Agora 2013 Winners

Josh Bloom - CS/Education

Elementary Coding: Teaching Computer Science to Elementary School Students

For my senior thesis I wanted to explore computer science education in an elementary school setting. Specifically, I wanted to know how/if students can be introduced to computer science earlier on in their educational careers. Scratch, an easy-to-learn programming environment created by the MIT Media Lab, allows users to personalize content, collaborate with peers, and create many different types of projects. Scratch seemed like an appropriate medium through which elementary school-aged kids are first exposed to computer programming concepts, but what facets of Scratch support computational thinking? What are other benefits of programming in Scratch? How can teachers support students to begin programming in Scratch? To answer these questions, I reviewed literature surrounding the Scratch programming environment, observed four elementary school classrooms in which students are using Scratch, and participated in an online course entitled, Learning Creative Learning, offered by the creators of Scratch.

Rebecca Hammond - Chemistry

HIV Prevention: Reducing Infectivity by Breaking Down Amyloid Fibers

Basically there are peptides in semen that aggregate to form stable fibers called amyloid. These fibers enhance the infectivity of HIV, which on its own is a pretty sucky virus. I work with two of the peptides that enhance HIV transmission, SEM1 and SEM2, and try to break them down with three different chemicals.

Sam Sussman - Political Science

America's Rightward Turn: Racial Resentment and the Death of the Liberal Consensus, 1968-1980

Rather, the use of racially charged language is a forty-five year Republican project that runs from Richard Nixon’s promise of “law and order” to Ronald Reagan’s “welfare queen” to Bush Senior’s shameful (yet successful) attempt to define Michael Dukakis by convicted black murderer Willie Horton’s mug shot. Racially charged language, the ultimate purpose of which is to associate government with excessively generous assistance to poor blacks, has been the prime mechanism by which the GOP has built its case for “small government.”

Soomin Kim - Studio Arts

Multimedia Installations With Glass, Wood, and Projection.

My Studio Art thesis exhibit, which I have been preparing for a year and will be up in the List Gallery from May 2-6, is going to be about multi-media installations with wood, hand-blown glass, fabric, and video projections.

Alejandro Sills - History

Image Veneration in Christian Worship - St. John of Damascus and Byzantine Iconoclasm

The subject of this inquiry is Saint John of Damascus, an eighth-century Syrian monk who wrote against Byzantine Iconoclasm. Through a study of his writings and the works that he cited, together with an investigation into modern scholarship, this thesis argues that his claim for the custom of image veneration as a legitimate part of Christian worship from its earliest days is sound. In the process, the paper looks into the evolution of historiography surrounding the subject, with implications for how to approach ancient sources.

Steven Barrett - Chemistry/Biochemistry

Deviant DNA: When the exception becomes the norm

Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) is the genetic material in all living things that encodes all of an organism's traits. Normally, the structure of DNA is thought of as a double helix (or two-stranded duplex), which is the most commonly observed form in cells and the most prevalent depiction in the media. But, depending on its specific sequence, DNA can adopt several non-duplex forms. G-quadruplex DNA is a four-stranded alternative structure of DNA that forms at the ends of human chromosomes. These G-quadruplexes are speculated to play a large role in cancer, and their interactions with small molecules is of great interest, as these molecules may function as anticancer drugs. My research aims to understand the molecular basis and themes of these interactions.

Eric Verhasselt - Engineering

Fuel Cell Car

Eric designed, constructed, and tested an operational fuel-cell car.