Snapshots of Magnet Life: Silver Quest 2014-15

Silver Quest was a literary magazine and pseudo-yearbook published by Magnet students annually for many years.  Unfortunately, after the retirement of teacher sponsors and diminishing interest from students, Silver Quest was not published for several years.  Courtesy of Haena Lee '16, here is a collection of excerpts from several unpublished articles that were written by students for Silver Quest in the 2014-15 school year.
Physics of Music Day 2014
by Michael Yin '18

It’s December 22, the night before the last day of school, at least until the end of winter break. However, there’s no lack of work, or stress, for the magnet freshmen. Many students have stayed up late, practicing speed trig, playing League of Legends, or doing whatever it is magnets do at home. Something is different, though: the sound of music pervades the atmosphere as students practice for Physics of Music Day.

December 23rd, the day before the start of winter break, is Physics of Music Day, or PoMD for short. Run by Mr. Schafer and Dr. Davis, the two magnet freshmen Physics teachers, PoMD is an opportunity for all 9th graders in the magnet to enjoy some time off from Physics class. Instead of learning about forces and drag, the students perform onstage in the auditorium and watch their peers do the same. The only catch is that they must write up a summary of the performance and how it is related to physics, but for magnet students, thinking up such a connection is a piece of cake. The performances vary greatly in length, style, and... well, shock factor!

A few of the many wowing acts were a piano arrangement of Demons, played by Alice Zhang; a stunning performance of the renowned Carmen Fantasie, played on flute and piano by Annie Zhao and Christine Cho, with page turning by Katherine Wu; a guffaw-inducing take on When I’m Gone, or The Cup Song, by Matt Morris and David Witten; and a lighthearted rendition of “Escape”, better known as the Piña Colada song, performed by Dondi Gancayco.

There were simply too many amazing performances to list them all!  PoMD was a blast and a great way to start off winter break! Now, if only every day was Physics of Music Day…


Lake Needwood 2015
by Serena Debesai '18

For most students, the wonderful gift of field trips ends with middle school. Luckily, the magnet program blesses its hardworking students with the occasional, but always educational, field trip. As part of the infamous Chemistry/R&E project, ninth grade magnet students embarked on the annual trip to Lake Needwood. To describe the trip as long awaited would be an understatement. The normally sleepy freshman class demonstrated their excitement as they filled the SAC on the morning of the trip, chattering.

After an enjoyable bus ride, where students only stopped talking to gawk at horses in the passing fields, students arrived at the scenic site. Upon their arrival, the beautiful waters and forest of Lake Needwood, as well as Poolesville students greeted them. 

Got a foot of string and a protractor? Turns out that these two basic tools alone, plus a little ingenuity, can be used to determine the height of large objects. And because magnet students are bursting with ingenuity, students were expected to determine the height of one of the many giant pine tree at “The Lonesome Pine Tree” station. To complete this task, students used their knowledge of indirect measurement that they gained from their R&E class. 


Magnet Gaming Life 2014-15
by Robert Rose '15, Dawson Do '17, and Meghna Sambathkumar '17

Magnets go all over Blair for lunch - some go to the SAC, meet with clubs, and others stay in classrooms on the pretense of being productive. In Room 373 however, a group of Blazers gather around several CRT televisions and take turns passing around battered controllers to face off in various games of the Nintendo franchise Super Smash Bros. Super Smash Bros., originally released in 1999, consists of a series of fighting games featuring fan favorites like Mario, Link, Pikachu, and Kirby.

The game – extremely popular within the Magnet community at Blair – has garnered a cult following from around the world. Although the competitive scene of Super Smash Bros. isn’t as large as other video games such as League of Legends or Counter Strike, the fans of Super Smash Bros. have proven to be some of the most devoted gamers, continuing to play the game even thirteen years after its release. “No one knows exactly what makes the game so timeless – it just is,” says junior Nayman Leung, a long time player. Some Blazers take part in the competitive scene, such as junior Alex Ma, who says he has “met people from all over the states during tournaments, and even some from Japan and Sweden.” Graduated Senior Peter Ho even won a cash prize for placing second in Whitman’s Viking Smash Monthlies in March of 2015.

But Magnets are Magnets, of course. Do we learn all the ins and outs of the games and sit back, content with being subject to the rules? Absolutely not. In spring of 2014, seniors Brynne Edwards, Jake Yamada, and Andrea Zou started the Game Design Club, which is dedicated to learning how to make games, not just play them. But Game Design Club isn’t only about video games – club topics have included story-telling games like Mafia; and club projects have included a Shakespearean Into the Woods-esque Mashup Game and a Fantasy Puzzlepalooza game. Mr. Lodal, the club’s sponsor, is also an avid gamer, a passion he shares with Mr. Schwartz, the sponsor of Board Game Club. Walk into Room 312 and you’ll see – among other things, like a stuffed alligator and hula hoops – a cabinet lovingly filled with board games carefully kept in quality condition. Board Game Club meets Wednesdays during lunch where you can find Mr. Schwartz gesturing frantically at a board game while students gesture frantically back, an organized mess of cards between them. No doubt, the best part of the Magnet gaming scene is its unification of students and teachers over the joys of strategy and combat. Where else would you find teachers and students debating strategic moves as seriously as calculus?


Linguistics Club 2014-15
by Emma Jin '17

Most of the time, if you look in Mr. Rose’s room, you’ll see students listening to a lecture or puzzling over problems. But on Wednesday afternoons, well, the most common activities still tend to be listening to lectures and doing problems, but the lectures are on subjects pertaining to linguistics and the problems are NACLO practice problems—linguistic puzzles. “NACLO stands for North American Computational Linguistics Olympiad,” explains Anna Barth, co-president. “It’s a lot of fun, and there’s no background knowledge in linguistics required to do the problems—it’s mostly pattern recognition and logic skills.” In one of their practice problems, sample sentences were given in English and Ancient Greek, and, after comparing, students tried to translate related sentences from Ancient Greek to English.

This is, of course, on a smaller scale, how artifacts like the Rosetta stone were used to recreate extinct languages. But only a fraction of linguists are concerned with translation. Lecture subjects have ranged from the Indo-European language family to how children acquire language to everybody’s favorite things, puns. Lecturers are students, usually junior Isaac Eaton and co-president Aaron Szabo, or guest speakers. “We’ve had some people go out of their way to come, because they’re all so shocked that a high school has a linguistics club,” Barth says.
Magnet Arts Night 2015
by Serena Debesai '18 and Divya John '18

Forget math competitions, all-nighters, and endless chemistry homework. Nothing screams “Magnet!” more than smooth jazz, dramatic poem readings, various dances, and piano-vocal duets, as this year’s annual Magnet Arts Night proved. This year, the event fell on Friday, January 30, 2015. The long-anticipated evening showcased 23 different acts, featuring 79 extremely talented students and even a few teachers.

Junior Brian Morris opened the show with an elegant piano solo, entitled “L’Orage”. Noah Bucholz, Ian Donaldson, Calvin Dong, Robbie Fitzpatrick, and Austin Yuan took control of the stage next with an unforgettable performance of “Strasbourg St. Denis” by Roy Hargrove. Yuan wowed the crowd with his powerful saxophone solo, displaying his remarkable improvisational skills. Bucholz, Donaldson, Fitzpatrick and Dong, on trumpet, piano, bass, and drums respectively supported the entire jazz piece with a strong beat and supporting chords.
Photo from Silver Chips

Cousins Ankitha and Ramya Durvasula showcased a little Indian culture to the stage with their Kuchipudi dance called “Synergy”. The dynamic duo brought the stage to life with their rhythmic steps and coordinated movements. However, the Durvasulas were not the only performers to share their Indian dance skills. “Bollywood Fusion” by the creatively named Magnet Masti group featured 16 students and original choreography devised by Urijita Das. Although the boys of the group were a little out of their element, the audience loved the performance, cheering “Magnet Masti” as the group walked off the stage. 

Dominic Chao and Amy Li showed off their unique Wushu talents. The routine was filled with acrobatics and aerial flips that both Chao and Li landed easily. The pair sparred across the stage, twirling flashing swords while evading and delivering expertly timed (but realistic) blows. 
 
Photo from Silver Chips
The show continued with freshman Rahul Jain who expertly wrote and composed an original song, “Broken”, a piano-vocal duet, performed by Jain and his partner Emma Schillerstrom. “ It was such a thrilling experience, and I didn't even feel nervous because the audience was so supportive of everyone's performances afterwards,” described Jain, “I was so happy because it felt so good for people to be able to hear my music and what I enjoy doing!” Jain’s songwriting was one example of the ingenuity that Magnet students displayed during MAN. Another highlight of the night was “Turning Page”, an emotional and hauntingly beautiful contemporary dance by Annie Zhao. With every graceful pirouette and elegant leap, Zhao captivated the audience, dancing her way into their hearts.

Photo from Silver Chips

It’s no secret that the Magnet is filled with talented musicians, as shown by Stephanie Rager, Michael Fan, Wilson Lin, Haein Son, and Simin Li performance of “Secrets” by One Republic. Li began the song sitting in the center of the stage with only her cello. Son shortly joined her on the viola and Lin on the piano. The rest of the performance unfolded smoothly with Rager and Fan, joining in on their violins, and finally Dong on the drums. The understated but perfectly executed entrance gave way to a seamlessly woven combination of melodies and harmonies. 

Angel Fan, Christine Gao, Candia Gu, Jessie Nelson, Grace Olawuni, Kathleen Ruan, and Junie Wu showed their love for K-Pop and added a fun twist to the show with their dance to the song “Danger” by BTS. The group practiced hard and admirably learned their moves from the music video of the song. Their performance rivaled that of BTS itself.

Senior Act - For many of the performers and audience members, this year’s Magnet Arts Night was their last as students at Blair. The last act of the evening was the traditional Senior Act. This year’s Senior Act involved some cross-dressing, the classic Mr. Pham impersonation and of course, tons of magnet jokes and parodies. The show came to a bittersweet close as seniors from the audience ran onstage, joining their classmates as they danced to a parody of “Shake it Off” by Taylor Swift.

Ben Holland, Robert Rose, Michael Yin, and Mari-Therese Burton did a nice job MC’ing the show with their creative introductions of all of the acts. Every performer was terrific, and they made it clear that there is a lot more to Magnets than meets the eye. Magnet Arts Night was magnet-ic, so make sure you “MAN” up and audition next year!