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CCPS STEM Capstone Gallery walk showcases student research

ELKTON — Student scientists showcased their research and accomplishments from an unpredictable year during Wednesday’s STEM Gallery Walk at Elkton High School.

“This is when the big aha comes to them,” said Christine Zatalava, a STEM instructional coach. “This is where they realize that what they have been working on matters to the real world.”

Around 100 Cecil County Public School students in Project Lead the Way and the Science Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Academy, shared their work from around 90 different Capstone projects. District spokeswoman Kelly Keeton said the event marked one of the first large county-wide events, outside of sports games, since the COVID pandemic.

Seven different honors programs presented their students’ work. Along with help from teachers, students often received the guidance of STEM mentors who gave them extra support and help.

The 90 projects varied widely in scope, each one a reflection of the interests and personality of the student.

Three Cecil County School of Technology (CCST) seniors Connor Hickey (Rising Sun High School), William Bell (Bohemia Manor High School), and Zayne Jenkins (Perryville High School), focused on designing a safer power drill, partially inspired by an injury Hickey’s father suffered from an accident at W. L. Gore & Associates. They integrated a circuit breaker into the power drill, so when a drill is experiencing a kickback event it automatically stops.

The group first thought a microcontroller would be the solution, but the simpler technology of a circuit breaker that solely measured amperage was a better tool for the job.

Perryville senior Josie Scramlin blended her interest in science with her interest in art as she conducted a study to see the effects creating art has on student stress levels. She first took students resting heart rates, then had them play the stressful “Perfection Game,” measured their heart rate, and then would have students simply wait for a period of time or have them draw, and see the difference between how the two activities impacted their heart rate after the stress of the “Perfection Game.” The data, however, proved to be inconclusive.

She worked with Asli Arslanbek Evci, a research fellow at the Creative Arts Therapies Department at Drexel University, as her mentor. Her mentor told her that heart rate may not be the most accurate way to determine stress levels.

“It has potential for expanding further, which is what my goal was,” said Scramlin. “Art in general doesn’t have a lot of research to back it up as being useful to the education community. So just making more data available was what I aimed to do.”

Scramlin plans to major in environmental science and art at the University of Richmond, and hopes to use art to help educate people on science and conservation.

Students in the agricultural sciences focused on working with animals, seeing the impacts of different diets on pets or how they respond to different stimuli.

Bohemia Manor/CCST senior Kaitlyn Coverdale conducted research to see how horses react to different situations that they may encounter. She popped a balloon to replicate a loud noise, the opening of an umbrella to replicate sudden movement, and a human standing in a stall door to see how they respond to human interaction. She did not find any large trends outside of how older horses tended to be more desensitized. She used ear position, tail movement, and vocalizations to measure a reaction.

“I think it’s fantastic to get science out there again and especially for getting science out there again so people have more of an understanding of what we’re doing as honors students with science and understanding how everything functions together,” said Coverdale.

Other students took a scientific approach to sports. Bohemia Manor and STEM Academy junior Samantha Meis used her research to see which spinning position helps an ice skater stay centered and increase their speed. She used four common positions, scratch spin, sit spins, camel spins, and back spins, and created a graph in a data analysis software to analyze angular speed.

Meis found that the back spin is the fastest spin for skaters to use.

“In competitions skaters tend to do combination spins, where you do one position after another,” said Meis. “If you end with a spin that’s tighter, like the back spin, it could help you generate and keep more speed for your last spin.”

Lauren Johnsky has worked as a mentor for 10 years for students at CCST and Perryville High School. She has a masters degree in molecular biology and currently works in software. She said working with students has helped teach her how to be patient, as she focuses on discussing concepts and ideas with students instead of just telling them the answer.

“They don’t learn from me telling them the answer,” said Johnsky. “They learn from discovering it on their own.”

Projects in the Interactive Media Portfolio Capstone, Homeland Security Capstone Experience, and Honors Education Academy Internship showed the wide breadth of the program, focusing on creative projects, public safety, or real world experience in education, rather than scientific experiments. The Media Portfolio program featured work such as video games, short films, and even books. Rising Sun/CCST senior Logan Aiken designed a sequel to the game “Just Shapes and Beats,” through the website Scratch. He made four boss fights and ten basic levels. The obstacles are often timed with the beat of background music.

“It took almost my entire senior year to develop,” Aiken said. “There was a lot of trial and error, a lot of stress. But it was a great experience. I loved every second of it.”

Aiken’s skills in game design improved massively over the course of the project, it used to take him a week to make a level, and now he can complete a level in a single day.

North East High School and CCST senior Clara Angell wrote a script and animated a short film, “Johnnie and Pippa Hide a Body” drawing each frame individually. The unfinished film was originally going to be in live action, but when COVID made in-person filming impossible, Angell shifted to animation.

Two seniors in the CCST Homeland Security Capstone both tackled different political issues. North East student Brooke Ayers’s presentation “The Failures of the Contemporary American Prison” focused on the history of prisons in America, focusing on solitary confinement, prison labor and privatized prisons.

“I felt that prisoners were not getting a say as they do not because they do not have the right to vote,” said Ayers. “I delved into what the current issues were, because they do not have a say, and I want to be able to be there in any way, shape, or form that I can because they are still people who can grow and change.”

Rising Sun senior John Pahutski focused on how Chinese fishing fleets have been targeting the coastlines of South America, causing environmental degradation and hurting local economies. He said a fear countries like Ecuador have is that the practice of killing sharks such as hammerheads may hurt the tourism industry.

Rising Sun senior Mackenzie Kennedy from the CCST Education Academy Internship program showcased a portfolio of her work alongside professional teachers as an intern at Calvert Elementary School. Kennedy hopes to become a teacher after graduating from Salisbury University.

School administration had high praise for the event, saying that it showcases how much CCPS has to offer students.

“There’s such a misnomer in most communities, in regard to public schools, that there’s this deterioration of the youth,” said Superintendent Jeffrey Lawson. “When you come out here, and walk around for 10 or 15 minutes it certainly quells that with the high level work they’re doing the way they carry themselves. They’re all heading for good schools and workplaces. This is what it’s all about for us. They come in as kindergarteners, and this is what we want to see happen to them.”

School Board president William Malesh said that students could send their research to companies to improve their odds of getting a job offer.

“When a parent or somebody else asks “what’s wrong with kids today” I say absolutely nothing,” said Malesh. “These guys are shining stars, they blow me away.”

Cecil County's first heroin coordinator receives state recognition

Raymond Lynn, who served as Cecil County’s first heroin coordinator from December 2016 through December 2020, received the William Donald Schaefer Helping People Award on Wednesday during a virtual ceremony.

ANNAPOLIS — A man who served as Cecil County’s first heroin coordinator is one of the latest recipients of the William Donald Schaefer Helping People Award.

The award was bestowed upon Raymond Lynn by Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot on Wednesday during a virtual ceremony, which, in addition to acknowledging Lynn’s contributions in Cecil County, honored four other recipients from Baltimore City and Baltimore, Carroll and Harford Counties for their work.

The late William Donald Schaefer, who is the award’s namesake, is well-known for the premium he placed on people and for his efforts to improve their lives during his 50 years of public service, which included serving as Baltimore City mayor from 1971 to 1987, as Maryland governor from 1987 to 1995 and as state comptroller from 1995 to 2007.

“These recipients best exemplify the philosophy William Donald Schaefer had for helping people during his 50 years of service . . . He was legendary for his adherence to the maxim that government must act swiftly in response to the needs of its citizens,” Franchot commented at the outset of Wednesday’s virtual ceremony, before referencing Schaefer’s famous “Do It Now” slogan.

Speaking specifically about Lynn, who served as Cecil County’s first heroin coordinator from December 2016 through December 2020, Franchot summarized, “He went to war against the opioid crisis. He approached the crisis by focusing on the children orphaned by the opioid epidemic, getting them the treatment they needed — free of charge — to build opiate-free lives.”

After graduating from Bohemia Manor High School in 1993, Lynn went on to serve 23 years as a Maryland State Police trooper. Not long after retiring from MSP, Lynn, who also served as a volunteer firefighter, accepted the newly-created heroin coordinator position.

During his four years at that post, before retiring in December, Lynn made great strides in establishing systems and protocols designed to efficiently battle the opioid crisis in Cecil County, in addition to the overall drug problem.

One of the many people aware of Lynn’s accomplishments is James Greene, who was hired to replace Lynn after serving some 25 years with the Cecil County Sheriff’s Office before retiring from that agency in December at the rank of lieutenant.

“Ray did a lot of wonderful things getting the (heroin coordinator) program up and running here. He built it from the ground up. He created the forms and the system in which information is reported and data is processed. He also established and developed relationships with agencies and groups in this county and in other jurisdictions,” Greene told the Cecil Whig in December. “He set a solid foundation and I want to build on what he started.”

According to a statement issued by Franchot’s office after Wednesday’s ceremony, “(Lynn) was chosen for his unwavering determination to change the lives of children victimized by the opioid epidemic. The retired Maryland State Police trooper was committed to securing free assistance that helped young people overcome their struggles so they could pursue healthy, productive lives.”

Milburn Stone Theatre's "Songs for a New World" offers a chance to reflect how our decisions impact our lives

NORTH EAST — As COVID restrictions fade away, and the world returns to normalcy, the Milburn Stone Theatre’s musical “Songs for a New World,” by Jason Robert Brown, offers a chance to reflect on the past year, with hope in mind.

“I think that after a year of so much turmoil, seeing that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel is really hopeful,” said director William Bryant. “I hope that (Songs for a New World) can show some people that we can come out of it better than before.”

The piece, available for 48 hour rental until May 31, is a series of loosely connected vignettes about characters facing moments where their decisions could change their entire life. Some songs are about the moments before making a great choice, while others feature characters reflecting on their life after it has already been changed by their actions.

“There’s really nice, poignant moments,” Bryant said “There’s some more fun moments but a lot of the songs have a little bit of a bittersweet undertone. One of the consequences of making a decision is that certain paths are not going to be the ones you follow.”

The situations depicted in “Songs for a New World” range from fantasy, such as a forlorn neglected Mrs. Claus before Christmas, to the realistic, such as a young man dreaming of becoming a basketball player. Bryant said the last song in the show “Hear My Song,” is his favorite.

“I’m fortunate enough to have my business be storytelling,” Bryant said. “The idea of listening and letting yourself accept that this is the story that you’re living is a very powerful one to me.”

The musical was originally planned for a March release, however one of the actors contracted COVID before filming was supposed to start, leading to a large delay in the production. Every song was filmed as a solo performance before being spliced together, so the 4 person cast is never on the same stage at the same time. The individual filming process allowed for actors to sing without masks, while still following COVID guidelines, enabling them to use their facial expressions to fully articulate their emotions.

“Through the magic of editing and other elements, it looks like there’s more people on stage,” said Artistic Director Andrew Mitchell. “But we only had one person on stage to record at one one time without a mask on.”

The theatre made their own backing tracks for the production with a virtual pit orchestra made up of local musicians. The show contains adult language and themes and is recommended for audiences 13 and up.

Readers interested in purchasing a streaming ticket to rent the film for 48 hours can go to this link before May 31: https://www.showtix4u.com/event-details/52334.

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Man gets 12 years for shooting at occupied boat near Ches. City

ELKTON — A man who fired at least a dozen bullets into a docked boat near Chesapeake City — while a married couple and their child were sleeping onboard the vessel — received a 12-year prison term Tuesday after accepting a plea deal.

The defendant, Samuel Noah Staten, 49, admitted to Maryland State Police investigators that he opened fire at approximately 3 a.m. on Oct. 23, 2019, at Harbor North Marina in the 100 block of River Road, south of Chesapeake City, where he was living on his sailboat, according to court records.

Staten maintained that he fired numerous rounds because he believed that a man and a woman were pointing guns at him as he walked off a dock, court records show.

MSP investigators confirmed that the man and the woman that Staten identified docked their boat at that marina, police said. State police also confirmed, however, that that couple had not been present at the marina during the time Staten opened fire.

Staten was not under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of the incident, prosecutors reported.

The sound of gunfire stirred the family that had been sleeping below deck on a boat neighboring Staten’s vessel, according to court records, which further indicate that the husband noticed bullet holes in a window “in close proximity” to where he, his wife and their child had been sleeping.

Court records indicate that MSP investigators responded to the marina after the husband, who had confronted Staten, called 911. Investigators arrested Staten at the scene.

MSP investigators documented “at least 12 bullet holes on the exterior of (the victims’) boat,” including ones that damaged a television inside the vessel and a dinghy, according to court records.

After the suspect gave consent, MSP investigators searched Staten’s 26-foot Erikson sailboat and confiscated a mini Ruger 14 rifle, a Sig P230 pistol, more than 170 rounds of ammunition and four magazines for the rifle, court records show.

On Tuesday, during a Cecil County Circuit Court proceeding, Staten pleaded guilty to three counts of reckless endangerment — with each offense relating to a different person who was onboard the fired-upon boat. The defendant also pleaded guilty to malicious destruction of property.

Cecil County Circuit Court Administrative Judge Keith A. Baynes imposed a total of 18 years in sentences on Staten. After the judge suspended three years of one penalty and made one three-year sentence concurrent, the sentences translate to a 12-year prison term for Staten.

Specifically, the judge imposed three maximum, five-year sentences on Staten for reckless endangerment, making the second and third penalty consecutive to those preceding them. The judge suspended three years of the third sentence.

In addition, Baynes imposed a consecutive three-year sentence on Staten for malicious destruction of property and then suspended it.

The judge also ordered Staten to serve three years of supervised probation after completing his 12-year term in a Maryland Department of Corrections prison.

Assistant State’s Attorney Nathaniel Bowen had sought 15 years of active incarceration for Staten, three more than the judge imposed on the defendant.

State sentencing guidelines, which are based on a defendant’s criminal record and other factors, set an overall penalty range of three and a half years to 16 years of active incarceration for Staten.

As part of the plea deal, the state dismissed related charges against Staten, including three counts of first-degree assault, which carries a maximum 25-year sentence, and three counts of second-degree assault, which is punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

Bowen and Staten’s lawyer, Assistant Public Defender Thomas Klenk, negotiated the plea agreement.

Theresa and Andy Mussaw still grow their nutrient rich microgreens at the farm on Oldfield Point Road in Elkton but have moved their retail end to Coopers Market, also on Oldfield Point Road, on Saturday from 9 until 3 and at Perryville Farmer’s Market at Rodgers Tavern every Saturday from 8:30 until noon.

FreshSource Farms joining the farmer’s market venues

The Buck Moth is one of the species that was threatened by mining in the pine barrens near Conowingo.