By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Senior Projects Run The Gamut
Dressed to the nines as though for a job interview, they came in carrying charts, posters and other visual aids, engaged the judges with a compelling look and talked about their topic for about 20 minutes with authority.

The students of Riverbank High School once again were presenting their Senior Projects in front of a panel of volunteer judges from the community. Wednesday saw the final test of their high school career aimed at teaching them to think and speak for themselves, do individual research, and present themselves and their topic before a critical audience of adults.

Their subjects ran the gamut from an emotional plea to find more human organ donors by Jessica Jiminez, whose mother was diagnosed with a diseased liver, to a scientific dissertation on Tesla coils by Steven Caton, who illustrated his talk with an electrical device that sent crackling, magenta colored sparks, several feet in length, streaming across a darkened classroom.

Her mother is recovering but may still someday need a liver transplant, said Jiminez, who was moved by the experience to investigate the whole system of organ donations, visit a San Francisco hospital, talk to and photograph people awaiting transplants, converse with doctors at length and conceive the idea of becoming a doctor herself.

"It's a chance to live again, I appreciate the gift of life more. Thinking and talking about it has given me more self confidence and joy in life," Jiminez said of her experiences with victims who are on the list - a very long list - of those needing transplanted organs.

The liver is the only organ in the body, she discovered among other things, that regrows when a diseased portion is cut away, a 1984 law rules that everyone, regardless of economic circumstances, has the right to receive a donated organ and that - yes - there is a small black market in selling organs but at least somebody gains another lease on life.

Caton's explanation on the screen of the high voltage transformer device known as a Tesla coil after its founder Nikola Tesla was precise and reasoned but likely a bit too technical for listeners brought up on the arts side. The demonstration, however, of the actual machine's powers was fascinating. Eerie, beautiful, futuristic were the words that sprung to mind of the demonstration.

Caton allowed there is no practical use for the entire coil at the moment - he has built half a dozen and got a spark 58 inches long - but most of the components already have uses in the electrical field. During his research, Caton traveled as far as a gathering of fans at a so-called Teslatron near Phoenix, Arizona and saw a machine that emitted a spark of 14 feet.

Caton has been accepted at the University of California at Los Angeles and plans to study electrical engineering.

There were many, many other projects, roughly 150 of them - all of them conceived by the student but approved by a teacher and guided by a mentor - and all presented before a panel of judges.

Amelia Perkins, for example, who belongs to the school's drama club, confessed she really wants to make videos. She presented a music video titled "Falling Short," having shot scenes on locales that included her school, her home and Riverbank's Sno White Drive In.

Shawnee Lewis's project was on "The Negative Effects of Teen Drinking." Robbie Hair is fascinated by video games and wants to be a video game designer. But video games are controversial, he said, and his presentation claimed playing violent video games induces desensitization to violence. Adrian Guzman, who wants to be a chef, made his whole presentation on how to prepare Camarones Rancheros or "shrimp ranch style."

Cali Avey became interested in teaching autistic children and volunteered at a horse barn in Modesto where riding is used as one form of therapy, centering her senior project around that experience.