MSA Boosters Support Student Learning!

Here at the MSA, we LOVE our parents.  They support student learning in all kinds of ways.  We have had parents serve as guest lecturers, who share how classroom content connects to their professions.  We have had parents serve as valuable mentors, who welcome student shadows (students who aren’t their own children) to learn about a profession as a part of the senior project experience. If you are interested in either of these opportunities to get involved, please contact Allison Graves, the senior project advisor.

However, you don’t have to be a STEM professional directly working with students to be a helpful member of our parent network! Join our MSA Boosters.  The MSA Boosters support student learning through senior project grants, underclassman enrichment program grants, and a senior scholarship.  Student recipients of these opportunities must have at least one parent who is a booster.  Membership in the organization must be renewed each year, but know that these funds directly support our students.  In addition to providing funds for our senior celebration, the Boosters support student work.  Here are two current seniors, who have directly benefited from Booster-supported programs:

Cedrick D.’s senior project: “Redesigning the Kirby-Bauer Protocol to Detect the Relative Concentration of Environmental Antibiotics”

Cedrick D. is using his senior project grant money to purchase lab supplies for his research project.

“Across the world, antibiotic resistance is developing as an emerging public health emergency, threatening to upend the state of modern medicine.  One of the major breeding grounds of antibiotic resistance is the environment, as antibiotics begin to contaminate ecosystems nearby pollution sources such as livestock farms, dog parks, and waste facilities, leading to environmental antibiotic resistance that can be spread to pathogenic bacteria. Additionally, environmental antibiotic pollution can hinder plant growth and destroy local habitats. With this in mind, studies dealing with environmental antibiotic pollution are unfortunately still in their infancy.

Two main methodologies currently exist for these studies: direct measurement of environmental antibiotic concentration through liquid chromatography-mass spectroscopy or indirect measurement of antibiotic presence through testing environmental flora’s resistances in a disc diffusion test. Both are hindered by limitations in their scope of detection and their resource-, time-, and cost-intensive nature. As such, this research project attempts to determine whether direct testing of environmental water samples for antibiotic contamination can be done through a modified version of the Kirby-Bauer disc diffusion test. The standard agar depth and type of the Kirby-Bauer methodology will first be modified to test for the most sensitive combination of type and depth before testing it with antimicrobial-impregnated discs from stock solutions and, later, environmental water samples. If successful, this would create a more cost-effective and inclusive means of testing for antibiotic pollution, allowing for more widespread and informative studies that will help in combating the scourge of antibiotic resistance.”

Joshua B.’s senior project: “A LIDAR aided haptic vest for the visually impaired and special forces: The ARGUS vest”

Joshua shadowed a systems engineer this summer and is planning his own electrical engineering project to demonstrate what he’s learned.

“I am planning to create a working prototype of a LIDAR-aided haptic vest for the visually impaired and special services (i.e firefighters). VL53L1X sensors will be mounted on the outer sleeves, chest, and back to provide guidance in all directions. It is a similar concept to the backup sensor on modern cars, beeping faster as the car gets closer to an obstacle, instead, the beeping would be replaced with haptic motors that would let the user know in which direction an approaching obstacle is. The sensors in the jacket will all be connected to a Raspberry pi pico to process the distance data and set the haptic motors to the correct intensities. Planning, designing, and troubleshooting this product will help prepare me for engineering college and being an electrical/computer engineer. I will have to design circuit schematics, create PCBs, identify the right components to use, 3d model the enclosure for the mainboard, solder and assemble circuit boards, and code the microcontroller in C++.

For people with disabilities, it is often difficult to fit into society since people perceive you as different because of physical characteristics such as having a walking stick or a guide dog. This struggle to fit in creates psychological stress. My goal for creating this vest is for it to look like a normal piece of clothing, so the visually impaired won’t have to use a more noticeable seeing aid like a walking stick or guide dog. By being able to navigate their surroundings while wearing a plain vest, the visually impaired can function more easily.”


How can parents get involved?

We have a tremendously helpful MSA Booster Club.  The Boosters support all kinds of projects–from securing lab resources to supporting student enrichment and independent projects. The Boosters are also a great community-sounding board for parents looking to connect with folks who have lived the life of an MSA parent. The Boosters plan to host social events this year for parents to connect and idea share.

How can you join and support this group’s efforts?

  1. You can become a member: Click Here!
  2.  You can support their fundraisers:
    • Buy a T-Shirt: Click Here!
    • Holiday shop!  Use the MSABC’s Amazon Smile link to do some holiday shopping: Click Here!
    • Buy your groceries at a Kroger: Click Here!

Are you interested in applying to our program?

Visit our open house to see if our program is a good fit for you!

If you are a current 8th or 9th grader, and you are interested in applying to our program, access the application to academy programs here. The deadline for applications is January 9, 2023.

Sharing What We Learn–From Science Fairs to Senior Talks

On Friday we wrapped up our senior project presentations.  It felt so good to host LIVE presentations this year, even if for smaller audiences.  Our last presenter was a research student, Elizabeth Caffyn, who went into the weekend on the high note of having delivered a great presentation. Check out pictures of our presenters on our Facebook page.

She and her fellow research students shared their work with a different audience this weekend–the Tidewater Science Congress’s Science and Engineering Fair judges.  Our school submitted 27 projects, 23 of those placed 1st, 2nd, 3rd, or Honorable Mention.  We had eight 1st place in category winners, and we had both the 1st and 2nd place Overall Grand Finalists.  Overall Grand Finalists are eligible for the International Science and Engineering Fair, and the eight 1st place winners are eligible to enter their work in the state science and engineering fair.

Congratulations to this year’s researchers!  An extra special thank you to Mrs. Shoemaker who served as a guide and expert to our budding scientists.

2022 Tidewater Science and Engineering Virtual Fair Award Winners
Overall Grand Finalists & ISEF Selectees: 1st Grand Finalist Omar Abul-Hassan A Helmholtzian Deep Learning Approach to Glomeruli Segmentation using Energy-based Models
2nd Grand Finalist Rockwell Li Swim Smart, Swim Fast – Development and Application of a Fitbit App for Swim Technique Study
Behavioral & Social Sciences
2nd Place (tie) Gabriel Gonzalez Music and Emotion
2nd Place (tie) Erin Jones Far Transfer Effects of Cognitive Training in High School Students
3rd Place Josh Makela Parenting and Personality
Cellular & Molecular Biology 1st Place Omar Abul-Hassan A Helmholtzian Deep Learning Approach to Glomeruli Segmentation using Energy-based Models
2nd Place Sarrallton Sy Effectiveness of Natural Substances Against Bacterial Growth
Computer Science
2nd Place Philip Turner Creating the First Affordable AR Headset Experience
Earth & Planetary Science 1st Place Jack Shoemaker Computer Science in Weather Forecasting
Electrical & Mechanical Engineering 1st Place AmyMarie Jones Inverse and Forward Kinematics
2nd Place Riley Warden Putting a Lock on Impaired Driving
3rd Place Silas Marx Electromagnetic Rocket Launch Pad
Materials & Bioengineering 1st Place Rockwell Li Swim Smart, Swim Fast – Development and Application of a Fitbit App for Swim Technique Study
2nd Place Matthew Heilig Controlling Heat using Heat Pipes
3rd Place Andrew Strassberger Structural Dynamics and 3-D Printing
Energy & Transportation 1st Place Paul Wiskow Using Maglev Trains to Launch Rockets
Mathematical Sciences
2nd Place Rebecca Sun Computer Science in Data Analytics and Finance: Exploring the Impact of Social Media on Market Prices
3rd Place Evan Freisenbruch Chances Are The Lottery Will Be The One Playing You
Medicine & Health Sciences 1st Place Dylan Mach Engineering a Low-Cost and Efficacious Apparatus for Alleviating Finger Joint Pain in Arthritic Patients
2nd Place Jaylin Revies Hip Hop Therapy and Mental Health
Microbiology 1st Place Elizabeth Caffyn Airborne diseases and their prevention
Physics & Astronomy
2nd Place Samuel Krug Effects of Cluster Density on the Formation of Galaxies
Honorable Mention Saif Rahman Determining the Most Effective Propellant for an Ion Thruster
Plant Sciences 1st Place Tracy Peucker The Effect of Various Lighting Patterns and Nutrient Ratios on Algae Growth
2nd Place Alanis Stapelfeldt Extrafloral Nectaries of Prunus serotina and Prunus x yedoensis and Ant Mutualism

You dolphins have earned a big wave!  Here’s the wave following Elizabeth’s presentation on Friday–not as big as in years past, but to do one at all felt pretty BIG! So proud of you all.

Congratulations Class of 2022! More support from our Boosters…

Congratulations to the Class of 2022. You have done hard things–big projects; long papers; talking to professionals; and formal public speaking. We are so proud of you!


Awesome opportunities–

Did you know that every year our MSA Boosters offer three scholarships to graduating seniors of current members?


Did you know that our MSA Boosters offer underclassmen enrichment grants?  If you are interested in a summer program that may charge a participation fee or tuition, and you or a parent are a member of our Boosters organization, consider applying for a grant!

Not a booster?  Visit the booster’s website here:

For more information click here:



Resources from the Class of 2023 Senior Project Meeting

A huge thank you to the seniors who helped with the senior project gallery on Wednesday night!  The juniors and their parents in attendance left with lots of ideas and information to consider.  The gallery is available in the building for the next week; sophomores and freshmen will access it during their English classes.  You can also access it through the virtual gallery website available by clicking the link in the image below.  Through the hyperlinks in the image below, you can also access a quick reference that provides an overview of the senior project, a link to the MSA Booster page, and access to the Livebinder for the Class of 2023. Parents of current seniors–the Livebinder for the class of 2022 is available through the “Academy Advisor Corner” linked to this blog page and also in the image below.

If you missed last night’s meeting,

you can access a video version of the event through the form linked here.  We are excited for the Class of 2023 to begin their journey and hope that the gallery and senior project meeting help to bring some ideas into focus!

From Senior Project to Satellite Launch: a Former Student Shares his Journey

Today has been an exciting day. The seniors “opened” the senior project gallery; the juniors started their senior project engines; and, a member of our class of 2018 inspired current juniors with his story that led him from his senior project to the awesome professional experiences he’s had since graduating from the MSA.

Access to the senior project gallery, along with resources from the parent/junior meeting being held tonight, will be available here on Friday. However, today’s guest speaker was too wonderful not to share with our community.

Chet Wiltshire, a current senior at the University of Alabama, is doing work that makes literal the phrase “out of this world”!  He is a leader on a team launching the University of Alabama’s first satellite in space.  Listen to his journey from senior project to satellite launch and everything in between!

Attention Academy Juniors and Their Parents

It’s time to talk about senior projects!

Plan to visit the senior project information night on Wednesday, February 2nd.  Due to distancing guidance, we will need to offer two sessions and require that students be accompanied by only one parent, and masks are required.

We will record the session for those parents who can’t join us.  In addition to learning about the senior project requirements, parents and juniors will have the opportunity to walk through our senior project virtual gallery.

Please visit to see the times for each session and to sign-up.

Attention Parents of Academy Seniors

Attention parents of academy seniors.  A few senior project notifications.
  • The senior project paper is due on Wednesday, January 19th.  Seniors can access the submission form in the January section of the Livebinder and through the email message they received to their school accounts today. All seniors must submit their final papers on or before the 19th.
  • Once the papers are submitted, seniors will begin preparing for their presentations. Seniors selected their presentation dates during their January meeting with Mrs. Graves.
  • Mandatory practices will be held in February.
  • All presentations will be held in March–ask your student when their presentation will be.
  • Students will be allowed to invite 4 guests to attend.
  • The senior project gallery will be virtual this year.  It will go live on February 2nd and will be accessible through this page.
We hope this message helps as you begin planning for the second semester!  Thank you for your support.