A core feature of the PRISMS educational experience is a four-year research and development program threaded through our four- year high school curriculum. Our aim is that students begin by learning research skills in order to better prepare them for meaningful research or development projects in grades 11 and 12. This we accomplish by two programs in grades 9 and 10. The 9th grade Bridging the Arts Science and Engineering (BASE) program, and through our 10th grade Research Skills and Applied Engineering course.
BASE (Bridging the Arts Sciences and Engineering) is a required program in 9th grade. BASE consists of three distinct disciplines (Biology, English, and Applied Engineering) which are taught on the same days so that a cohort of students cycle through the same classes, but each class reserves around 20% of their annual class time to work on a collaborative research project based in Biology. Through collaboration on the research project, scientific concepts, language arts, and engineering innovation are woven together in a way that is realistic and relevant to students in the context of the Research project. Thus, students learn research skills in a multidisciplinary context. Collaboration is stressed to prepare students for increased demands by industry for strong interpersonal skills as well as technical competencies. Each BASE team requires the development of a year-long research project designed and conducted by students in small groups. The BASE program also serves to settle freshmen into the PRISMS community, help them socialize and gain a sense of identity. The BASE program counts as the first year of four year research program.
In 10th grade, our required Research Skills and Applied Engineering course builds on the skills introduced in the BASE program. Skills such as Project Management; Scientific Writing; Experimental Design; Applied Statistics and Public Speaking are emphasized and in Applied Engineering students will work in both classroom and laboratory settings to study circuit design, microcontroller programming, prototyping, and robotics. In Addition, students will conduct a low level cumulative research project to demonstrate their newfound skills. This project will be based on topics pertaining to one of the engineering disciplines discussed throughout the course and will be featured in a exhibition at the end of the semester. Research Skills & Applied Engineering counts as the second year of our four years research program.
In grades 11 and 12 (typically after completing the BASE program and Research Skills and Applied Engineering), student can choose a topic in which to conduct research within one of our STEM Research and Development areas. Typically a student will begin working on a project in the 11th grade and continue it into the 12th grade.