Since freshman year of my high school career, I have also involved myself in the AP Scholars organization. In sophomore year (2008-2009), I was recognized as the “Student of the Year” on behalf of the organization. The AP Scholar’s school organization included over a hundred members. Including senior year courses, I have progressed in six AP classes including:
- Government and Politics
- English 11
- English 12
- Calculus AB
Additionally, I have also participated as a member of Key Club (Kiwanis Educating Youth) for the past two years (including this year). Through this club, I have broadened by impact on the community through contribution to collectivized service activities that had more individual helping power than other service contributions I’d made individually. Most prominent and impacting of these projects was my participation in Relay for Life. From that experience, I have decided this year to expand on the cancer research effort; most of this endeavor will be completed through NHS this year, because NHS is gaining so much support so rapidly.
FAIRHAVEN RETIREMENT COMMUNITY
In terms of my own individual service to the community, I am a dedicated volunteer to Fairhaven Retirement Community. My grandparents (97 and 95) moved to the residence only about two years ago. Since then, I’ve made an effort to come for three hours every week to visit with them as well as work for the activities commission of the medical wing. I deliver mail, visit residents, play piano through the dinner hour, engage residents in trivia for memory preservation, organize weekly entertainment activities, care for the garden, and transport residents around the facility and take them for walks outside as my schedule and weather permits. My first few months working in the medical wing (especially in the lonely months of winter) were shocking. I became suddenly aware of agony for which I, nor anyone else, could do anything. I recognized very suddenly the inescapable frailty of the human condition.
I am not desensitized from it after eighteen months of work there, but it has become easier, and more matter of fact to handle, especially since I’ve found ways to make myself useful. I am not nearly as useful as the doctors or nurses, and there are many people that I cannot help no matter what I do for how long. However, there are a few people who I can distract for awhile with my music, conversation, face, and questions. To be perfectly honest, I do not at all like working there – at the same time though, I cannot foresee stopping. I hate that there are so many things that I cannot change, but I love the few times that I can manage to do something, and that is why I’ve continued working there for hundreds more hours than were required by any organization to which I belong, NHS or Key Club. I do it because I love my grandparents, and love seeing the occasional times I can see medicine work miracles.