Interview with Matt, Class of 2018

Matt Marr, Class of 2018, will be going to Fitchburg State University next year to study Game Design. Matt has been a student at Sizer School since the seventh grade and in an interview with Ms. Craigen, described his seven year journey with Sizer.

 

Coming from Gardner Public Schools and homeschooling, Matt described himself as not being “very socially inclined” when he started in the middle of his seventh grade year. A friend had recommended Sizer to him and after doing a tour of the school, he was surprised by the smaller classroom settings and individualized attention that teachers were able to give the students. Soon after, he found himself falling in love with Sizer School’s mission and getting involved in multiple different activities at the school including athletics and after school programs.

 

Matt described his teachers at Sizer as “a good change” and attributed his abilities to overcome personal and emotional obstacles to his teachers and guidance counselors. It was in his two ninth grade years that Matt found his passion for singing and performing, participating in both Chorus and Sizer Theater Arts (SiTA). With his mother being a member of Sizer’s PTSO, he has volunteered for multiple events such as Open Mic Night, House of the Rising Starts, and spaghetti suppers.

 

In tenth grade he was persuaded by Mr. Prescott, Athletic Director and Cross Country Coach, to join the Cross Country team. Admittedly hesitant at first because of his distaste for exercising, Matt was surprised when he found a true passion for running.

 

“Mr. Prescott has said before that I’m the heart of the team. The truth is, he’s the one that really made me enthusiastic about running. One person that also made me happy to run and someone who inspired me to keep running is Julie Gambill [Class of 2016]. It has surprised me to notice it, but kids have started to look up to me as their role model too”.

 

After his first year of Cross Country, Matt also joined the Track and Field team alongside Coach Prescott. His advice to anyone is “Exercise is good for your physical and mental health! It will make you happier. Do it! Run! You’ll get better”. He plans to participate in Cross Country at Fitchburg State University in the Fall.

 

In addition to athletics, Matt successfully launched a Dungeons and Dragons after school club in the Winter of 2018 after multiple years of trial and error. He learned from his previous mistakes, adapted his approach, and started his senior year with optimism and positivity. With this and help from his peers and 12th grade teacher, Mrs. Sweeney, he created balance with academics and emotional stress; this allowed him to start this club after having tried three times before. Matt is passing the club leader responsibilities over to his peers and their intent is to continue meeting in the 2018-19 school year.

 

When asked what advice he would give to anyone who is considering coming to Sizer next year, he said, “We’re willing to help no matter where you come from and no matter what you’re background … we are always willing to help. We will be your shoulder to cry on if you need, your backup system if you’re having trouble with someone; but most importantly we are all your friends. And no matter what, we are here for you”.

 

Alumni News

 

Alex Infantino, class of 2014, is a current sophomore at the University of Massachusetts Lowell where he’s majoring in Computer Science. He is able to be part of some very cool projects at college – even working with the famous NAO robot!

 

What are you studying at UMASS Lowell?

I’m majoring in Computer Science and planning to minor in Robotics. The Robotics Lab at UML is run by Holly Yanco, a well known professor in the Robotics world. She oversees all the projects done by the students working for her and earns all the grants and sponsorships that allow us to do the work that we do. There are two labs at Lowell: one directly on North campus where I work, and there is the NERVE Center (New England Robotics and Validation Center: http://nerve.uml.edu/) which is basically a testing facility for robots.

How did you get interested in robotics and programming?

I first got involved in the robotics lab this past summer. When I was accepted into UML I was awarded a scholarship that allowed me to intern as a research assistant for the summer following my freshman year. I applied to the robotics lab, although I knew nothing about robotics, as I thought it would be extremely challenging and interesting. I was interviewed by some of my current lab members and was hired. Once the summer internship was done, I was offered a part time position with a few others whom worked with me over the summer to continue research during the school year.

Over the summer, I spent most of my time becoming familiar with ROS (Robot Operating System), Linux, and Git. ROS is a completely open source and extremely fun to use, so if you want to get a head start you can check it out here: http://www.ros.org/. As an intern they gave me freedom to choose my projects, and so I decided to work on the NAO robot (https://www.aldebaran.com/en). Over the summer I wrote a program with my partner, Victoria, to autonomously get the NAO to stand up and walk around the room using the sonar found on its chest. We also created various smaller programs including taking advantage of its speakers and LEDs to make a cheesy horror movie, and make it do the hula and create an equally cheesy video with a green screen (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EUUpR6neIMI and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mNtdwE7pRwg). I went into my summer work only knowing the programming language C and was easily able to create a bunch of programs with help from my lab members and partner. Here’s an overview of my summer work: (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w3s_F-l4vX0).

What projects are you working on right now?

My current work is being overseen by Momotaz Begum, who is an assistant research professor here at UML. All of the research at the Robotics Lab at UMass Lowell is geared around Human Robot Interaction, or HRI. My current work involves implementing the NAO robot in therapy sessions for those with Autism Spectrum Disorder. People with autism people respond very well to technology, and the NAO robot is very friendly looking and easy to interact with. Victoria and I have implemented a user interface that could perform simple tasks during a therapy session.

With one command, the NAO robot begins to record all video and audio from the session. Next we can make the robot say hello to a participant and wave, while a third button prompts the participant to say hello and wave. And lastly there is a button that says goodbye and shuts down the recording processes. The long term goal with this work is to create an algorithm that can look at the videos and audio we recorded to fully 'automatize' the therapy so that it will not have to be controlled by a user. Unfortunately we have run into some hardware problems that cause the NAO to overheat frequently, so we have switched gears a little and started working on a few other smaller projects. I have also helped some of my co-workers on testing their projects such as using the Sony eyeglass (https://developer.sony.com/develop/wearables/smarteyeglass-sdk/) / ODG glasses (http://shop.osterhoutgroup.com/products/r-7-glasses-system) for use in physical therapy and testing out various demos with Baxter, an industrial robot.

At this very moment, I am currently working on implementing inverse kinematics with the NAO. Essentially you can publish coordinates for the NAO's joints and the program will properly interpret the coordinates, calculate where it needs to move the joints, and actually move them to the calculated positions. I am also running into problems with this because the C++ SDK I am using to communicate to the NAO with has had some trouble compiling due to dependency issues, so I am writing some of this stuff from scratch. I was able to present all my projects at an open house this month, along with other co-workers, students, and companies.

What advice would you give to current Sizer students?

I would offer a few pieces of advice. First of all, try to use your Junior Ex/Senior Project to figure out what you want to study in college. My senior project was based around the History of Programming Languages, and my research has actually helped me understand some basic concepts in the classes I am taking. Secondly, just try to find something on campus that involves your major. It enables you to get some real world applications for your studies, and is also great for resumes. Lastly, try your hardest to get an internship/co-op. I am currently applying for co-ops and can also attest to how helpful they are in just advancing your knowledge on your major. I learned a lot of techniques in my computing classes and was able to use the knowledge to make my programs run more efficiently at the Robotics Lab. Don't be afraid and really just try to make as many professional connections as possible.

Alex, thank you so much for being interviewed! I’m going to check out some of those programming websites. We look forward to seeing what you work on next.

Interview has been edited for length and clarity

 

Alex wrote a program for us: see if you can work your way through the sequence!

Alumni News

 

Interview with Dan Nott, Class of 2008

http://dannott.com/

Dan Nott is a political cartoonist, illustrator, and writer currently living in Boston, Massachusetts. He graduated Summa Cum Laude from the Commonwealth Honors College at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where he majored in Political Science, Art and Journalism and completed a thesis project on the visual language of editorial cartooning. He also worked as the Graphics Production Manager and cartoonist for the Massachusetts Daily Collegian, where he was awarded a Mark of Excellence Award by the Society of Professional Journalists. Dan’s work has been published on WashingtonPost.com, Fusion, Daily Kos, Medium, and others, and he currently works as an editor, illustrator and cartoonist for the creative website The Gabbler.

When did you know you wanted to study illustration and drawing in school?

I started with political science, which is always something I’ve been passionate about. I was interested by the research aspects of the field and just understanding current events, but I was turned off by the inaccessible way academics write about their research. I wanted to find a new way to present that kind of information. Some of this interest goes back to my Senior Project at NCCES, which was focused on military contractors in Iraq and how the U.S. outsourced a huge amount of the security and logistics work to private companies. I did research, wrote a paper, and illustrated cartoons about the topic. Cartoons ended up being a good way to compliment the other aspects of my project. The Senior Project was great preparation for college courses - NCCES taught me how to do research and that gave me a big advantage. And the teachers there were so supportive, and really encouraged students to be independent. I remember Ms. Clarke and Mrs. Sweeney encouraged us to choose our own research topics and direct our own assignments. It was extremely helpful to have that independence. And that might not be for everyone, but for me it was really helpful.

How did you choose your path after high school?

Picking UMASS Amherst was largely a practical decision – a place where I could go to get a good education without accumulating huge amounts of debt. It ended up working out well for me, as I was able to study the topics I wanted, and had the opportunity to spend a semester in Istanbul, Turkey. I majored in political science and also created my own double major combining political science, art, and journalism, called “Political Illustration and Journalism”.  And I wrote my college thesis on the history of editorial cartooning and visual language, which was basically a continuation of my academic interests in high school.

What is a favorite part of your current job?

I actually have a bunch of jobs right now – being an artist means cobbling together a lot of different jobs in order to make a living. However my career path in art is where I want to continue. Right now I work at the Gabbler – a website dedicated to politics, satire, and illustration.  I like my job because have a lot of freedom to do what I want and learn about what I want. I can essentially pick a new topic each week from news and current events, do research, and then make a comic that explains it or offers a different point of view. I guess it’s kind of like doing a Senior Project every week! It’s the same process of analyzing and adding your own voice and opinion to current events. Having that editorial freedom is great. It is hard to navigate the business side of the art world – it’s challenging to pull together an income, and it’s a constant grind. But you have to put in your time in - it’s a field that requires a lot of hard work.

What is a favorite memory of your time at Sizer/NCCES?

Besides the Senior Project, my teachers at school were really memorable. Mrs. Niemi’s English class had a huge effect on the types of literature I read now. And Ms. Clarke’s art class really had an impact on how I approach making art. The independence of the school really stuck with me – how you could do what you wanted, how it was a free environment. I joined pretty early in the school’s history as part of the 3rd graduating class, and I was only there for Div 3 (junior and senior year). I remember I interviewed with Peter Garbus, one of the school’s founders, and he said that my educational style would fit in despite not completing 7th -10th grade at the school. Even though I was only there for 2 years it had a pretty big effect on me.

What advice would you give to high school students who are unsure of what they want to do next?

Some of the most successful people that I know didn’t start on a traditional path. They didn’t get into the best schools; they transferred from community college; they took a year off. I don’t think there’s a benefit to just thinking of college as an extended high school. That might not be what you want me to say, but I would tell students to really figure out what it’s like to work. Focus on experiential and project-based learning, do internships, take dual-enrollment classes. Don’t be stressed about trying to get into the best school right away, but do focus on figuring out your plan for life. Some of my friends always knew what they want to do – I wasn’t one of those people. But I know that I want a career in art, and I’m going to keep working on it.

 

Dan, thank you for agreeing to be interviewed!

It was such a pleasure to talk with one of our NCCES/Sizer alumni from one of the original graduating classes. He has a really interesting educational and career path after school, and we look forward to seeing where he goes next. Check out more of Dan’s artwork on his website http://dannott.com/ or at the Gabbler.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

 

Sizer School Policies & Handbooks

 

The Sizer School Policy Book:  This is a document that tracks all of the policies created and approved by our Board of Trustees.  

The Student & Family Handbook:  The purpose of the Student and Family Handbook is to communicate the policies, procedures, and practices for the school year to all of our students and families. 

The Bullying Resource Guide: The purpose of the Bullying Resource Guide is to communicate our policies, procedures and practices as they relate to bullying.  Millions of youth are victims of bullying each year across the United States. Sizer School does not tolerate bullying, and we work with students, parents, and staff to ensure the safety and health of our students.

Friday Flash November 8, 2019

Harvest is a joyful time of gathering the produce of the land

― Sunday Adelaja    

 
We hope this is a happy Friday for all.  Attached please find your Friday Flash for the week.
 
Thank you to Ms. Dugas and Mrs. Verelst for organizing and executing the Sizer Health Fair.  We had over 100 families visit on Wednesday, where they were able to get information from many community organizations.  
 
We had an excellent open mic night last night.  Thank you to all the performers who got up and stage and shared their talents with us.  If you missed out, there will be another free open mic night in January.
 
Winter sports sign ups are starting next week, please see the Flash for details. 
 
Have a great weekend.

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