By Zach Jones and Heather Woods
The Harker Research Symposium celebrated its 10th year on April 11, as people from across the Harker community visited the upper school campus to see the work of the school’s dedicated research community.
Harker’s hardworking WiSTEM (Women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) club began organizing the symposium at the start of the school year. Anita Chetty, US Science Dept. Chair and WiSTEM advisor inaugurated and has overseen the event since its inception a decade ago.
“It’s a good event,” said member Anushka Das, grade 12. “We have really great keynote speakers and a lot of people in the audience (for talks). The students, families and parents come to see everyone’s kids. It’s a tight community.”
Middle and upper school students occupied venues throughout campus for most of the day, giving poster presentations in the gym and holding breakout sessions in various rooms at Nichols Hall, often with members of the scientific community as their audience. Presenters included senior Andrew Jin, a national winner in this year’s Intel Science Talent Search; Intel finalists Steven Wang and Rohith Kuditipudi, both grade 12; and Siemens Competition regional finalists Sadhika Malladi, Jonathan Ma and Vineet Kosaraju, all grade 11.
The Nichols Hall Atrium was the busiest spot for much of the day, with corporate exhibitors attracting throngs of attendees, who wandered from station to station trying out high-powered microscopes and virtual reality gadgets, and even jumping behind the wheel of Tesla vehicles. “The kids have great microscopy questions,” said Technical Instruments representative April Myles.
Outside Nichols Hall, the all-girl Infinities robotics team drove their robot, which boasts a holonomic drive system, multiple lift systems and passive intakes, plus rubber bands and string. The team is advancing to a world tournament this year.
Chemistry teacher Andrew Irvine wowed a lunchtime crowd of at least 250 people with flames and the shattering of liquid-nitrogen frozen bananas and apples. “He’s playing with his food,” one girl in the audience joked to her friend.
This year featured yet another impressive lineup of keynote speakers. The first, climate scientist Dr. James McClintock’s “From Penguins to Plankton” talk, filled Nichols Auditorium almost to capacity. McClintock is an Endowed University Professor of Polar and Marine Biology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. With more than 235 scientific publications and 14 expeditions to Antarctica in his career, he is considered a leading authority on Antarctic marine chemical ecology. “I’m very impressed with Harker,” said McClintock. “The students are very capable and excited and, to be honest, like college students. I’ve had several discussions with students at a level you’d expect in college.”
Another featured speaker was Dr. Suhas Patil, founder of top semiconductor company Cirrus Logic and creator of the fabless model of semiconductor manufacturing. Also among his many achievements, he co-founded the Indus Entrepreneurs, which has become the largest nonprofit in the world for budding entrepreneurs.
Harker alumna Shabnam Aggarwal ’03, now the CEO of KleverKid, shared the story of her journey from the wealth of Wall Street to the poverty of Cambodia, where she taught English to girls who had fled the world of sex trafficking. Later, in India, she explored various ways to combat illiteracy, which eventually led her to found her latest venture, KleverKid. Prior to her talk, Aggarwal spoke to a group of grade 5 students from Rocketship Si Se Puede Academy, answering their questions about the importance of technology, education and women’s issues in India.
“We have such great kids involved in science, and this is a nice opportunity for them to share with our community what they’re interested in,” said Diane Main, Harker director of Learning, Innovation and Design. “Last night the orchestra performed, today the sciences perform.”