Senior Project Preview 2018

School News
April 2, 2018- The final academic quarter of the year is underway and with it, this year’s Senior Projects. 28 students are exploring an interesting and diverse range of subjects that includes welding, poetry, basketball statistics, hip hop history, knife making, body casting, nutrition, and electronic dance music. Vail Mountain School seniors may elect to complete a project during the second semester of their culminating year at VMS. All Senior Projects include a substantial research component, an oral defense, and a presentation to an audience comprised of teachers, community experts, peers, and the general public. This unique tradition provides graduating seniors with a challenging opportunity to work independently as they will in college, indulge passions, or explore something that they’ve never tried before.

Public presentations that will take place on Wednesday, May 16 and Friday, May 18. In the meantime, here’s a preview of the work that each student is undertaking, as described in their own words.

Katie Alonzo

Monterey Rock Festival 2018: Understanding Rock Music and the Development of Counterculture

Friday, May 18th, 10:30 a.m. in the Courtyard (Weather Permitting, Otherwise Theater)
“My project explores the counterculture of the 1960’s and its connection to Rock and Roll music. I am intending to prove that The Monterey Pop Festival in 1967 is a seminal moment in the progression of the counterculture. I am exploring this topic by watching film from the festival, reading old rock publications, analyzing the progression of album art, and researching the impact of the festival on both future music and culture. In final form, my project will include a research paper, an article summarizing my paper written in the syntax of a 1960’s rock writer, and producing a mock Monterey Music Festival starring local artists.”  

Kristen Anderson

What They Wore: The Analysis of Fashion Throughout Social and Political Changes in The United States

Wednesday, May 16th, 9:00 a.m. in the Library
"I have been researching different key events in United States history such as the Roaring Twenties, Great Depression, and the Sexual Revolution, and analyzing the similarities and differences between fashion at these times. I am also looking to see how they have evolved and recreated themselves into modern fashion today. By the end of my project, I hope to have a descriptive research paper that coincides with recreated advertisements from each of these time periods to display the different styles and looks. I am interested in researching fashion and it's evolution through time in the United States because I have always felt it is a way to represent who you are and what you want to do and your goals in life.”  

Bora Basyildiz

Superlative Supplements

Wednesday, May 16th, 1:45 p.m. in the Theater
“My senior project is the creation of a set of pills that will fulfill a person’s daily need for nutrition, and also researching the theoretical impact of these pills on impoverished communities. This idea was something I thought of about a year ago and I always wanted to see if it was actually possible. Pushing the limits of food and seeing how compressed it can get is something that fascinates me. I will explore both compressing food and finding the most concentrated forms of nutrients available. My final outcome will be a set of the pills that is hopefully minimal, and an analysis of their impact on the society around us.”  

Emma Calarco

Try it This Way: Art Therapy

Wednesday, May 16th, 8:30 a.m. in the Theater
“As a VMS student-athlete, my high school schedule has been hectic, so I thought I would explore a rising medical field that works to de-stress in a less conventional manner. I will be presenting my research on art therapy along with some case studies and my experience using different mediums for art therapy. I am excited to present the group projects with varying ages that I will be completing. The presentation will be tied together with ideas of how VMS students can use art therapy as a tool in their own lives.”

Valeria Calzadillas

The Evolution of the Chinese Language

Wednesday, May 16th, 9:00 a.m. in the Lecture Hall
“I've been taking Mandarin for almost four years now, and I think in order to really understand it, I need to learn more about its historical and cultural background. I will be exploring the origin and evolution of the Chinese language. During my research, I plan to learn not only about how the language has changed, but the motives behind this movement. I will look at the historical and political influences on the evolution of the language, along with its origin and how technology is playing a vital role in the future of Mandarin and its variants.”

Finn Connolly

Who is Statistically Speaking the Greatest Basketball Player of All Time?

Wednesday, May 16th, 12:00 p.m. in the Library
“I hope to identify, statistically speaking, the greatest basketball player of all time. My life has been dedicated to basketball. I grew up watching the NCAA tournament and loved it. As I got older, I moved on to the NBA. I will be analyzing the statistics from the NBA on Michael Jordan, Lebron James, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Shaquille O’Neal, and Kobe Bryant. My goal includes creating an algorithm that will allow me to easily compare one player to another.”

Chad Cunningham

DIY Electric Longboard

Friday, May 18th, 9:05 a.m. in the Library
“I am building a motorized longboard and researching the benefits of building my own versus buying a pre assembled one that can cost over $1000. I will also research the “Do it Yourself” movement (DIY) and examine why it has become so popular. My goal is to make the best functioning motorized longboard I can at the most reasonable price. I will look into what parts are necessary to achieve the best ride possible. Longboarding has always been a passion of mine and, as I prepare to go off to college next year, I think that this will be a perfect mode of transportation around campus.”

Bess Daniel

Human Connection and Who it Concerns

Friday, May 18th, 9:05 a.m. in the Theater
“My senior project is understanding the importance of human connection and emotion in everyday life. It is our inherent human characteristic to build relationships with others and it is necessary to create a positive environment for growth and connection. I will explore this topic by understanding how the body creates emotion (biological), and I will study the emotions of love, fear, and envy and how they affect relationships to others (psychological). As a final product, I am creating three different paintings, each representing an emotion, to show a present understanding of love, fear, envy, and the overall importance of human connection.”

Sophie Daniel

EDM Meets the Ear

Wednesday, May 16th, 1:15 p.m. in the Theater
My senior project is based on Electronic Dance Music (EDM) culture and the effects that this music has on people’s brains, more specifically their emotions. EDM has been a large part of my life. Over the past seven years, I have been able to explore the EDM concert scene and have found a new love for the culture that is presented through the concerts and the music. I will be researching how EDM has developed, the EDM concert and festival scene, how EDM concerts can affect people’s emotions, and how to create EDM music. I will be creating my own dubstep piece, a type of EDM music, and will hold a concert for anyone to experience the EDM concert experience that I have grown to love.”

Mason Frank

The Story of the Knife

Friday, May 18th, 9:35 a.m. in the Library
“Knives have always interested me and while growing up working in the garage with my dad, I developed a passion for creating things with my hands. I will explore the evolution of the knife and different blade shapes that have emerged from different cultures throughout history. I will be creating my own knife using a variety of different techniques like inlay, wood stabilization, heat treating steel, resin art, refraction art, and engraving in order to learn the skills necessary to create a functional and well built knife. My final presentation will contain a history of the knife and what techniques are used to create a "luxury" knife along with an explanation for the artistic representation that is shown on the blade and handle.”

Jane Geisman

Remembering Those Who Lived, Died, and Survived, the Holocaust

Wednesday, May 16th, 11:00 a.m. in the Theater
“For my senior project, I will be exploring my ancestors who both survived and died during the Holocaust. My great-great-grandparents sent my great-grandmother to the United States in the 1930s. Her parents thought they would follow her, but, sadly they were exterminated by the Nazis in the Holocaust. The rise of Hitler and the genocide to follow, which was the Holocaust, has greatly impacted my family, our history and my grandmother. I will be using online ancestry tracing websites and Holocaust archives to trace my family in Germany during the 1930s and 1940s. As a final project, I will be creating a story about my family’s experiences in the Holocaust and hand this story down to my children, as well as share it with my grandmother, so that my family’s memories and stories will never be forgotten.”

Jordan Harrison

Disney Film Analysis: Race, Religion, & Culture

Wednesday, May 16th, 11:30 a.m. in the Theater
“Like so many kids, I’ve grown up watching Disney, and at age 18 I’m no less interested than I was at age 8, so I figured there’s something special about these films that attract audiences of all ages. I will be analyzing Disney movies and writing about the representations of non-western cultures and ethnic minorities found in these films. I plan to view Aladdin, Ratatouille, The Jungle Book, The Princess and the Frog, and interpret the elements regarding race and culture. I’m will also examine the historical context of these films to inform a research paper. The final result from my project will be a screenplay about a completely original story informed by my research into race and/or foreign cultures.”

Castor Hetfield

Lifecasting and Presentation

Wednesday, May 16th, 9:00 a.m. in the Theater
“My senior project is about lifecasting and the history of sculpture and mold making. I will be attempting to connect this with anthropometry and I will be experimenting with different ways objects, such as utensils and equipment, can interact with the human body. I will be producing numerous life casts and a few designs for object interactions. For the molds, I will be using silicone rubber, and for the casting I will be using a range of materials including plastic and silicone foam. I’ve developed an interest in this subject from on-screen special effects, Halloween masks, my retainer, and my older sister, who is a furniture major.”

Alyssa Hilb

LessMis: A Tour of Textiles and the World of Fast Fashion

Friday, May 18th, 10:05 a.m. in the Library
“I plan to dive into the world of fast fashion and explore how manufacturers are cutting costs and exploiting their workers to compete for the cheapest clothing on the racks. I am very interested in fashion design as well as the clothing industry market. I will study the history of manufacturing that spans from the silk road to today, the transport of goods, and the working conditions and marketing tactics used by big corporations in the field of fast fashion today. For a final product, I will use styles and techniques from ancient Chinese culture to create a collection of six designs of my own. This will be a demonstration of how to source fabrics from reputable establishments that protect workers rights and support a low environmental impact.”

Scott Hintz

Trials and Tribulations of Teens

Wednesday, May 16th, 1:45 p.m. in the Library
“The subject of my senior project is divided up into three segments: depression, anxiety, and alcoholism. I will be exploring these topics through short stories and a research paper. My research will be informed by reference publications like the American Psychiatric Associations's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) and each short story will be focused on one or more of these subjects as illustrated by characters I deveop based on this research.”

Brendan Keane

Brendan Keane: Soundcloud Rapper

Monday, May 21st, 4:30 p.m. in the Theater
“While traveling and training for ski racing, I listen to lots of music throughout the day. Out of all genres I listen to, hip-hop represents about 80% of my music consumption. The genre is so versatile, expansive, and immersive that hip-hop can be found for any relevant mood. I’d like to dive deeper than I have ever gone into hip-hop with the goal of defining the genre and determining what has made it so successful. My research will look at the evolution of hip-hop lyricism and production in order to paint a clear picture of the influences and themes that have shaped hip-hop into the genre that it is today. My project will culminate in a 35-50 minute hip-hop LP comprised of self produced beats and vocals to explore hip-hop culture both musically and lyrically.”

Trace Landreth

Approaches to Problem Solving and Reasoning

Wednesday, May 16th, 11:30 a.m. in the Library
“I am making a text-based computer game in which the player starts off with minimal abilities and awareness of the game’s environment. Over time, the player will be able to gain access to more actions and learn more about the game’s context. I have played video games on my Nintendo 64 since I was a wee lad and have grown an affinity for technology ever since. I am ‘exploring’ this topic by taking a hands-on approach in making a computer game of my own. This necessitates research of some key programming concepts that I have not been exposed to, such as object-based programming and Javascript function types, but I believe the most effective way to learn these is by integrating them during the process of creation itself.”

Olivia Manula

Traditional Chinese Medicine: Solutions to Overmedication

Wednesday, May 16th, 12:00 p.m. in the Theater
“I will research Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and explore how it could be easily implemented into daily life. I am interested in this alternative medicine as I believe that in our modern society we overmedicate for simple ailments and could find better alternatives for minor needs. I would like to build a sustainable knowledge of this subject so I can use it in my daily life and live a healthier lifestyle. I am studying several different aspects of TCM such as acupuncture, herbs, and diet. In the end, I will be creating a first-aid kit for homes that will have the basic necessities of TCM and that will allow someone to use it in their daily life. There will be a guidebook so the user can identify their symptoms and use the correct herb or method to help.”

Shelby Ostertag

The Human Experience: Studying Fear, Courage, Shame and Joy Through Photography

Tuesday, May 15th, Invite Only
I will be studying the psychological behavior behind four different aspects of the human experience: shame, fear, courage, and joy, and also exploring them through photography. I am interested in this subject because I want to get a sense of what makes "good photography" and was fascinated by how a photo can become (emotionally) moving. I will be exploring these topics by researching certain parts of the brain and how they influence human behavior, studying the psychological aspect of each emotion, and learning about four photographers who have influenced my project. The creative piece will consist of a photo exhibition of 8-10 photos that I believe portray the human experience.”

Marc Philippon

Surrealism and Artistic Process

Wednesday, May 16th, 2:15 p.m. in the Theater
“I plan to study the period of Surrealism and figures central to this artistic movement. My research will be largely focused on the artists’ mental processes in creating visual pieces that were considered by many to be “ridiculous art.” I will be creating a collection of 10-12 pieces focused on representing the more imperfect and secretive aspects of humans through depictions of different parts of the body. I have been a passionate visual artist since a young age, and feel that I have developed a strong realist style. However, I’ve started to realize that this style of image based realism is very direct with little ambiguity. I am hoping that studying Surrealism will help spark a more original style in my artwork, aiming to provoke more diverse interpretations among viewers.”

Max Pierce

Computations and Effective Listening: Hard Science in the Soft Machine

Friday, May 18th, 9:35 a.m. in the Theater
“My senior project is an investigation of objects and their perceptions as dictated by form and content in art. I will be producing four paintings of non-representational subject matter, which will ultimately explore associations with objects. In my research paper I will try to determine why these associations are made and will be looking at semiotics, which is the study of the use and interpretation of signs and symbols. I am interested in this topic as I find it academically stimulating and the only thing I find existentially satisfying.”

Dashiell Prince-Judd

Exploration of Influence in Modern Music

Friday, May 18th, 8:35 a.m. in the Theater
“My project is centered around exploring the influence of the studio on how music is created and produced. I’m interested mainly in a mixture of country, psychedelia, and folk tradition. I will be creating one cover piece and two originals in the VMS studio and am super excited to be able to get to use this new space.”

Michael Resnick

The Power of Adaptive Skiing

Monday, May 21st, 4:00 p.m. in the Theater
"My goals include gaining real-world teaching experience and producing a video to build awareness of adaptive skiing. I want to give those who are disabled an opportunity to ski and bring them the same enjoyment I have experienced during my years of skiing. I think this project will bring awareness to many about adaptive skiing, but will specifically help those who have a friend or family member with a disability.”

Declan Rooney

Fine Tuning the Mind: A Goaltender’s Guide to Elite Performance

Wednesday, May 16th, 11:00 a.m. in the Library
“My senior project will focus on how sports psychology affects elite athletes and the specific tactics and techniques that allow one to perform at this level. I've been a hockey goaltender for ten years and I have been working up to this point on finding the best mental techniques to keep me level-headed and performing at max capacity. I will be interviewing several professional goaltending coaches and looking at how they have phased in mental training. The three techniques I will be researching and experimenting with are isolated meditation, breathing techniques during a non-static warm up, and targeted visualization. The project will culminate with a journal that tracks my feelings, opinions, and performance using these techniques, as well as a handbook describing the best mental exercises that I find.”

Owen Salamunovich

Crossroads: Food As Expression

Monday, May 21st, 3:30 p.m. in the Theater
"I hope to learn about the various components that go into running a restaurant such as financial management, marketing techniques, and cooking. However, these are not what I hope to be my biggest takeaway. My main focus is to learn how to truly express myself through food. The upbringing I have had in the culinary industry has changed my notion of what food is. Food is not about perfectionism or the egotism of a single “chef,” but rather about nourishment, community, and fundamentally, love. I hope to provide a dinner with all of these through a single bite. That is the art of food.”

Cooper Sampson

Philosophy in Film

Wednesday, May 16th, 11:00 a.m. in the Lecture Hall
“My senior project explores philosophy and how it is shown in film. I’ve always been very interested in film and I thought that this would be a cool way to look at films in a different light. I will research different philosophies and then find characters in films that represent those philosophies. My final product will be a one-page paper on my own philosophy, and a short film showing different characters representing a specific philosophy.”

Christie Spessard

Telling Stories to Create Change

Friday, May 18th, 10:05 a.m. in the Theater
“I will combine my love of theatre and social justice, and plan to interview teenagers I know from around the world about how different social justice issues have impacted their lives personally. I will turn the interviews into monologues and scenes that I will write into a play about the human journey to find light in times of struggle. I will also research how storytelling can raise awareness about important issues and inspire others to create change in the world.”

Taiaroa Tait

Ekphrasis: creating art from literature

Wednesday, May 16th, 8:30 a.m. in the Lecture Hall
“My senior project explores ekphrasis, written description of art, in its reverse form. That is art that describes writing. This art will not only describe writing but the way I feel about this writing. The two books that will be used for this process are The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels and Mein Kampf by Adolf Hitler. I am very interested in philosophy and want extremes to balance the very eastern texts that I have already read to help me form my own creed. After reading these and crafting four art pieces, I will make a book that includes these pieces and a 13 page research paper/credo.”

Jake Vickerman

Introduction to Welding

Wednesday, May 16th, 11:30 a.m. in the Lecture Hall
“I am exploring the trade of welding. This topic is very relevant to my life because I will be attending Montana State University and doing a double major in welding and business management, with a strong vocational focus on custom truck parts and raft frames. Welding has been an interest of mine since the first time I used a torch to repair a tractor a few years ago. Most of my time for this project will be spent in the Vail Manufacturing shop learning the trade. In the end, I will hopefully produce a functional item for VMS such as a coat rack or storage rack for the gear closet."

Max Whiteford

“My Dear, Petulance Feels Best in the Freezing Cold; T.S. Eliot and Redemption in The Wasteland"

Wednesday, May 16th, 8:30 a.m. in the Library
My work will center on writing and reading poetry. I enjoy the ways words collide with one another and trying to create atmospheres from this kind of commingling. For research, I am reading T.S Eliot, Andre Breton and John Ashbery, as well as a play by Samuel Becket and a Novel by Louis-Ferdinand Celine. I will be doing author studies for each of these writers, and some sort of emulation exercise in order to change/challenge the voice I write from. The project will culminate with a number of my own poems that I feel are intentional.”