The Founders’ Prize for Senior Project Excellence, 2016 Our Inaugural Winners: 2 Dynamic Duos

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Two teams consisting of a BASIS.ed student and their Senior Project faculty advisor have been chosen as the inaugural winners of an esteemed new award: the Founders’ Prize for Senior Project Excellence.

One set of winners is from BASIS Oro Valley, and the other is from BASIS Peoria. Each was selected by a panel of BASIS.ed experts led by BASIS.ed’s founders themselves, Michael and Olga Block. The winners are:

Evelyn Scollick, BASIS Oro Valley
“The War Against Algae Growth”
Faculty Advisor: Eric Fetkenhour
External Advisor: Franklin Lane, Biosphere 2

Evelyn Scollick Evelyn Scollick won the inaugural Founders’ Prize for excellence in BASIS.ed Senior Projects, as well as an award from the Brackenridge Foundation in Texas.

Sammy Kanungo, BASIS Peoria
“Caring For The Future (Elder Care)” Faculty Advisor: Charlotte Hagerman
External Advisor: Sanjay Kanungo, CareArbo

Sammy Kanungo Sammy Kanungo, winner of the inaugural Founders’ Prize for excellence in BASIS.ed Senior Projects.

“I am truly honored and humbled to be among the first recipients of the Founder’s Prize,” said Fetkenhour, who was serving as a Senior Project faculty advisor for the first time in his career. “Evelyn did the work, and I did what I love to do: watch a kid get it. I didn’t do anything out of the norm, and we had no idea that there was a ‘prize’ to be won.”

“I feel so honored to be selected for this prestigious award. I never expected anything like this to happen,” Hagerman said. “Sammy’s dedication to completing his Senior Project really impressed me. Even though he was turned down every time he came up with a possibility for implementing his original idea, he never gave up.”

Science teacher Charlotte Hagerman of BASIS Peoria with Founders' Prize winner Sammy Kanungo.
Founders’ Prize winners from BASIS Peoria: biology teacher Charlotte Hagerman and 2016 graduate Sammy Kanungo.

Hagerman, who began her teaching career in 1999, and started at BASIS Peoria in 2013, where she has taught AP Biology, 6th, 7th, and 8th grade Biology, LEAP Biology, and Biotechnology, added of Kanungo, “I could see him mature in his ability to manage his time and complete his tasks – and it was nice to see him growing into a person that I knew would be successful in college, and, eventually, professionally.”

“Each spring, seeing our seniors present their Senior Projects is a privilege. This is serious work, truly incredible work – project after project is impressive,” said BASIS.ed CEO Peter Bezanson, who conversed with the winners while notifying them of their awards. “It’s one of the best reflections of the excellence of the BASIS.ed academic program, and Sammy and Evelyn – and Ms. Hagerman and Mr. Fetkenhour – are richly deserving.”

As part of the Founders’ Prize, each student won $10,000 towards their college tuition. Kanungo is attending Case Western Reserve University, while Scollick is a student at Arizona State. Both teachers were awarded a $5,000 bonus as well.

“The BASIS.ed Senior Project is the fitting culmination of the many years that teachers and students learn together,” Co-founders Michael and Olga Block wrote to the winning teachers. “It delivers exactly what our teachers have been spotlighting for the many years prior: our students’ integration of their academic proficiency with the complexity and challenge of higher learning, while looking toward professional existence, and adult life.”

Fetkenhour is beginning his fourth year at BASIS Oro Valley, where he teaches 7th and 8th grade Biology, as well as Capstone Marine Biology. Some of his Marine Biology students get scuba certified and travel to San Carlos, Mexico, to dive – and study.

“One of my roles as a teacher is to raise awareness. Throughout the year, this is what I did in Marine Biology,” Fetkenhour said of his work with Evelyn Scollick. “Once the kids had that awareness, it was time to inspire action and drive change. This is exactly how Evelyn’s project came to be.”

BASIS Oro Valley teacher Eric Fetkenhour and student Evelyn Scollick
Winners of the Founders’ Prize: biology and marine biology teacher Eric Fetkenhour and 2016 graduate Evelyn Scollick of BASIS Oro Valley.

Scollick was one of the students who dove with Fetkenhour last year, and agreed that she was inspired. “With [Mr. Fetkenhour’s] class, I came to realize that I can’t sit in the background for certain topics – and this was one that I really couldn’t sit back on,” Scollick said in a video posted to the BASIS.ed YouTube channel.

“So he really influenced me to do something about what I’ve always cared about.”

“I tell all my kids that science is not about the answers; it’s about the questions,” Fetkenhour said in the same video.

Scollick wrote that her project had two goals:

  • to observe a correlation between the changing ocean conditions and the algae that grows in the different environments, by studying how and what type of algae grows in different pH and UV environments; and
  • to develop a solution to aid in the ever-growing problem of algae growth and its effect on the marine life around it.

Hagerman, too, says she sees herself as someone driving change, though individually: as a mentor with a vital task. “I work hard to teach my students critical thinking and problem solving skills. In my classes, I stress the importance of students trying to work out problems on their own before they come to me searching for the answer.”

Kanungo took that to heart, writing that his Senior Project “aimed to understand the very pressing issue of elderly care from two different points of view: the first being a medical and sociological point of view, and the second being that of a startup business attempting to address that issue.”

Hagerman has a Master’s Degree in science education from Montana State University and a Bachelor’s Degree in Secondary Education with a major in biology and a minor in reading from Idaho State University. “I believe the Senior Project is a perfect way for students to practice these newly established skills in a way that is meaningful and relevant to each of them – and I allow them full ownership over their project,” she says.

Did Kanungo feel that ownership? “Just being kind of in that whole startup company world was a big help to me,” he said in his video on the BASIS.ed YouTube Channel. He notes he had a chance to visit Silicon Valley during his project, where “we were a part of a workshop of other startup companies” – an invaluable experience in the modern marketplace.

The Founders’ Prize will be awarded annually – and 2016 was the award’s inaugural year. “BASIS.ed has long touted our co-creative learning platform, and the Founders’ Prize is a fantastic way to not only recognize excellent student outcomes, but also a deserving way to recognize top BASIS.ed teachers – whose work with senior students performing Senior Projects is nothing short of extraordinary,” said Mark Reford of BASIS Educational Ventures, who came up with the idea for the Founders’ Prize and successfully pitched it to the Blocks.

“I am there to listen to their ideas, encourage their efforts, and make suggestions that can help them overcome obstacles they may encounter during their research,” Hagerman added to Vectors – and, in Kanungo’s YouTube video, she says of Sammy that “I think he’s got it down. Just by using these skills that he took from the classroom out into this project, making it his own, I think he’s headed for some success.”

Fetkenhour also sees his young scientist’s promise. “Evelyn is remarkably inquisitive, passionate and driven. The greatest thing about her project is that she actually “did” science,” Fetkenhour said. “We teach the Scientific Method throughout a student’s career at BASIS.ed, but seldom find a way to put it into practice in a classroom setting. She found a project that enabled her to implement each step of the Scientific Method.”

For more on the students’ theses, research, and conclusions, you can read the blogs that they kept during the entirety of the Senior Project process. This is Evelyn’s blog. Here is Sammy’s blog.

Scollick also won the Brackenridge Award, from the George P. Brackenridge Foundation based in San Antonio, Texas, for her Senior Project. Three other BASIS.ed students were also Brackenridge winners for their Senior Projects, including:

Martha Kiela, BASIS Tucson North
“The Effect of a Non-Canonical Poly (A) Polymerase, PQN-44, On Caenorhabditis Elegans”
Faculty Advisor: Matthew Johnston
External Advisors: Dr. Andrzej Dziembowski and Vladyslawa Liudkovska, Warsaw Academy of Sciences, Institute of Biochemistry and Biophysics: Warsaw, Poland

BASIS student, Martha Kiela
Martha Kiela, winner of the Brackenridge Award in 2016.

Rachel Kuntz, BASIS Flagstaff
“Faulty Forensic Evidence and False Convictions”
Faculty Advisor: Dr. Corey Hartman
External Advisor: Colleen Maring, Arizona Innocence Project

Rachel Kuntz, winner of the Brackenridge Award in 2016.
Rachel Kuntz, winner of the Brackenridge Award in 2016.

Alex Nica, BASIS Phoenix
“Nephrology’s Hidden Nemesis: A Look Into the BK Virus and Its Relation to Immunosuppressive Agents”
Faculty Advisor: Dr, Stephen Speyer, PhD
External Advisor: Dr. Harini Chakkera, MD, MPH, Venal Transplant Fellowship Program Director, Mayo Clinic

Alex Nica, winner of the Brackenridge Award in 2016.
Alex Nica, winner of the Brackenridge Award in 2016.

For more information on the research by the above, Brackenridge-winning students, please click their name, which is a link to their Senior Project blogs.

Phil Handler

Phil Handler

Director of Communications, and Managing Editor, Vectors at BASIS.ed
Phil Handler grew up in Chicago, where he was a lawyer and also worked in politics, professional football, and newspaper, TV, and radio journalism. He also worked in San Francisco for eight years as a radio journalist and producer. Phil earned his BA via a double major in expository and fiction writing, and speech communication, as well as a JD in law, both from the University of Illinois - Urbana-Champaign. Phil enjoys reading fiction, science and history, and coffee-sipping while dog-walking or movie-watching.
Phil Handler

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