Sep 2019 Project Update from Sarah Haugh ’20

Senior EDI Fellows 2020 from left to right, Maguire McMahon, Sarah Haugh, Leah Smith, and Nik Chrone-Yanek. Photo taken Jul 2019

For this year’s project, I am designing a database through which current Upper School students can search where recent alums with similar academic and extracurricular interests attended college. This will allow current students to connect with people at colleges they are interested in. As a current senior going through the college process, I would have enjoyed conversations with college students that have the same high school background. Often times, current students can reveal more about what real college life is like compared to any information or tour could. 

The first graph shows my passion vs. my confidence with this project. While I am very passionate about this project, I have no background in computer science or coding so I am not very confident in my own skills. Adversely, I feel that this project will have a relatively high impact on the NA community because of just how many students will use it. It will also involve a fair amount of engineering to get the database to do everything I would like it to do. 

Sep 2019 Project Update by Caitlin Johnson EDI’21

Caitlin Johnson ’21 during EDI Fellow’s trip to Sillcon Valley July 2019.

This year I hope to work with the ODU Cytotechnology department. I plan on creating a portable microscope for a cellphone, a microscope which students and teachers can use during class or during times when they are outside of the classroom. The microscope would feature a focusing lens that the cell phone camera attaches to, allowing the observer to look at a magnified view of a subject or slide.

Caitlin’s pretotyping graphs for the portable smart phone microscope. Sep 2019

The graphs shown here reflect my confidence, passion, community impact, and engineering involvement. As I am interested in the medical field, this is an excellent opportunity to learn about how simple microscopes work. There are also multiple resources to investigate the process, although I have no doubt that this project would involve many prototypes until I reach a final product. As such, my confidence for this project is relatively high, and this project would hopefully reach a moderately wide community. 

EDI Fellows 2019 Project Process Overview

This year the EDI Fellows will be following a different process for how they propose, design, and carry-out projects. An outline of the process is below.

Ideate – Think about what interests you and identify potential communities/topics that you are interested in working with or learning more about. If you are struggling, try making a mind map starting with one of your interests or an issue that you are curious about.

Project Statement – Try to write out your project ideas in two or three sentences. This statement should be enough that it communicates your project idea to other people. Try to come up with several different projects to consider.

Pretotyping – Pretotyping is the process of quickly evaluating a project idea for viability. Begin by making your Pretotype Plots seen below. There are two pretotype plots, one that plots your passion for the idea against your confidence that you can do it and a second plot that considers the community impact of the project versus how much engineering it will incorporate. When we say engineering, what we are after is the ability to plan, build, test, and repeat with some aspect of your project.

The next step is writing two short paragraphs for each of your project ideas. One paragraph should be about what success for this project would look like in three months. Try to write as if you are yourself in three months looking back on a successful project. Define what would constitute a successful project. The second paragraph is about what failure would look like for the project in three months. What could possibly happen that would cause the project to fail? Define what would constitute a failed project.

After writing your success and failure paragraphs consider what quick experiments you can do to determine if one or more of your ideas might not be viable. Think about what questions you need to ask now to determine if your project is going to have any chance of success. Try to answer any questions that you can answer quickly with a small amount of research. Your research might involve talking to someone about the project idea.

These steps should help you select and refine a project idea that you can begin to work with.

Prototype and Collaborate – As you begin a project start reaching out to possible collaborators. Remember that you are approaching them to learn, you are not coming in to this as an expert. Strive to maintain your relationships with collaborators through regular, effective communication.

Always keep in mind the “plan, build, test” process. Even if you are not physically building something you should be thinking carefully about what you need to do, and how your recent work could be improved. Keep track of your plans and work every day in your EDI Notebook.

Building Sustainable Solutions and Enduring Relationships – Remember that often your ultimate goal will not just be a product or a quick solution. Some projects will have clear endings because of how they were defined but other projects will only be effective if they continue to be sustained. Consider what type of project you have and how you can make your solutions sustainable. Often this happens through collaborators who might be inside or outside the EDI Fellows program.

As your work on a project comes to a close you have three responsibilities. 1) Write a blog post summarizing your work on the project. This post will serve as a record of accountability to the community that supported your work on the project. 2) Create a final product whether it be a model, a prototype, a final product, or a notebook detailing all that has happened with the project. This will be a more detailed, tangible legacy that future fellows can learn from. 3) Determine if there is future work to be done and clearly communicate what that work is. Try to find people who can do that work if you are unable to yourself.