The long-standing senior project program gives each student the opportunity to imagine a project that expresses their passions and challenges their abilities. With the guidance of a faculty member and the support of a skilled mentor, each student designs, carries out, and completes their project, leading to a formal presentation before an always appreciative school community. The experiences of two seniors from the Class of 2020 illustrate the program’s importance.
Timothy Walker knew from the start that his senior project would somehow be based on computers. At first he considered building a laptop using a rebuilt Mini PC in a box, but the difficulty of adding a battery and the overall bulkiness convinced him it could not be practical. So he shifted his attention to a longtime family tradition of building a Home Theater PC. Timothy’s dad had made several of these custom computer entertainment systems over the years, each version expanding their ability to watch and record movies and TV shows. Timothy was eager to follow in his father’s footsteps so he designed a straightforward system based on updated components. He found his familiarity with computer parts particularly helpful. Earlier projects had taught him how difficult it can be to find parts for older generations of computers, so he focused on designing a system that could work with currently available parts and specifications. He’s proud that his final product worked well and for much less than a similar system already assembled and “branded” would cost. And because it is not dependent on a subscription service for its signal, there is simply a one time cost for the parts to make his system, one that features two 8 Terabyte hard drives, 1 Terabyte SSD card, an 8 core processor with an aftermarket cooler, 32 gigs of RAM and an Nvidia 1660 Super graphics card. Beyond the technical details, the project afforded a practical, hands-on lesson in creativity, thinking outisde the box, and stick-to-it-iveness. All great skills to take to this next phase of life!
Jaden Peters is a kind and easy going student who teachers often recognize for his leadership and skills during the high school’s outdoor programs. He also has an interest in technology, so he toyed with a few ideas — building a computer, rock climbing and stand up comedy — before settling on music. He decided to learn about what went into making and recording a song–not just the lyrics and music, but the recording and production too. He started off intending to compose a song, but then decided to focus more on sound engineering and production–an area that was essentially new to him. He spent most of his project learning to work a digital audio workstation (DAW), generally regarded as the essential component to recording, mixing, and producing music.
Not only did the project give him the time and space to learn how to use these powerful tools, the experience helped him learn how to work better by himself. It also strengthened areas he’d struggled with earlier, such as communicating with his guides and mentors. The development of these life skills is, for Jaden, part of the bonus of getting to do a capstone project. He also had the chance to work with the sound engineer for a local band, from setting up the sound equipment to observing the engineer’s work during the performance. Jaden is proud to have learned the intricacies of DAW mostly on his own. Says PWS teacher Rochelle Giametta, “Jaden chose a very ambitious senior project, which represents his immense curiosity for the world around him, be it nature exploration or computers. Through this process of his Senior Project, he learned many humbling and important life lessons. At the same time he was able to gain incredible insights about himself that he communicated with vulnerability, which inspired many of his peers to dig deeper into the true meaning of the Senior Project. Indeed, the magic of the Senior Project is not so much the end result, rather the journey getting there.”