Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy

To ignite and nurture creative, ethical, scientific minds that advance the human condition.

Intersession Intrigues, Inspires and Ignites IMSA Minds

Whether it was climbing the Great Wall of China, building houses for Habitat for Humanity in Dade City, Florida, or learning about renewable energy sources,  Intersession 2011 proved to be the “experience of a lifetime” for many IMSA students and staff.

In all, 61 on campus and off campus sessions were presented to students, and 41 IMSA alumni came back during Intersession week, January 10-14, 2011, and taught 23 of the sessions this year.

IMSA Alumnus Micah Dortch '01 visits with Dr. McGee and students in Beijing.
IMSA students constructed a bio-diesel generator and repaired a diesel engine during Intersession.
Alumnus Cynthia Dang '03 looks on as students spar during her Karate Intersession.
Students work on their Basic Open Water Scuba Certification.

China Collaboration

IMSA President Dr. Glenn W. “Max” McGee chaperoned a trip with 14 IMSA students to Beijing, China, to take part in an ongoing international collaboration with The High School Affiliated to Renmin University of China (RDFZ).

Dr. McGee said the experience, generously funded by Intel China, was something that could not be taught in a classroom.

“All of the experiences provided, including the classroom observations and laboratory interactions, intellectual interchange with RDFZ esteemed faculty and scientists from the China Academy of Sciences and Beijing University of Aeronautics and Astronomics, and cultural activities were perfectly orchestrated and customized to our visit,” Dr. McGee said.  “I am deeply grateful to the staff and administration at RDFZ for their outstanding hospitality and for treating us as honored guests,” he said.  “I look forward to our continued collaboration on Energy Center@IMSA projects including future teleconferences between students and staff.”

Students shared their experiences with members of the IMSA Board of Trustees during a recent board meeting and all agreed the experience was very valuable on several levels.

“I am learning Chinese so being able to apply the knowledge of the language was very helpful and it was also great to experience the Chinese culture,” said student Jessica Grady.  “I fell in love with China and talk daily to the friends I met,” she said.

IMSA student Mitchel Bieniek added that visiting the Chinese Academy of Sciences and meeting with a Chinese mentor there gave the IMSA students “a log of insight” into their own biofuel project.  Student Monty Hayat said it was  interesting to see the differences in how classes are conducted at RDFZ and at IMSA.

“IMSA encourages collaboration and RDFZ is more individualized,” Hayat said.  “Most of the classes there were structured as lectures.”

A Hand Up Not a Hand Out

Intersession 2011 marked IMSA’s 13th year of building houses and building hope through Habitat for Humanity.

This year, 17 students and five staff ventured to Dade City, Florida for one week to change a life forever as part of Habitat for Humanity’s Collegiate Challenge Program.   

 “Students and staff spent eight hours a day on a worksite constructing walls, priming and painting, prepping and applying siding, hammering on hurricane strips, raising and mounting tresses for the roof and deconstructing of an entire house, just to name a few,” said IMSA Chaperone and Staff Member Linsey Crowninshield.  

Unique to the trip this year, IMSA students had the chance to work side-by-side with RV Care-A-Vanners who travel throughout the country in support of Habitat for Humanity.

“Both the IMSA students and the caravanners, all of whom were in their late 60s to early 70s, worked together to build trust, develop communication patterns, teach technique on the works site and share stories, “ Crowninshield said.  

Photos of the IMSA students and RV Care-A-Vanners building together are featured on the East and Central Pasco Habitat for Humanity Facebook page.

In addition, students also supported two other projects while in Dade City-  Backpacks for the Homeless of Tampa and the Dade City Tutoring Program- donating more than 20 backpacks and 200 toothbrushes and more than 75 books, 200 pens and pencils, children’s games and other school supplies.

Alumni Share Their Time and Talents

As in previous years, IMSA alumni came back to campus to share their time and talents with IMSA students during Intersession.  

This year, 41 IMSA alumni taught 23 of the sessions this year and for more than 41% of them, this year was a repeat performance.  Throughout the years, Intersession has been a popular draw for IMSA alumni and since 2004, 260 alumni have taught during Intersession.

For Cynthia Nguyen Dang ’03 it was the 8th year teaching Matsubayashi-Ryu Karate and the 6th time for Dean Dieker ‘03.  Alumni teaching the session on Microcontrollers also are seasoned Intersession veterans – this was the 5th year for Brian Baker ’05, the 3rd year for Thomas Houlahan ‘05 and the 3rd year for Lucas Sturnfield ’03.

The session on Energy Center Projects was taught by five alumni, in addition to IMSA science teacher Branson Lawrence who led and facilitated the different projects.  

Alumni Adrian Gurga ’02, Max Pfingstein ’02, Nobie Redmon III ’06, Emmalyn Riley ’05 and Alejandro Rojas ’10 all took on separate energy projects with students.

“During the week, students worked on an energy efficient mobile model house, designed and built bio-diesel generators, repaired a diesel engine, constructed a wind generator, designed and built energy efficient LED lights and learned how to conduct an energy audit of a building,” said Lawrence.

While much attention has been given to the topic of alternative energy by media, business and politicians, IMSA students learned firsthand how the average citizen can benefit from and contribute to a greener world.

“Students learned that alternative energy is something that can be realized in the world in the very near future,” Lawrence said.  “They learned how fuel can be made from renewable sources such as vegetable oil and how wind and solar energy are produced and how it can be utilized by the average American,” he said.

“They also learned that conservation is the first step before turning to the alternative fuels.”

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