From exploring Mongolia to analyzing dreams, from researching the history of shoes to building prosthetic prototypes for the future, from the depths of the ocean to the streets of Buenos Aires—Ross School seniors have spent the school year immersing themselves in their passions, and the products of their efforts are, as usual, enriching, enlightening, and extremely impressive.
Beginning at the end of their junior year at Ross, students embark on their Senior Projects. The capstone educational experience comprises a Process Folio, in which students document their research and the steps they’ve taken to carry out their vision; the Final Product, which goes on display during Senior Project Exhibition week; and the Presentation, in which the students give an oral presentation about their topic to an audience of their peers and teachers.
This year, Senior Exhibition took place over four nights, January 19–22. The first event, Film Night, proved that several students have developed some serious directorial chops. Isabel Timerman produced War of Walls, a documentary on graffiti in Argentina and its political connections and ramifications. Alex LaPierre examined the inconsistencies of family lore in a biographical film called The Things We Tell Ourselves. Misuzu Shibano turned her artistic talents to creating Guts, a stop-motion animation using Claymation, drawings, and video to depict the emotions she’s experienced as an international boarding student at Ross. The Weight of Being a Woman, by Sailor Brinkley Cook, shared interviews with several young women about body image and the media. And Abby Okin lightened up the mood with her satirical talk show Seriously? featuring political commentary and opinion, and interview with Greg Drossel, and a spoof portrayal of a meeting between Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump (portrayed expertly and hilariously by teacher Sam Yarabek).
The evening ended with two short fiction films. Big Kitty Xue presented Homme Fatale, a Patricia Highsmith–like film noir focusing on a tutor, his wife, and his student. And Mark Cheng wowed the audience with Cab and Grab, a black-and-white production involving a heist gone bad, shot with grippingly intense camerawork.
After the final film, the seven student directors assembled on stage for a Q&A. They spoke about where they got their inspiration and discussed their future plans. While not all of the students intend to pursue filmmaking as a career, the general consensus was that they had learned a lot about the field—and themselves—as they progressed through their projects.
The next night, Readings and Music Night, featured students who focused on literary and musical compositions. Presentations began with Ingrid Zhao, who shared a Chinese folk story and a Chinese legend with the audience, and then played two violin concertos that she had composed to tell the stories musically. Her work exhibited the influence of traditional Chinese instruments such as the erhu and liuqin.
Students who produced literary works were introduced by their mentors, and each read a selection from their final product. Camila Wanderley read a short story from her collection titled Ocean, based on caricatures of personality types. Kendall Scala told her story of how her parents’ addictions shaped her early life, one of several examples from her book titled Our Fixes. Bernardo Sá shared his reviews of 2001: A Space Odyssey and Total Recall as part of his project “20 Sci-Fis That You Should Watch Before I Die.” And Frances Sacks read from her Neuropsychological Novella, which explores the role of different parts of the brain in planning and executing an assassination in a fictional setting.
The final performance of the night was given by Claire Yan, who performed classical piano solos interspersed with subtitled videos with background music composed by Claire. The combination, following such intense literary explorations, evoked powerful emotions.
The traditional centerpiece of the week is Exhibition Night, during which all 76 Senior Projects were showcased throughout the Ross Gallery and Senior Building. Many students explored textiles, including fashion modeled after Piet Mondrian’s artistic style (Diane Rao); scarves designed with patterns inspired by a Brazilian pre-Columbian tribe called Marajoara (Eugênia Affonso); costuming drawn from the styles of the Beijing Opera (Eric Wu); dresses/sculptures made from wire mesh, shells, sequins and other materials (Ashley Hao); T-shirts with inspirational screenprints (Emma-Scott Egbert); and three pieces of clothing representing one student’s thinking process when she approaches fashion design (Tong Gu).
Futuristic technology also had its place among the students’ installations. Elsa Diaw built a 3D-printed prosthetic arm that can be controlled by electrical signals from a person’s brain. Hawke Huang also designed and produced an assistive device called “The Third Arm” for people with limited or no use of their arms. Sara Stewart used the Innovation Lab’s 3D printers to create a realistic, life-sized model of a human heart that can be used for teaching purposes, and accompanied the model with educational materials in both English and Spanish. Jeff Cui developed an air purifier in an effort to lower the cost of a cleaner environment. Katie Morgan used infographics and technology such as an Arduino-run light board that depicted the frequency of sexual assault in our country and a Twitter app that tracked the use of gendered insults to communicate the continued necessity of promoting feminist issues. And Filipp Gorodetskiy designed an architectural system of six prefabricated units that can be used in multiple combinations for a variety of types of construction.
Artistic pursuits were also plentiful throughout the exhibition. Old-fashioned woodcraft was on display in the form of handmade chairs representing concepts related to the LGBT community (Malik Basnight), a reproduction 1959 Gibson Les Paul guitar made from scratch (Yanni Giannakopoulous), two custom-designed and -built pairs of skis (Cole Colby), and a beautiful coffee table featuring an inset depiction of planet Earth that glows in the dark (Jodie Paffrath). Other artists shared insights into their heritage, with Jin Zhang displaying images of Mongolian costumes and culture, and Savanah Koyannie presenting illustrations and examples of Native American powwow costumes, along with video of various dances. Olivia Gan, whose parents own a shoe factory, used watercolors to create an illustrated history of women’s shoes in Chinese history.
The final night of the exhibition featured three performances. Yanni played several pieces on the dream guitar he had created (the 1959 Gibson Les Paul replica), followed by a three-part dance titled Waves That Hold Me, choreographed by Emma Engel to represent her view of the world as expressed through her relationship with the ocean, danced by Emma and fellow Ross students. Finally Savanah and two associates from the Shinnecock reservation (including a young boy who stole the show) performed tribal dances in colorful regalia.
More details and photos about Senior Project Exhibition Week, including the catalog with descriptions of each project, can be found at www.ross.org/seniorproject.