Planning committee moves forward with tjSTAR preparations


Ellen Kan

Senior Anna Tsutsui, co-chair of the tjSTAR Planning Committee, conducts an inventory of materials from previous years.

Ellen Kan, Print Editor-in-Chief

Every Wednesday, a group of dedicated students meets to plan for one of Jefferson’s biggest events of the year: the Thomas Jefferson Symposium to Advance Research (tjSTAR).

To be held on June 9, this annual celebration of creativity and education attracts distinguished guest speakers, panelists and alumni from government agencies, scientific organizations and other school districts. All freshmen and seniors will also present their own projects, the culmination of a year’s work in Integrated Biology, English and Technology (IBET) and the senior research labs.

Behind the scenes, preparations for the big day are already in full swing. Members of the tjSTAR Planning Committee huddle together in their cramped meeting room during eighth period, skimming spreadsheets and bouncing ideas off each other over the rumble of the noisy fan.

Led by seniors Nan Baker and Anna Tsutsui, the committee’s co-chairs, the students rifle through cardboard boxes filled with tjSTAR memorabilia of years past. However, cataloging existing materials is just one of countless tasks for the team, which is supervised by adult sponsors Pamela Cooper and Koji Otani.

“There are a lot of components to tjSTAR,” Cooper said. “It’s not just what happens on the day; in fact, that’s probably the smallest part. It takes the entire school year to plan the day, to organize demonstrations, to get the scheduling done and to send out requests for information from IBET and senior research projects.”

One of the committee’s greatest challenges is planning tjSTAR around the school’s ever-changing building. Speakers, demonstrations and the exhibition hall may be shifted around depending on classroom availability. Due to these space restrictions, the tjSTAR Planning Committee must keep track of all potential presentation rooms.

“Because of construction, we have to go around to every classroom in the school and take an inventory of each room’s capacity, electronics and other resources,” Baker said. “When speakers come to us about the components they need to give presentations, we can match up every speaker to a room.”

This year, tjSTAR will experience some changes, many of which are due to renovation complications. The schedule will need to be modified to allow for more passing time between sessions, and the guest, faculty and senior lunches may be held in different locations. The later date of June 9 also means that events such as the May 30 prom and June 6 SATs will hold less sway over student attendance at the symposium. This year’s keynote speaker will be Paul Andersen of Bozeman Science, who is known for creating educational videos that are popular among Jefferson’s biology students.

“Every year, we come up with new ways to make things more efficient or less convoluted,” Tsutsui said. “After testing them out, we look back, reflect and modify our plans for the next year.”

The tjSTAR Planning Committee also hopes to attract more interest for the event by giving out prizes to students who participate in future tjSTAR spirit days, in addition to publicizing the official website, Facebook page and Twitter. Other upcoming events for the team include recruiting student artists for t-shirt designs, recruiting sponsors, compiling data for freshman and senior presentations, purchasing gifts for speakers.

“Now that it’s second semester, we’re doing two blocks a week to try and get as much done during school as possible,” senior Jared Bastian, a committee member, said. “We finished a lot of the big planning, but starting in May, we’ll need to stay after school to figure out the rest.”