Senior Projects Like No Other
Innovation propels this year's Senior Projects.
The Class of 2020's planning of their capstone Overlake experience had to be especially creative this year with the ongoing pandemic and shelter-at-home requirements. For many, that meant changing their project ideas entirely. Projects involving travel had to be changed, and dozens of project interviews had to be modified through computers rather than face to face contact.
The show must go on!
As the organizer of this year's Benefit Concert, Alyssa J. decided that the cause to raise money for a charity far outweighed the inconvenience of no letting the event happen on campus. So she decided to make this year's event a virtual one. Feeding America is this year's beneficiary and their demand has increased exponentially since the virus outbreak and its economic impact.
Known affectionately as BenCon by Overlakers, the show brings together Upper School students and faculty to highlight their talents on the stage. Covid-19 may have forced the show's cancellation on campus, but the show continues online this Sunday. The 2020 version will happen on Overlake's YouTube channel. "The pandemic influenced my choice of the beneficiary, and also the overall message I wanted to send with the Benefit Concert," explains Alyssa who has been frantically editing together the program. "Normally it’s a great day supporting a cause, filled with fun, and I wanted to try to bring as much love and joy as possible into the homes of everyone watching. It was also so amazing to see how the students put so much of their time and effort into their videos, and I loved watching every single one of them!"
A major change to this BenCon is that it's typically reserved for Upper School students. This year, she opened it up to Middle School students after she saw the immense talent they brought to this year's theater production of Seussical. In addition to students, she promises some surprise guests to this year's show. "I reached out to alumni to do some special cameos in the show, and the response I received from them was so overwhelming," says Alyssa. "I spoke to alums who were my biggest inspirations when I was younger, and they were so excited to jump in and help with this project. It meant so much to me! Overlake’s faculty is also truly one-of-a-kind."
Click here to learn more about this year's BenCon and how to make a donation to our beneficiary Feeding America, and we hope you'll tune in Sunday at 6pm.
Keeping hands warm through technology
For Jack B., his project focuses on inventing a better hand warmer. His original project was to spend several weeks at SoundBio Lab in Seattle doing research on plant genetics, but when the pandemic forced a partial shutdown of the community laboratory, Jack was forced to pivot on his project idea. "When the lab closed, I had to pivot to this project which I had started previously. I feel lucky that I had already ordered all the supplies to assemble the hand warmers, so I was able to move forward with the project," says Jack, whose trips to Seattle were now replaced with boxes full of supplies inside his family's home.
The goals of his project exemplify Overlake's mission of creating a product that serves the community. In this case, it was inventing inexpensive solar powered hand warmers that could be used by our area's homeless. The wonderful part of Overlake's Senior Projects is the experience rather than the final product. Through Jack's research and development, he endured struggles will his creation, but with disappointment came the realization that he was headed in the right direction. "I realized that product development is a very non-linear process. In addition, no matter how well researched and how many calculations have been made, experiments have to be run and in light of all the preparation, it can still fail."
So how's it going to work?
Senior Project Advisor Dave Parsons worked closely with Overlake's Technology team to create an online platform for this year's presentations. "We are going to use 'Teams Live' for the online presentations which is more sophisticated than Teams and can be sent to any number of people, both in and beyond the organization. So family in distant parts can also watch," explains Parsons. "Having all 78 students presenting online is a major challenge. Under our normal routine at school there are always parents from other grades, alums, younger students, faculty, etc. who just stop by to watch. We want that to be possible this year too with the online presentations."
Tech staff will be acting as producers in Teams Live during the presentations so that they run reasonably smoothly, and Parsons encourages the Overlake community to join each student's presentation as a show of recognition and support. He adds that given all the limitations, the seniors seem to be doing a great job with their projects.
As for Jack, he's ready for the virtual set up and thinks it'll actually improve his presentation. "I’m not too worried about it since it is something I’m knowledgeable about," says Jack. "Having it online makes it slightly more casual, which is more comfortable for me. I really appreciate everything Overlake has done for the seniors during this unexpected situation. It will certainly be memorable!"
For Alyssa, the opportunity to gather together is something she misses, but knows that this is a temporary challenge. "Obviously, I miss everyone at Overlake so much, and I so wish we could be together to do this project in person. I think this virtual BenCon is making the best of a tough situation, and I’m glad we get to do it in this capacity, " says Alyssa but adds. "I still cannot wait until we can all sing and dance and clap together in Fulton!"
Click here to see the complete list of 2020 Senior Projects and join as many as you'd like. Our Seniors would love the support!