Peace of Pi

Dax Penney ’21 envisions low-cost computers for the resettled refugee community

Junior Dax Penney’s interest in computers, programming, and robotics was sparked by his experiences as a sixth-grader attending Waynflete summer camp. It was here where he first encountered open-source components and microcontrollers like the Raspberry Pi.

In the world of computing, the Pi is a blank slate. The compact, low-cost device can load any number of operating systems from a standard SD card, which also serves as the computer’s internal memory. It was developed by the Raspberry Pi Foundation, a United Kingdom-based charity. According to its website, the foundation seeks to help more people harness the power of computing and digital technologies for project work, to solve problems that matter to them, and to express themselves creatively. “The Pi is a malleable platform,” says Dax. “I realized that it had a lot of potential.”

At the time, Dax was also involved with a Catholic Charities initiative called The Backpack Project, which raised funds to purchase school supplies for recently resettled refugees in Portland. He recalls attending an event where a father from Anbar Province, Iraq, described the impact of the Catholic Charities initiative on his family. “His comments really spoke to me,” Dax recalls. In his freshman year at Waynflete, Dax’s mother suggested that he consider how he might use his computer skills to help others.

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Science/visual arts collaboration: seventh graders contribute models to traveling exhibition

In 2019, Portland artist Anna Dibble began planning a collaborative public art installation to help promote stewardship and awareness by reconnecting people with the natural world. The multi-year art/science/education initiative would focus specifically on biodiversity changes in the Gulf of Maine caused by climate change and other human impacts. Anna founded the organization Gulf of Maine ECOARTS to coordinate the effort.

The exhibit’s central piece will be a fictional ecosystem—“a cross section of atmosphere, sky, and ocean featuring a 24-foot North Atlantic Right Whale and a selection of key endangered marine life, from phytoplankton to fishermen and Native Americans.” The installation will be designed and built by a collaborative team of professional sculptors and filmmakers, educators, and more than 100 students from across Maine, ranging from middle schoolers to college students. Disciplines will include science education, sculpture, painting, sound design, lighting, film, virtual reality, and—when the installation is in place—arts- and science-related programming. The sculptures will be fabricated from recycled material and repurposed beach debris.

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Waynflete Wins Maine Science Bowl

On March 7, two teams of Upper School students competed against 20 schools from around Maine—including neighbors Cape Elizabeth, Falmouth, and Yarmouth—in the Maine Regional Science Bowl Competition. The tournament is a round robin-style STEM trivia competition and is sponsored by the Department of Energy. Question categories include Earth and Space Science, Biology, Chemistry, Math, Physics, and Energy.  

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