Gunston Students Sent Balloon to Near Space

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Balloon looking down on Gunston launch team

On Friday, Oct. 20, the Gunston Science and Engineering Club launched our fifth mission to “near space”—the region above where aircraft fly, but below the orbits of satellites. The payload included cameras, tracking devices, and instrumentation to measure temperature and pressure. A weather balloon was used to carry the payload to the stratosphere. The balloon then burst as expected and the payload returned gently to Earth by parachute. The balloon was launched from the Gunston campus and landed near Laurel, Del. a little more than 2 hours later.

The balloon reached an altitude of 19.44 miles, a record high altitude from past missions. The lowest pressure measured was less than 1% of the barometric pressure at the Earth’s surface. Preliminary results indicate that the science payload detected the tropopause with a temperature around -70 degrees Fahrenheit. The balloon was approximately 6 ft in diameter when launched and 20+ ft in diameter when it burst.

Dr. Mariah Goodall and Mr. Tom Chafey led two chase cars that beat the payload to its landing site, enabling them to observed the payload descending on its parachute—another Gunston first. Mr. Dale Wegner, father of Gunston alumni Jay Wegner, set up the tracking for the chase cars and several tracking stations for students who were not part of the chase.

The science and engineering club is led by Alli Webb ‘18 President, Jack Morrison ‘18 Vice President, and Garrett Rudolfs ‘18 Secretary. The Mission Commander for the balloon launch is Brynne Kneeland ‘19. In total, 21 students assisted in preparing the payload, launching the balloon, and recovering the balloon. They divided up into seven teams for different jobs: launch, payload, imaging, science, trajectory, tracking, and recovery. The club mentors are Dr. Ken Wilson and Dr. Mariah Goodall.

Centreville as seen by the Gunston balloon

Kent Island viewed from the troposphere

School Board to Meet With Facilities Planning Committee

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The Kent County Board of Education is holding a work session with the Facilities Strategic Planning Committee on Monday, November 13 from 4 to 6 p.m.  The meeting will be held at the Kent County Board of Education Administration Building, 5608 Boundary Avenue, Rock Hall.

The regular November monthly Board of Education meeting is also scheduled for November 13, 2017 at 6:30 p.m. There will be a closed session meeting from 6 to 6:30 p.m.

Gunston Sends Balloon into Near Space

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On Friday, Oct. 20, the Gunston Science and Engineering Club launched our fifth mission to “near space”—the region above where aircraft fly, but below the orbits of satellites. The payload included cameras, tracking devices, and instrumentation to measure temperature and pressure. A weather balloon was used to carry the payload to the stratosphere. The balloon then burst as expected and the payload returned gently to Earth by parachute. The balloon was launched from the Gunston campus and landed near Laurel, DE a little more than 2 hours later.

Balloon looking down on launch team

The balloon reached an altitude of 19.44 miles, a record high altitude from past missions. The lowest pressure measured was less than 1% of the barometric pressure at the Earth’s surface. Preliminary results indicate that the science payload detected the tropopause with a temperature around -70 degrees Fahrenheit. The balloon was approximately 6 ft in diameter when launched and 20+ ft in diameter when it burst.

Dr. Mariah Goodall and Mr. Tom Chafey led two chase cars that beat the payload to its landing site, enabling them to observed the payload descending on its parachute—another Gunston first. Mr. Dale Wegner, father of Gunston alumni Jay Wegner, set up the tracking for the chase cars and several tracking stations for students who were not part of the chase.

The science and engineering club is led by Alli Webb ‘18 President, Jack Morrison ‘18 Vice President, and Garrett Rudolfs ‘18 Secretary. The Mission Commander for the balloon launch is Brynne Kneeland ‘19. In total, 21 students assisted in preparing the payload, launching the balloon, and recovering the balloon. They divided up into seven teams for different jobs: launch, payload, imaging, science, trajectory, tracking, and recovery. The club mentors are Dr. Ken Wilson and Dr. Mariah Goodall.

Halloween at Lit House — All About Witches

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Cristina Casado Presa

Washington College’s very own Cristina Casado Presa will be at the Rose O’Neill Literary House for a faculty tea and talk on Tuesday, October 31, as part of the fall Literary House Series. The event at the Lit House will be at 4:30 p.m. and is free and open to the public.

Cristina Casado Presa is an associate professor of Spanish, chair of the Modern Languages Department, and director of the Gender Studies Program at Washington College, where she teaches all levels of Spanish. She also teaches courses on the contemporary literature of Spain; representations of the Spanish Civil War; female writers after Franco’s death; contemporary Spanish theater; and witches, ghosts, and vampires. She is an expert in 20th- and 21st-century literature and culture of Spain and focuses her research on women writers and representations of witchcraft in literature and culture.

Some of her publications on those subjects are “The Witch as a Power Paradigm in Two Contemporary Spanish Dramas” published in Monographic Review; “Silence as a Conflict in a Drama by Pilar Pombo” published in Letras Femeninas; and “Mother-Daughter Relationships in Contemporary Spanish Theater” in the volume The Changing Spanish Family: Essays on New Views in Literature, Cinema and Theater (McFarland, 2011). Currently she is working on a book project dedicated to the figure of the witch in contemporary Spanish literature.

For more information on these events or the Literary House, visit the website at www.washcoll.edu/centers/lithouse, or view the annual Literary Events Calendar brochure here: www.washcoll.edu/live/files/7406-2017-2018.

WC Announces New Dual-Degree Partnership with Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment

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Environmental science and environmental studies students at Washington College will now have the opportunity to earn their bachelor’s and master’s degrees in five years, thanks to a new partnership between Washington College and Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment.

The agreement, known as dual-degree, allows qualified students to leave Washington College after their third year and enroll at Duke, where they can study for a master’s degree in either environmental management or forestry. After successfully completing their first year at Duke, they will be awarded their bachelor’s degree from WC. The new dual-degree program joins others at the College, including one in engineering with Columbia University, and in nursing and pharmacy with the University of Maryland.

Washington College students get hands-on with Chesapeake blue crabs.

“To me, in environmental science and studies, it’s about creating more opportunities for students,” says Charlie Kehm, chair of the Department of Physics and McLain Associate Professor of Physics and Environmental Science and Studies, who oversaw the development of the dual-degree program with Duke. “I love that they can come into Washington College and see themselves at the end of this really cool path. Parents like that too, because they want to know what’s the next step. So, I think these opportunities are really powerful in that way, because if nothing else, they give you some imagination to see what the possibilities are.”

Patrice DiQuinzio, Provost and Dean of the College, says the new arrangement illustrates the College’s determination to provide distinctive opportunities to its students, and it continues to build upon the College’s growing and energetic environmental program.

“Environmental science and studies is increasingly one of our most popular majors, and this will only enhance what is already a strong, exciting program,” DiQuinzio says. “It also lends force to the power and breadth of the liberal arts, which form the foundation of all we do here.”

Although the program takes effect immediately for incoming freshman in 2019, current freshmen and sophomores are also eligible to work toward the dual-degree. Leslie Sherman, co-chair of the Department of Environmental Science and Studies and W. Alton Jones Associate Professor of Chemistry, says the department will work to help current students attain needed requirements, as well as support incoming students to ensure they stay on track.

“I had envisioned environmental science students wanting to do the forestry program, because we don’t have forestry here,” Sherman says. “But our science students want to do environmental management too, which is exciting. This opens a clear pathway to this wonderful program at a fantastic school. And students who wish to finish their four years at Washington College and then seek graduate admission to Duke will also be able to take advantage of this relationship.”

The Nicholas School of the Environment is internationally known for not only its forestry and environmental management elements but also the Duke University Marine Lab. Two recent Washington College graduates, Anna Windle ’16 and Kelly Dobroski ’16, are currently enrolled at the Nicholas School in the environmental management master’s program, and Sherman is planning for them to return to campus to talk with interested undergraduates. Windle, studying coastal environmental management, in September won a highly competitive NOAA/North Carolina Sea Grant fellowship to assess oyster reef health.

For more information about Washington College’s Environmental Science and Studies program, visit https://www.washcoll.edu/departments/environmental-science-and-studies/

For more information about Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment, see https://nicholas.duke.edu/.

About Washington College

Founded in 1782, Washington College is the tenth oldest college in the nation and the first chartered under the new Republic. It enrolls approximately 1,450 undergraduates from more than 35 states and a dozen nations. With an emphasis on hands-on, experiential learning in the arts and sciences, and more than 40 multidisciplinary areas of study, the College is home to nationally recognized academic centers in the environment, history, and writing. Learn more at washcoll.edu.

Bring the Kids! Maryland STEM Fest Event at Kent County Library

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STEMWorks at Kent County Public Library — A Maryland STEM Fest Event

Kent County Public Library is pleased to host STEMWorks, an official event of the 2017 Maryland STEM Festival on Wednesday, November 1 from 5-7 pm.

Founded in 2015, the Maryland STEM Festival has become one of the leading STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) events in the State.  Through ten days of community-based events hosted by schools, colleges, libraries, museums, parks, businesses and other local organizations, the Festival celebrates the economic, educational and cultural impact of STEM in Maryland.

The STEMWorks event will take place at the Chestertown Branch of Kent County Public Library, 408 High St. in Chestertown, and will feature hands-on science experiences, provided by a variety of community partners, including Belle Rose Kennels; Kent County Public Schools Judy Center; Kent County Family Center; Kent Soil and Water Conservation District; Maryland Department of Natural Resources; Maryland Extension & 4-H; RiverArts Clay Studio; and Running W Kennel. 

This event is free and open to all. Adults, as well as children preschool through high school, are welcome to participate, explore, and learn through hands-on activities for all ages.

Wednesday, November 1   |   5-7 pm

Kent County Public Library   |   Chestertown Branch, 408 High St.

For more information, visit the library website or call 410.778.3636.

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Washington College Students, Faculty, and Staff Study Field Sparrows

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Jennie Carr, Assistant Professor of Biology (left) and Madeline Poethke ’16 use scopes to spot field sparrows in the restored grasslands at Washington College’s Chester River Field Research Station

In general, Andrea Freeman’s view of the natural world is through a microscope. A senior biology major with an emphasis in cellular, molecular, and infectious diseases, and a minor in chemistry, Freeman admits she doesn’t get outside much, which made her summer internship with Jennie Carr, Assistant Professor of Biology, that much more of an eye-opener.

As a Toll Fellow in the College’s Summer Research Program, Freeman worked for 10 weeks with Carr in the restored native grasslands at the Chester River Field Research Station (CRFRS) at Chino Farms, helping Carr with her ongoing study of field sparrows—considered a “common” bird but one which has seen steep population declines in the last 40 years.

“It definitely was a different focus for me because I usually take classes with microscopes and stuff like that, and this was out in the field, outside,” said Freeman. “It took a lot to get used to just from my experiences in the classroom. I loved it.”

A pair of hungry field sparrow babies wait with open mouths for food.

Carr has been studying field sparrows and hummingbirds at the CRFRS since 2014. She has focused the work at the field station at Chino Farms in part because of the unique habitat—the restored native grasslands—that draws the sparrows. The station is also home to Foreman’s Branch Bird Observatory, whose long-term data collection and identification of birds supports her study.

“Because the staff at Foreman’s Branch has been banding birds for so long out there, we have a really well-characterized population of field sparrows where we know exactly how old they are. Very few other studies can do that; they know if they’re two years old, and that’s it,” Carr said. “But we know we have some birds that are seven, eight, nine, and so on. We put color bands on them so we can identify unique individuals with scopes and binoculars … when you’re interested in age, and you need this longitudinal study, you need to know how they did when they were four versus five, five versus six.”

Considered common, field sparrows nevertheless have seen a population decline of 65% from 1966 to 2010, according to the North American Breeding Bird Survey. Over the past four summers, Carr has been studying whether the age of the bird has a bearing on nesting success—in short, do older birds do a better job of feeding their young. Carr has been working with Maren Gimpel and Dan Small, field ecologist and Natural Lands Project coordinator, respectively, with the College’s Center for Environment & Society, and a small cadre of summer research students each year.

In 2014, researchers located 90 nests in the restored grasslands and successfully filmed 32 of them resulting in 132 hours of video footage to review. In 2015, that number jumped to 115 nests with 65 being filmed. In 2016, Carr and the team located 119 nests, and this past summer 103 nests.

A nestful of young field sparrows

“We would go out every morning and observe the field sparrows and watch their behavior, and that would indicate whether they had a nest,” Freeman said. “And our main goal was to be able to find the nest in order to be able to see if they became better parents as they aged.”

Carr, Gimpel, and Small plan to publish the research results this winter. Preliminarily, Carr said, it appears as though males do not feed chicks more as they age, although females do.

“This is a little surprising, since they live for so long, and they definitely learn and modify their behavior. It’s surprising that males don’t seem to improve since success of the nest really depends on bi-parental care,” Carr said. “Age doesn’t seem to be a big contributing factor, but the sex of individuals seems to be. Females are little more attentive. And feeding rate is an important driver of nest success.”

Carr and the team also began a new, related study this summer, using the same habitat and the same birds, but studying where the birds choose to nest as a determining factor in nesting success.

“We’re doing vegetation plots around the nests, characterizing where they are in relation to a treeline, for instance, and whether they’re being eaten by a predator or dying from exposure or a mechanical failure of a nest just falling over,” Carr says. “We’re asking more questions about field sparrow success and age—because we want to take advantage of that variable while we can—but also how is their nest building skill or placement varying over time, if it is.”

For Freeman, the work was a first on many levels—her first internship in the field, her first working with a species like the sparrows, her first living on her own in an apartment-type setting off campus, in the field house where interns spend their summer.

“I was able to do the things I learned at Washington College. I was able to put hands on,” she said. “And it also taught me a lot about patience and how things aren’t going to be the way you want all the time. There would be days when I wouldn’t find a field sparrow nest, and it was just interesting to see how stuff doesn’t always go as you planned, and how you have to adapt and learn and kind of be thinking on your feet.”

Talking About the Tax Man

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Vanessa Williamson

Vanessa Williamson, whose new book  Read My Lips: Why Americans Are Proud to Pay Taxes  argues that Americans view paying their taxes as a moral and civic responsibility, will visit Washington College on Oct. 30 to discuss her work.

The program at 5 p.m. in Hynson Lounge, Hodson Hall, is the final installment in this semester’s Louis L. Goldstein Program in Public Affairs. It is free and open to the public.

A Fellow in Governance Studies at Brookings, Williamson studies the politics of redistribution, with a focus on attitudes about taxation. Her work challenges the conventional wisdom that Americans hate taxes, instead positing that Americans view taxpaying as a moral obligation, a sign that one is a contributing member of the community and the nation. Many worry that some people are shirking their tax responsibilities and that government uses their money to benefit the elite few rather than the public interest. Ironically, Williamson argues, the depth of the American civic commitment to taxpaying makes the failures of government, perceived and real, especially potent frustrations.

Williamson is also the author, with Harvard professor Theda Skocpol, of The Tea Party and the Remaking of Republican Conservatism, which examines how the Tea Party pushed the Republican Party farther to the right. The book was named one of the 10 best political books of the year in The New Yorker. Her other work includes examinations of the political origins of the state Earned Income Tax Credit, the electoral effects of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the conditions in which voters have supported state tax increases, and the factors predicting protests against police brutality.

Williamson has testified before Congress and appeared on CNN’s “Fareed Zakaria GPS,” MSNBC’s “The Rachel Maddow Show,” and Al Jazeera America. She has written in a variety of outlets, including a recent op-ed on Donald Trump’s non-payment of taxes in the Sunday edition of The New York TimesTeen Vogue piece on the defense of democracy in America, as well as for The Atlantic, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and her hometown newspaper, The Sacramento Bee. Her work has also been cited by The Economist, the Associated Press, The Washington Post, and on National Public Radio, among other sources.

Williamson previously served as the Policy Director for Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. She received her Ph.D. in Government and Social Policy from Harvard University. She has a master’s degree from NYU’s Institute of French Studies, and received her B.A. in French language and literature from NYU.

Established in 1990, the Louis L. Goldstein Program in Public Affairs sponsors lectures, symposia, and visiting fellows, student participation in models and conferences, and other projects that bring students and faculty together with leaders experienced in developing public policy. It has hosted journalists, political activists, foreign policy analysts, diplomats, military commanders, and government officials of both national and international stature. Christine Wade, professor of political science and international studies, is its current curator.

 

Area High School Students Take Advantage of Chesapeake College Dual Enrollment for College Credit

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Natasha Panduwawala and Devon Tyler are two of the hundreds of Mid-Shore high school students taking college courses this year through Chesapeake College’s Dual Enrollment program.

Panduwawala, a junior, has already earned nine transferable college credits through dual enrollment classes taught at Easton High School. She enjoys the subjects and academic challenge presented by a college curriculum and plans to take additional courses this spring.

“It’s great to be able to have this college experience in high school and study topics like psychology,” she said.

Natasha Panduwawala

Tyler, a senior at North Dorchester High School, is taking College Algebra, Introduction to Business and Introduction to Music classes on weekdays at Chesapeake’s Cambridge Center. By graduation, he hopes to transfer 18 credits to the college he’ll be attending.

“This will definitely help me when I go to college,” he said. “I will know what the schedule is like, and I will have experience managing my time.  I also like having time in between my classes at the Cambridge Center.  I have a 10a.m. and a 1p.m. class, so I stay there to study and do my homework.”

Spring Semester registration for Chesapeake College dual enrollment courses begins this month.  Typically, students take the classes during their junior and senior years and must be at least 16 years old.

Devon Tyler

For the current Fall Semester, 336 Mid Shore high school students are taking dual enrollment classes and registration is up 56 percent, a record for the college.

The highest increase is in Dorchester County (+182%) from students attending three area high schools:  Cambridge-South Dorchester, North Dorchester and Open Bible Academy.

Large increases in dual enrollment have also been seen among high school students in Caroline (+27%), Kent (+57%), Queen Anne’s (+68%) and Talbot (+32%) counties.

The jump is attributed to the strong relationships formed between the college and area schools.

“We are excited by the results because we’ve worked very hard as an institution to renew and strengthen partnerships with our high schools,” said David Harper, Chesapeake College Dean for Faculty and Teaching.

Students with a 3.0 grade point average or above and at least a C in Algebra II can take core college courses in English and math. Dual enrollment classes in communications, history, psychology and other subjects require a minimum 2.5 GPA.

Dual enrollment is great deal, according to Harper.

A three-credit dual enrollment course at Chesapeake College costs $405 compared to $900 to $1,000 for a similar course at a public institution in Maryland.

Students who earn George B. Todd and Roberta B. Holt enrollment grants can lower their course fees even more.  Income-eligible students can also apply for Maryland PT grants and those in the Free and Reduced Meals program (FARM) will have 100 percent of tuition covered for their first four classes.

“Many students don’t realize that they can take dual enrollment classes inexpensively and are guaranteed to transfer those credits to all state public institutions, including the University of Maryland College Park and Salisbury University,” Harper said. “With careful planning, seniors can graduate having earned a diploma and completed their first semester of college.”

Recent graduates have also transferred to private institutions including McDaniel College in Westminster, Boston College and Delaware Valley University.

“The savings are a plus,” Panduwawala said, “and I’m sure that will mean a lot when we’re looking at tuition bills in the future.”

Information and grant applications for Dual Enrollment are available at www.chesapeake.edu/dual-enrollment. Application can also be made through high school guidance counselors.

Informational meetings are being held at area high schools throughout the month as well as on-site testing and registration sessions.

About Chesapeake College

Founded in 1965 as Maryland’s first regional community college, Chesapeake serves five Eastern Shore counties – Caroline, Dorchester, Kent, Queen Anne’s and Talbot. With more than 130,000 alumnae, Chesapeake has 2,300 students and almost 10,000 people enrolled in continuing education programs.