Carson’s engineers: Students take on the challenges of Capstone

Eighth-graders+Arielle+Kim+and+Sreya+Devarakonda+hard+at+work+on+their+Capstone+project.
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Carson’s engineers: Students take on the challenges of Capstone

Eighth-graders Arielle Kim and Sreya Devarakonda hard at work on their Capstone project.

Eighth-graders Arielle Kim and Sreya Devarakonda hard at work on their Capstone project.

Madeline Mark

Eighth-graders Arielle Kim and Sreya Devarakonda hard at work on their Capstone project.

Madeline Mark

Madeline Mark

Eighth-graders Arielle Kim and Sreya Devarakonda hard at work on their Capstone project.

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All year at Rachel Carson Middle School, eighth-graders have been planning their Capstone projects, and now they’re finally putting together their final projects.

The Capstone project is focused on independent learning and problem-solving. It encourages critical thinking and develops communication and research skills, and the final product will represent the students’ understanding on the topic. Rachel Carson is one of two pilot middle schools in FCPS for the project, and it has already been implemented in some high schools. Students may choose their topic, but it has to involve the different energy types.

Student opinions on the Capstone project differ.

“I don’t want to say it’s bad, but it’s not that good,” said Jayden Liu, an eighth-grader at Rachel Carson Middle School on the Yellow Jackets team. But Nikki Rao from the X-treme team disagreed. She said, “I think the project teaches good lessons that will use later in school.”

The variety of projects range from PSAs to a $5,000 windmill. Bhushan Vusirikala, another eighth-grader on the Yellow Jackets team, is working with Jayden to replace light bulbs and ceiling fans in a classroom. One group, including Lauren Hannafin, an eighth-grader on the X-treme team, is planting a vegetable garden in the RCMS courtyard. Emily Mui, an eighth-grader on the Yellow Jackets team, said her team is creating a light switch that prevents excess electricity from being wasted. The projects are very different, but all of them somehow relate to conserving a certain energy type.

“I can understand how much electricity is used every day,” Bhushan said. Another thing the groups must focus on is to make sure their plan can be done in the time that is given to them.

Most students didn’t enjoy all parts of project process but they liked certain parts. Lauren said that her favorite part was actually planting the garden, while Jayden enjoyed the research most. Emily’s favorite part was initial planning at the beginning of the project.

However, she faces another challenge: cross- teaming.

“Everything is out of whack,” said Emily. Cross-teaming means she has core classes in different pods, including science and English. This makes working on her project very hard because her science class is behind where her English class is in the planning process.

Since this is a new project, there may be flaws in this system. Some flaws students talk about include cross-teaming, unfair division of work, and unrealistic deadlines.  For the most part, though, the teachers are valuable resources for the students.

“They’re helping us along the way and giving us resources,” Lauren said. Some teachers have been checking in with groups weekly and helping students.

Not being given time in class is definitely a challenge for many groups. Jayden said his group members have the potential to lead but do not know how, and because of the minimal time that is given in class, so he is left to do most of the project himself. Others have had similar difficulties with groups, and many had to redo their projects because of flaws in planning.

“It’s an experience,” Jayden said. 

 

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Carson’s engineers: Students take on the challenges of Capstone