Vermont Commons School students Lincoln Pierce of Duxbury, Henry Harder of Shelburne and Anna Hulse of South Hero traveled this December with Vermont Commons School Science Chair, Peter Goff, and Donna Rizzo, professor of engineering at the University of Vermont, to San Francisco for the American Geophysical Union conference.
The VCS students gave two-hour poster presentations on a predictive Stella system dynamics model they built this past summer as a part of a National Science Foundation grant received by Goff, in partnership with University of Vermont, Loyola University in New Orleans and La Universidad de San Carlos de Guatemala.
This study looked at Chagas disease, a disease endemic to 21 Latin American countries where about 110 million, mostly poor, rural people live in areas with the disease, and about 8 million people in those areas are infected. This disease, caused by a parasite and primarily spread by blood-feeding insects, infects people who may remain carriers with no symptoms for 10-30 years before inflammation of the heart, esophagus and other organs can lead to premature death. As climate change warms the planet, those insects are marching north.
While at the conference, the students attended some cutting edge sessions, one of which was a NOAA-funded project looking into the lightning that forms inside volcanoes. The second session was a series of NASA talks looking at the organic chemistry in Saturn’s rings and Martian soil.
Finally, as the team was making their way across one of the exhibit halls, they spotted Vermont Commons School alum,and past faculty member Ruth Heindel of Charlotte. Ruth is currently working on her PhD at Dartmouth and had just finished presenting her polar research. She is presently gearing up for her next trip to Antarctica.
Vermont Commons School is an independent middle and high school in South Burlington Serving students in grades 6-12.