103 Snowflake and Sand Photography: Doing Real Scientific Research in a High School Environment

Monday, 7 January 2019
Hall 4 (Phoenix Convention Center - West and North Buildings)
Kimberly Magnotta, Morristown-Beard School, Morristown, NJ; and J. A. Yuhas

Kimberly Magnotta of Morristown Beard Weather Services (MBWS) has embarked on a long-term research project, taking advantage of the independent study rooms at the Morristown-Beard School (MBS). This has allowed her to bring real-life scientific research to her high school experience, getting her involved in the planning and design of her equipment as well as the collaboration of gathering sand specimens from around the world. Here is Ms. Magnotta’s story:

Over the course of the past few months, I have been pursuing an ongoing interest about snowflake and sand photography. Although I first began the project with a small tri-pod used to hold my camera still, I eventually developed a structure, which held my camera straight. Furthermore, this structure allowed me to manually adjust the zoom. Overall, this was a very experimental and “hands on” type of experience, as a lot of my work was trial and error oriented. For instance, finding an ideal light source to take my pictures under was difficult. We eventually discovered that an LED light would suit our problem well, as they do not give off a lot of heat, and they are more Earth-friendly.

Not only has this project helped me to understand the importance of sand and snowflakes from a scientific aspect, but it has also taught me to appreciate the beauty of Earth, and nature. This project has also helped me discover the value of perseverance and planning ahead. I truly developed a passion for this type of photography, and this project continues to evolve with my interests. For instance, the project started with an interest in snowflakes, but evolved to also include sand grains.

Communications have also played an important role in my snowflake and sand photography project. I have been able to acquire sand from many different places, without visiting the locations. For instance, I asked friends and family members to bring sand back from their vacations, so I would have a wide variety of samples. So far, I have received sand from Venice and Boca Raton Florida, along with sand from Russia.

Along with asking friends and family members for samples, I have also decided to contact schools around the world, and ask for their assistance. Though this is a newer aspect to my project, I decided that building relations with other high schools would be important, if I wanted to gather more samples. However, in order to do so, I had to look at preferable locations for sand, and send schools in the relative emails. So far, I have received samples from a school near Rehoboth Beach in Delaware and San Diego, California. I feel like this is a valuable aspect of the project, because it teaches me valuable skills on how to properly communicate with others.

Overall, I feel like this project has helped me to become a better student and learner. By being independent in my work, I realized the importance of taking chances. Therefore, this project is valuable to all who are participating, and I recommend other schools adopt this type of science. I am fortunate to have been given an opportunity to pursue my passion of photography, and combine it with science!

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