PAA Senior Projects Demonstrate Greatness

March 22, 2016 | Liesl Vistaunet

What do a fashion show, building a drone and climbing mountains have in common?

They are examples of exceptional first-semester senior projects produced by Portland Adventist Academy students.

“Peakbagging” for his senior project, Austin Smith climbed 119 mountains with a cumulative elevation gain of 242,800 feet. He also added and climbed 15 unclimbed peaks to the Peakbagger database. Even more impressive, at age 17, Smith became the youngest person to climb the 20 largest Cascade volcanoes.

Daniel Stathem spent more than 100 hours building a drone so he could capture more-compelling images for videography and photography. He created a time-lapse video of his work that included footage taken by the drone from hundreds of feet in the air.

Charli Jo Davis designed and created a clothing line. The five-piece fashion collection was designed, sewn, photographed and modeled in a fashion show. The project took her more than 70 hours to complete.

The senior project is the most rigorous graduation requirement at PAA. The projects measure students' ability to succeed with the life skills developed during their high school careers. It’s an opportunity for students to show what they know.

The course descriptions says, “Students should demonstrate the various cognitive, manipulative and composition skills they’ve mastered.” This includes skills like organization, analysis, effective verbal and written communication, the use of technology, and more.

The seniors say it’s effective. “I learned a lot about working around other people's schedules and time management,” says Stathem. “I definitely improved my people skills.”

“Time was my biggest challenge,” says Davis. “Coordinating fittings with my models and working with deadlines and schedules — it’s all very complicated.”

But it was worth it. “Going into this project, I had no idea how much there is to know about peakbagging," admits Smith. "My knowledge of the concepts, principles, ‘rules,’ history and personalities has grown far more than I ever anticipated. It has opened the door for incredible opportunities. It even gave me the chance to do a two-day climb with one of the most important American peakbaggers.”

“It was a great way to showcase what I do and to share my personality and creativity,” says Davis.  

“I loved my senior project,” says Stathem. “I believe this is a project that will impact my future in great ways. Drones are part of an evolving industry. This could be the start of a business.”

“This is my life passion,” says Smith “and I will continuing on with my climbing adventures for the rest of my life.”