Friday, June 5, 2020
Triton Senior Gabriela Staub explained her senior project to a panel of teachers and community members. Her project was entitled “Developing Skin Substitutes for Burns.” The project included working with researchers at the Mayo Clinic, writing a paper and giving an oral presentation to the panel.

Triton seniors present their projects before graduation

On the Wednesday before graduation, Triton seniors waited outside classrooms to present their senior projects to groups of Triton teachers and community members. Some were nervous, some were confident and some just wanted to get it over with.

The senior project is a requirement for graduation at Triton High School so seniors knew how important their presentations were.

The presentations were actually just the final step in a year-long activity that saw them selecting a project they felt passionately about and that aligned with their personnel and/or professional goals. They conducted research on the subject, connected with a mentor and created a portfolio that visually displayed how they went about the project. The project ended with the verbal presentation.

Like seniors before them, the Class of 2019’s projects showed a wide variety of interests. Many of them were related to what the students planned to do after high school and as their careers. For others they were projects on subjects important to them for personal reasons.

For Molly McCool her project of building a handicap accessible garden box was close to home.

Her sister Emily, Molly explained to the individuals making up the panel, has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair. Other members of the family are avid gardeners, she said, but because of her disability it has been impossible for her sister to fully take part in the activity.

Even though she has grown up with a sister with a disability Molly still did additional research on the condition and discovered it is the leading cause of disability in young children.

While looking at the old garden boxes in the family yard, she said, she decided to build a new box that would allow her sister to wheel right up to the box and allow her to help.

Working with her mentor, she said, it was decided an L-shaped box would be the best as Emily could go around all sides of the box and reach her hands in. They determined what materials would be needed and between McCool’s family and her mentor they located all the needed tools.

During the course of the project, McCool said, she learned that building something can be hard. There was a lot of measuring that had to be done so the height was right as the wheelchair cannot go up and down.

When the box was finished and filled with soil, she said, Emily was able to help as they planted cucumbers, squash, green beans, peas, tomatoes and peppers.

McCool explained that she enjoys helping others and her project went along with helping others as a goal and also her plan to go into elementary education.

Hunter Iverson-Himle said that he has always been interested in building things. When he was three or four he always watched “Bob the Builder” on TV and copied what he did with his Legos.

So it was natural that he chose building a footbridge to replace the deteriorating one at the Nature Center.

His first step in the project, he said, was to research the various types of footbridges that there are including skyways, beam bridges, simple suspension bridges and plank bridges. His bridge for the Nature Center, he said, would be a plank bridge.

Since he would be replacing a bridge, he first measured the existing one and determined what materials he would need including wood screws, 2x8, 2x6 and 16 ft. planks.

The entire project was a big learning project, he said, as he had to learn to double check all his measurements and learn to use some new equipment including the miter saw

Since the bridge was not built on-site, he explained, he and several helpers had to load the bridge onto a trailer and transport it to the nature center. With the new footbridge in place the old one had to be taken away for disposal.

One of the things he learned from the project, he said, is that he knows how to follow through on a project from start to finish. He is already a member of the National Guard and plans to further his education to become an engineer.

DJ Lyke likes dogs and chose dog training as his project.

He explained that before he decided on a project both of the dogs in his family died. One of the dogs, especially, had been a big part of his life and it was hard when the animal died.

He did, however, get a new puppy, a Siberian husky named Bo. And, Lyke said, he would like to be a middle school gym teacher and also a coach when he completes his education. Given that he would have to teach his new puppy and he someday hopes to teach middle school students, he saw this as a “win-win” situation.

The paper he wrote for the project was entitled “Mans’ Best Friend,” and took a look at the history of humans and dogs and also how dogs can help people at both the physical and human level. Physically, he discovered, dogs can help their owners by helping reduce blood pressure and cholesterol as well as helping with cardiovascular issues as dog ownership means walking the dog. Service animals also help individuals with disabilities.

From a mental health standpoint, he learned, pets in general can help lower stress, anxiety and help those with depression.

Most people who own pets, he said in his verbal presentation, are happier and more satisfied.

With that knowledge he set out with the help of his mentor on a six week program to train his dog.

Over the course of the program, Bo learned tricks and commands such as sit, lay down, shake and come. He learned to walk alongside Lyke who said that potty training Bo was the hardest part.

Lyke’s learned about both positive and negative reinforcement and decided he does not believe in negative reinforcement.

He also benefited, he said, because he was able to connect with Bo and learned that sometimes life will throw you a curve but it is how you respond and react that is important.

Bo has learned a lot, he said, but there are still other things he wants to teach him.

Taking him on as a puppy is lifetime training. “It’s kind of like raising a child,” he said.

Lyke’s future plans include attending the University of Iowa in the fall.

Gabriela Staub already knows that ultimately she wants to go to medical school.

In line with that interest, the topic of her project was Developing Skin Substitutes for Burns.

Last summer, she explained, she was able to work with mentor Allan B. Dietz at the Mayo Clinic Human Cell Therapy Lab. Dietz is co-director of the lab and focuses on the use of cells as drugs. He, and his lab, are involved in clinical trials involving adult stem cells.

The work at the lab, she said, “pushed me out of my comfort zone immediately.”

The biggest drawback, she said, was probably the vocabulary and reading the research papers.

Her goal for the project, she said, was to learn how research works In the end she learned that research is a long process and includes a lot of failures but still usually leads to success.

For her paper, which she completed during the winter, she concentrated on skin grafting.

“I wish I was part of the next process,” she said, “turning the cells into grafts.”

Her immediate future includes attending Concordia College in Moorhead, before medical school.

Whatever their project all members of the Class of 2019 where able to breathe a sigh of relief when, after the panel had discussed the project. they announced the project passed and graduation was approved.

While the seniors were relieved the project was over, the Class of 2020 was hard at work selecting and beginning their Senior Project.


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