The Harbinger Online

SMSD Signature Programs Prepare Students for Futures


Junior Liam Sullivan couldn’t get the top of the barrel to look quite right. He was spending hours on the 3D Animation and Modeling software Blender just trying to figure out how to make a barrel after being inspired by the trailer for the animated movie “Boss Baby”. A few months later, he is able to create detailed shipyards, with everything from the sheen on the water to the grain on the wood. But his passion never left the walls of his home. That is, until he discovered SMSD’s 3D Animation and Modeling Program.

“I’ve always wanted to be in STEM but with art involved,” Sullivan said. “I thought, ‘well I’m on the computer a lot and I can actually do something productive now and something artsy’.”

Since his first ever project, a simple rectangular prism which took hours of adjusting and experimenting, Sullivan has seen his animation skills improve over the course of a semester in SMSD’s Animation and Modeling class. And is looking toward a future involving animation.

Sullivan is now enrolled in SMSD’S 3D Animation and Modeling program. After 5th hour, he heads to SMSD’s Center for Academic Achievement to take the class. Entering with the skills to create scenic landscapes, he was expecting to be the star of the program. However, on his first day, Sullivan realized how difficult animation really is.

“I was trying to make a person walk and I accidentally made their torso spin out of control,” Sullivan said. “It was all janky but I thought I was the biggest animator on the block or something. Then I was like ‘oh yeah, I still have a lot to learn.’”

The bulk of the class is taught as a tutorial of the computer programs 3DS Max and Adobe After Effects. Instead of creating basic shapes like he was over the summer, he is rendering rafts on water, realistic looking characters and tours through boats — all made through software and sets of coordinates.

Even though he gets to animate during school hours, Sullivan still finds himself coming home to his Powerspec PC desktop and continuing to work on projects, trying to master all the different commands and buttons of 3DS Max.

“For some reason I have a knack for making the people look like real people instead of like weird puppet things,” Sullivan said. “It’s like making a film but without the restrictions…Instead of waiting for the sun to come up like you would in a live-action film, you can adjust the lighting in your scene to your liking—any time of day.”

But adjusting the lighting of the scene from sunrise to sunset isn’t easy. Even though the students have the creative freedom to make short films, it’s nowhere near as simple as stop motion with clay.

“3D animation is an entirely different ballpark [than video editing],” classmate and senior Robert Tilden said. “But even with all the training that [my animation teacher] Mr. Johnson has graced us with, I’ve had to use a lot of self control not to throw the computer out of the new building.”

Inspired by “Boss Baby,” he wants to someday create Dreamwork or Disney films of his own that kids will flock to. With just a laptop, software, and an external hard drive, he has found that there are infinite opportunities to bring his ideas to life.



In the Outpatient Burn and Wound Center at the University of Kansas Hospital, senior Chloe Kowalski watched an exposed tendon move in a burn patient’s foot with wide eyes. As a doctor examined the gash-ridden leg, he asked “Do you see that Chloe? You can see the tendon move.” For most people, the sight of this would induce vomiting, but for Kowalski, it was it was intriguing and a look closer into her future as a nurse.

After going through an interview and evaluation process, Kowalski was accepted to SMSD’s Medical Science Signature Program. During her junior year, she learned the basics to medicine such as health insurance and tribal remedies, as well as technical aspects training to use stethoscopes and read breathing sounds. But this year, Kowalski gets to step out of the classroom and into the clinic, shadowing in local hospitals Monday through Thursday, 5th through 7th hour.

There are no notes or lectures. Instead, students carpool to a hospital where their rotation will take place to shadow under different specialities. Some of her favorites have been the pediatric clinic, labor and delivery unit and the outpatient burn and wound center.

Although she isn’t allowed to perform procedures, Kowalski has witnessed live births, C-sections and occasionally assists doctors, like the time she held a scared child while they were receiving a vaccination.

Between watching doctors treat pressure ulcers, burns, drug addicts and fungal infections, she not only learned the ins and outs of a medical career, but also self-advocacy and professionalism skills.

“We have to act like we’re 30 years old and we haven’t even graduated high school yet,” Kowalski said. “You have to find somebody to learn from. No one is there to hold your hand and say ‘you have to go do this now’”.

At age 12, Kowalski’s enthusiasm for caring for children was sparked when she volunteered at Camp Wood YMCA, where she led groups of kids and made friends with the nurse there. She never considered pursuing an actual health career until her sophomore year. Kowalski and her mother went to the district’s program fair to learn more about the IB program, but the Medical Science booth caught her attention.

“I really like helping people and the one thing I wanted more than to be around kids all the time is to have the power to save their life or be responsible in that way,” Kowalski said.

Kowalski plans to major in nursing in college with a pediatric speciality. She also hopes to travel to places like Africa to help patients around the world. Stepping into the shoes of the staff at University of Kansas Hospital and Truman Medical Center has confirmed her desire to go forward with a health career.

“I’m constantly reassuring myself that this is what I want to do,” Kowalski said. “I know I want to be a nurse. I know that’s what I’m supposed to do. I would definitely second guess myself if I weren’t in this environment walking around the hospital every day.”

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Annabelle Cook

Annabelle Cook is the Assistant Online Editor as well as the spread designer for the print publication. In her 4th semester on staff, she has developed content for the online, social media, and print platforms and won awards at NSPA/JEA National Conventions. Outside of Harbinger, she is apart of Track & Field and Junior Board. Read Full »

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