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Launched last year, the Science Club at International High School is proving to be a bridge between risk-taking and discipline. Every Wednesday from 3:30-6:00pm, roughly 15 students split between the Science and Design Clubs have been meeting to test out ideas, often based on the mentorship of Head of Science, Julien Astruc. The environment in science club has been casual and collaborative, one in which both teacher and upperclassmen are willing to explain concepts to fellow students. According to Carly Ryan, "This makes science more fun. You can use Science Club to either ask questions about or to deepen what you're learning in class." Carly describes an experiment involving a pendulum, a laser pointer and a circuit with an LDR (light-dependent resistor) on it—used to study frequency. After using LabQuest to draw a graph that tracked when the pendulum permitted or blocked the passage of light, Carly returned to class with a stronger understanding of frequency.
Sophia Clark explains that Science Club and class differ because the exercises in class are predetermined. The Club, on the other hand, enables students to run tests based on their own curiosity, or that of Mr. Astruc, who is known for a messy notebook filled with schémas, or diagrams of potential tests to run. Students speak of his trips to Radio Shack, after which he comes back to school with materials (such as solar panels) in hand, only to ask students how the latter can be used in experiments. In one instance, Sophia says, students used a "breadboard" (a construction base used to prototype electronics) to measure the resistance of an LDR. "Some experiments," she continues, "have an expected outcome, but others—we're not sure whether they'll work. That's partly what makes them interesting."
These sophomores note that in their grade, French Bac students have the option of taking a class in biotechnology or Création et Innovation Technologique (CIT), which tackles problems in an interdisciplinary fashion. CIT topics include renewable energy, robotics, networking, and resource management. One CIT student, Simon Chanezon, describes how his project began in a bedroom cluttered with comic books. He thought it might be nice to develop a system to organize them. Upon mentioning this to design teacher, Barbara Abécassis, she suggested that he could use that concept to organize the books in the lower school library. Simon came up with the idea to create "Smart bookcases that would know when a book was in or out." Now Simon and his group are investigating how to use LDRs (referenced in the pendulum experiment above) to keep track of the books. "We might use LED tables under the books" to make this possible.
In the 11th grade, the students' experiments become even more ambitious as they delve into their Travaux Personnels Encadrés (TPE), an interdisciplinary group research project in which students explore scientific solutions to global issues. Amely Joly describes how she and partners Eliette Chanezon and Alice Batty struggled to find an idea that would impact the world. Again, with Mr. Astruc's guidance and after an in-class lesson, the juniors decided to research the properties of sugar. Alice describes how students began their experiment by emitting light through a polarizing filter. They noticed that if they then emitted light through an additional container filled with water and sugar, the angle of polarization changed; it changed further with the addition of more sugar. This sparked the question: can we use that angle to determine whether people have diabetes? The students will be presenting their project in a science fair this coming spring.
Amely adds, finally, that they would like to build a prototype with the help of Abécassis, such that, "When someone submits a urine sample, and light goes through at the angle that corresponds with diabetes, a light flashes," indicating that the person needs treatment. "But," she notes modestly, "For now that's just an idea."