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The Hills are Alive with the Sound of Science

This summer, about 30 Deerfield students will spend four weeks on campus working on energy-focused research projects under the guidance of Science Teacher Ivory Hills.

From July 8 to August 2, participants will attempt to answer questions such as, “Can we capture useful energy from the microorganisms that live in the Deerfield River?” and, “Can we build robots capable of capturing energy from their environment that never need to be recharged by humans?”

While the schedule has not yet been finalized, the program will likely consist of four small- scale, individual projects (one per week), as well as a larger month- long team project.

“Energy can be thought of in three different veins: energy capture, energy storage, and energy use,” explained Dr. Hills, who hopes the projects will combine these elements. In addition, with the help of Science Teacher Ben Bakker, participants will incorporate robotics into their projects.

Students must be “self- motivated, tough, and gritty” to handle the freedom as well as the difficulties of independent research, said Dr. Hills. They must be “capable of meeting challenges that, on day one, they don’t know how to solve.”

While the research classes at Deerfield are good, explained Dr. Hills, students are too worried about grades to really step outside the box. With an extracurricular program like this, Dr. Hills hopes participants will be free to “hunker down and do what you need to do, which is explore science.”

At the end of the day, Dr. Hills hopes the experience will teach students that “one, [scientific research] is fun, and two, if you do it correctly, it’s incredibly, incredibly difficult.”

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