Oliver Filley has spent the last few months of his high school career focused on designing and making kite boards, a course of study that blends his passion with education and his future plans.
Oliver is one of 12 Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School seniors to complete senior projects this year, in which students devote three class blocks during a semester to a project that aligns with their interests. This year, senior projects ranged from art and music to nutrition and agriculture.
Senior projects are an option open to any senior student. To culminate the process, the students present their projects to a panel of four judges.
On Tuesday, with coffee and muffins provided by the culinary arts class, Oliver told his judges and an audience of about seven people about what he learned, including that his ambitious plans for researching, designing, building scale models, testing and modifying a custom kite board weren’t feasible in his limited time frame. Instead he looked into researching and building one scale model, a process that he followed through trial and error.
He also dealt with unexpected hardships along the way: trying to get the right size of foam shipped was one roadblock, as was making a mold for his board. He made molds in cement, plaster of Paris, and then finally foam wrapped in fiberglass. “I have to think of a better way next time,” he recalled during his presentation. His final board didn’t come out quite as he wanted, he said, because of a mix up; he should have used 1,000 milliliters of resin, he said, not 100.
“That was one thing I learned — I always needed a backup for this project,” he said. “It was lot of fun though . . . it was a cool process. I’m definitely doing it again.”
Oliver has lots of time to refine his process. His summer will be spent working at a North Carolina board shop doing rentals and repairs, and in the fall, he will enter the Savannah College of Art and Design, where he will study industrial design with a minor in marine design. He said he wants to make a career out of making kite boards and wet suits.
After the presentation, Oliver answered questions from his judges, faculty members Paul Brissette, Kathy Perrotta, Josh Burgoyne and Carlotta Thompson.
Mr. Brissette, who worked with Oliver on the project, didn’t have a question, only words of praise for his student. “The formula for success is really doing the research, a lot of perseverance, a willingness to accept mistakes and to learn from them,” he said. “He really showed me all of those qualities.”
“At his level, this was kind of like designing a trip to Mars with a limited budget,” he added. “It was great fun . . . I loved working with Ollie.”
Other students completing senior projects were Eva Balboni, with Fit for Life about nutrition; Emma Hallbilsback with an agritourism project; Maggie Johnson with a children’s book about Martha’s Vineyard landmarks; Lizzie Kelleher’s project titled From Poetry to Film; Tony Lima’s green energy project; Maggie Lindland with her project Class Leveling about adolescent psychology; Noelle Nelson with an art show; Caitlin Serpa with Gardens, Island Grown and the Island; Truda Silberstein’s art project titled Who are You?; Catherine Todd’s Goddess Within art project and Anna Yukevich with Music Theory and Me.