For the better part of five months, Tovi Spero’s ToPhy classes have been crunching numbers on their advanced graphing calculators, learning to solve some of nature’s more challenging physics problems. During that same time, Nishan Patel’s art classes have used school resources to delve into the techniques that make modern art beautiful, down to each and every stroke of the pencil.
Halfway across the globe, children can barely find a pencil to write down simple addition problems, let alone use kinematic equations to find out when a car—a concept also foreign to civilians in these third-world countries—will stop. These children also can’t afford the paper to even draw simple shapes like triangles and circles.
This socioeconomic picture is a stark contrast to WW-P’s, and reveals one of the world’s most serious issues: lack of education in underdeveloped countries. Hoping to combine physics and art to address this real-world problem, Spero and Patel’s classes have teamed up to design mobile classroom units to be used in impoverished areas. “It really ties in politics and socioeconomic politics that go beyond science and art,” Spero said. Even in present-day America, below-average school districts cannot accommodate the ever-growing student population within the school walls. Spero recalled: “When I was in middle school, they had to rent these trailers. They were long and narrow, and they weren’t designed for classes.”
The students have been split into three teams, each designing a unit for either elementary school students, middle school students, or high school students. Each unit must be designed and drawn with scalar proportions, which must be supported by appropriate physics calculations. Students must also address furniture and find a means to power the unit. “We were trying to think of something that would be easy enough so that high schoolers could be successful, but also something that was real-world and necessary,” Spero said.
“It’s really interesting and exciting, because like you’d never expect to have an Art and ToPhy collaboration,” senior Tanvi Bajpai said. Both groups will use their independent strengths to engineer the classrooms. “I’m looking forward to the designs that they want to put forth, and how they can incorporate some key structural elements into those designs,” junior Aditya Sripal said.
The art students will undoubtedly take the lead in design and aesthetics, and the physics aspects will serve as the support for these ideas. “The physics student’s job is to be the engineer: to make their dream come to life, and to add more realism to it,” Spero added. However, since some aspects of the project involve both art and physics, the students have crossed fields in their work. “I’ve seen physics students drawing things, and art students running calculations,” Patel said.
Spero and Patel are making an intense effort to bring these models to life. The pair have already contacted Save the Children, an organization that works in Bhutan, which would be interested in using the mobile classrooms. Spero also plans to contact the United Nations, which could obviously direct the project on a much broader scale. “We want this to happen,” he said. “This is as real as it gets.”
Depending on how the project progresses this school year, Spero and Patel hope that the work of building the classrooms will begin as soon as this summer. Students may even be able to travel to where the classrooms are being implemented, and see firsthand the impact they are having. If the project continues beyond the summer, students will need to continue to support it, even if they are leaving High School North: “The biggest obstacle is, if they’re more successful than they realize, will they be able to follow up on it?” Spero said.