Finance, Fish, and Film: Inside the 2022 Projects Assembly

At Commonwealth, a good Project Week experience often can be traced back to a lingering "what if." What if I tried to produce a short animated film in a week? What if there's a connection between zebrafish and a cure for muscular disease? What if I could study the workings of the roller coasters that I love to ride so much? 
Each of these questions reflects a presentation from this February's Projects Assembly, where students summed up their project topics, how they spent their week of experiential learning, and what they gained from their experiences. Projects Assembly is a time for students to celebrate each other's work—and find ideas for future exploration. 
Math and the sciences held a strong influence on this year's featured topics at the assembly. For Anto ’24 and Romen ’23, that appeared in work with quantitative data. Anto spent Project Week examining the mathematical sequences generated by folding paper, walking our community through the theoretical concepts behind sequencing during their assembly presentation, complete with live paper-folding demos. Romen's project, meanwhile, intersected with his abiding interest in politics as he worked on outreach for his hometown government in Needham, Massachusetts. He strove for ways to communicate the financial particulars of the American Rescue Plan Act to a broader public audience, including in emails and on social media.

Aritra ’25 and Aaron ’24 both applied their scientific curiosity to questions of the biology of humans and animals. Aritra, through the lab of Dr. Louis Kunkel at Boston Children's Hospital, used Project Week to study whether analyzing the traits of zebrafish (which have a similar genetic and vertebrae structure to humans) could help treat Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. Although the COVID-19 pandemic unfortunately kept Aritra from an in-person visit to the Kunkel lab, he was able to arrange virtual visits and finished Project Week with a hope to enter the physical space someday. Aaron had a chance to test out working with the algorithms that power the emerging field of bioinformatics, which combines biology and computer science. He compared the genetic sequences of multiple great ape species to determine the strength of their biological connections. 

Daily life can be another rich source of project ideas. When Athena ’24 chose to research language development, she found a natural connection to her experiences of growing up bilingual. She researched theorists like Jean Piaget and B.F. Skinner, weighing their experimentation against her own examples. "I have seen from my personal experiences how one alters words (such as syllables) when learning a new language," she reflected later, explaining why Piaget's ideas about assimilating new vocabulary were most compelling. Tien '24 examined a very different personal interest: the enthusiasm for an amusement park mainstay—"I love roller coasters!"—that he's had since elementary school. While Tien's project focused on the mechanical engineering of the rides and their track design, he also got an invaluable look at the power of personal networks, as a chance cold email to a past intern at a roller coaster company helped him find a project mentor.  

Project Week is a time for creative endeavors, too. Bonnie ’25 put her art into motion by storyboarding and animating a short film, set to the song "Change My Clothes" by Dream and Alec Benjamin. With help from her mentor, Commonwealth's Drawing and Painting teacher Caleb Colpitts, Bonnie drafted a story, then began designing frames on the art app ProCreate. The finished animation, rendered in lavender coloring, tells the story of a girl's struggle to maintain a budding friendship—and drew rapt attention from its viewers at assembly. 

Related: Watch Bonnie's Short Film

With senior projects on the horizon, Projects Assembly is the perfect time for members of our community to learn from others' experiences. And it's a reminder that Commonwealth students are always probing at the world—whether they are in the lab, folding paper, or flying down a roller coaster—and drawing inspiration from what they find. 


Explore Project Week at Commonwealth