What's New at MSMS

The Brainstorm

MSMS Engineering Club Students Utilize a 3D Printer to Spread Holiday Cheer

As the holidays rapidly approach, it is only natural for our thoughts to turn to those who are less fortunate in our community and find ways to come together to meet their needs. For students at the Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science (MSMS), this meant finding a way to bring smiles to the faces of local children. 

To that end, the student-led Engineering Club at MSMS has been working feverishly to create homemade Christmas toys for roughly 180 children at the Palmer Home and the Boys and Girls Club of Columbus. The concept, originally proposed by Engineering Club Secretary, Leah Pettit, was to leverage the school’s 3D printer and equipment in the Engineering Lab to design toys for local children. The Engineering Club, under club president, Daniel Smothers’ leadership, worked with Mr. Josh Crowson, Computer Science instructor at MSMS, to design a miniature catapult and fidget spinner for each child. In addition, the Engineering Club students created and painted a giant Jenga set for both organizations to have on-site. 

Dr. Germain McConnell, Executive Director of MSMS and Engineering Advisory Board Member stated, “Our students in the Engineering Club adopted very ambitious goals this year, the Santa’s Workshop project being one of them. Our students designed and built all the toys while working together as a unit with the sole purpose of blessing the children at Palmer Home and the Boys and Girls Club of Columbus. Providing opportunities for these types of student-driven initiatives is just one way MSMS nurtures students to become future STEM leaders in the state.”

The children at the Palmer Home and the Boys and Girls Club of Columbus were delighted to unwrap their holiday treats and were even more intrigued to learn that the students who delivered the delightful toys had made them themselves. In addition to spreading holiday cheer, the Engineering Club officers, Daniel Smothers, Leah Pettit, Jim Zhang, and Jagger Riggle piqued the children’s interest in engineering and computer science.  

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Julia MorrisonComment
MSMS Student Wins Prize in Moscow

By Margaret Mary Henry

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A Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science student is a winner in an international competition among high school students of Russian.

Sydney Matrisciano, 17, captured a Young Orator prize certificate at the International Olympiada of Spoken Russian in Moscow earlier this month. In her winning speech, Matrisciano described her experiences studying Russian abroad in summer 2017 and her love for the Russian language and also gave a dramatic recitation of a poem by the Russian Romantic era author Alexander Pushkin.

“I never, ever expected to win,” said Matrisciano, adding that she began her three-minute speech slowly to combat nerves and gain confidence.  She said that as she neared the end, reciting the poem “I Loved You,” many in the audience of judges, teachers, fellow competitors and other observers were saying the beloved verses along with her and taking video. “After the event finished, loads of people were coming up and congratulating me or asking questions,” she recalled. 

The daughter of Suzanne and Louis Matrisciano of Winona, the MSMS senior was one of 12 winners in the Young Orator event, just one element of the competition, held December 4-8 at the Pushkin Institute, which specializes in the teaching of Russian as a foreign language. In other parts of the competition, held annually to promote the study of Russian language and culture abroad, the 150 contenders from around the world wrote essays, took grammar tests, and made oral presentations on aspects of Russian civilization. The contestants demonstrated their conversational abilities in role-play with a partner as the judges listened. Each competitor also had an individual scenario-based conversation with the judges. “My scenario was that I wanted a dog, but my mother didn’t think I had time for it,” Matrisciano said. “I had to convince her that I could and would make time in my schedule, as well as describe what kind of dog I wanted.”

A second-year student of MSMS world language teacher Margaret Mary Henry, Matrisciano was one of six students representing the U.S. at the Olympiada. The path to Moscow began last April, when Matrisciano won a gold medal in the regional Olympiada competition at Rhodes College in Memphis. From the top scorers in regional competitions, the American Councils for International Education selected the national team through an application and interview process. 

“Sydney is a marvelous student,” Henry said. “She combines her natural gift for languages with a prodigious work ethic and a spirit of adventure. We are tremendously proud of her.” 

Last summer Matrisciano spent six weeks studying Russian in Moldova, a nation that was once a Soviet republic, after winning a scholarship under the National Security Language Initiative for Youth, which sends high school students abroad to study languages that the federal government deems critical to U.S. political and economic interests.

On the day she left for the Moscow Olympiada, Matrisciano, who hopes to have a career in the U.S. Foreign Service, learned that she had received a full four-year QuestBridge scholarship to Northwestern University in Evanston, IL, where she plans to specialize in Russian studies and political science.

“Attending the International Olympiada of Spoken Russian was confirmation and validation of everything I’ve been striving for with my language study,” said Matrisciano, who has also studied French, Italian and Latin. “This competition proved to me that not only will my languages take me places, but once there, I will hold my own and succeed.”

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Julia MorrisonComment
MSMS Blue Notes Host Annual Winter Concert

The Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science celebrates the holiday season with countless celebrations. An annual favorite is the Winter Concert hosted by The MSMS Music Department. This festive event, showcasing the MSMS Blue Notes, was hosted on Sunday, December 10.

As family and friends of the community filed into Shackleford Auditorium, the effects of the new venue this year were palpable. Usually held in Pac Music Room, the group took advantage of the renovations to Shack Auditorium in order to highlight the talents of the musicians. Shack Auditorium was recently transformed into a black box theater, featuring improved lighting, intentional stage design, and innovative lighting system.

Kelly Brown, Director for Academic Affairs, is an active supporter of all student groups, but has a special place in her heart for the MSMS Blue Notes group. Brown participates in the performances of the group each year, providing accompaniment on the piano. She comments on the impact of the new venue on the concert.

“The exciting thing for me about this particular concert was that we were in a new venue with out newly-renovated Shack Auditorium, which was fabulous. It is always fun to play for the Blue Notes, so this is my ninth year playing for them. I always think that this is a way for the community to see us in a different light because this shows our humanities and our talent as well as how intelligent we are. Sometimes the emphasis gets put on the academically gifted, and the academically talented side doesn’t get much notice, but through this and several things like Creative Writing and what Mrs. Jones does with art, that side can come out as well,” Brown expressed.

While the Blue Notes sang Christmas carols of all genres, the guitar studies students, piano students, and beginning band students also had an opportunity to showcase their talent. Solos sung included “Is You Is or Is You Ain’t My Baby” and “Colder Weather” as the instrumental groups presented “El Ruquet Valent” and “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.”

Not only does the Blue Notes group conduct a Winter Concert annually, they also travel throughout the state during their Sights and Sounds trip, when the students prove their dedication through well-executed musical pieces to residents of Mississippi.

Senior Amber Jackson received the honor of singing “What a Wonderful World” as a solo in the concert this year. Jackson describes her experiences attending shows with the group.

“We have the Sights and Sounds tour that we do every year for the fall semester. To practice for that, we usually have outside practices and some in-class. We work really hard, students brought some suggestions on what they want to sing. We had two or three weeks after we came back from break for the holiday performance, so we really didn’t have that much time, but we got it done and we sounded really good. We used some material from the Sights and Sounds performance because a lot of people didn’t see that performance. It gets people in the holiday spirit, it provides a holiday feel as you get to see your fellow students. You get to relieve stress and listen to some pretty cool tunes from your peers,” Jackson stated.

The Music and Performing Arts Department, led by Dawn Barham, continues to produce annual shows for the public to witness the musical and artistic talent at MSMS. Their next concert can be expected to occur during the spring season.

Julia MorrisonComment
2018 Summer Enrichment Camp
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The application for the ninth annual Summer Enrichment Camp hosted by The Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science is now available.  There will be two separate sessions available in June of 2018. The first session is open to all rising 7th and 8th graders (current 6th and 7th graders) and will run from June 10 through the 15. The second session is open to all rising 9th and 10th graders (current 8th and 9th graders) and will run from June 17 through the 22.

During the day, campers will be engaged in hands-on STEM based courses. Typical course offerings include everything from The Math of Money to Crypto Craze to Visual Programming. In the evenings, campers will develop leadership skills and teamwork as they live and play together in a residential setting.

To be considered for camp attendance, interested families should complete the 2018 MSMS Summer Enrichment Camp application for the appropriate session. The priority deadline for camp applications for both sessions is March 31, 2018. Tuition is $700 and covers all fees and expenses. Financial assistance is available for qualified applicants who demonstrate need. To be considered for financial assistance, families need to complete the financial assistance application.

For additional information, please email

Julia MorrisonComment
Winter Formal Presents A Winter Wonderland Affair

By Mariat Thankachan

As exam week twirls around the corner with the daunting thought of finals, MSMS students donned formal attire on December 2 to mark the 2017 Winter Formal. 

The Saturday night event in Hogarth Auditorium served as a chance for the students to bring out their high heels and polished shoes onto the floor, where all forms of dance moves showed off the manner in which MSMS students take advantage of a magical moment to relieve stress and enjoy valuable time with friends. 

Highlighting the dance’s theme of Winter Wonderland, the Winter Formal Organization Committee placed effort into ensuring that the night was conducted with perfect care and detail, spreading the joys of a winter spirit. 

Junior Kailah Ware, member of the organization committee, describes the role the group played to host the event. 

“We helped decorate the dining area, set up the buffet, decorate the dance floor, and decide the music. It was nice watching everything unfold and seeing everyone have fun throughout the night,” Ware said. 

The layout of the event featured numerous booths for taking photos adorned with winter-related backdrops, a counter for ticket pick-ups and ballot submissions for Winter Formal Court voting, and a downstairs area for a scrumptious buffet. The primary contributors of the food served were the parents of MSMS students. 

As a professional DJ presented an array of variety tracks from recent pop songs to golden oldies, the energy of the students exuded their enthusiasm. In preparation for the dance, a ballroom dancing seminar was held days prior to the event. Over 80 students attended the seminar, where step-by-step instructions were given on how to dance the waltz and foxtrot with a partner. These songs were played at Winter Formal for the students to reveal their new-found dancing skills. 

Others selected to learn dance moves from television shows. Junior Madison Wypyski learned her jumps from “The Wiggles,” an Australian children’s television show from the ‘90’s. 

Wypyski added thoughts on taking part in her first Winter Formal, “At my old school, all we had was homecoming and I wasn’t old enough to go to prom, so that was always like a big to-do. Not having homecoming here was kind of sad, but I definitely think that Winter Formal made up for that and went beyond. It was really fun, everyone was excited, it was gorgeous in there. Definitely the dance floor was my favorite part, it was bouncing.”

The Formal serves as a significant tradition at MSMS, one where juniors experience the life of fancy dances for the first time, and seniors share memorable moments before their last semester of high school with friends who have become family. 

Senior David Thagard arrived at the dance with his group of best friends. Thaggard commented that he enjoyed the music, food and dance from this year’s event, but his time with friends was precious and unique. 

“It was one of the most memorable nights so far at MSMS, not only because of the dance, but because Daniel, Tate, Cody and I all wore the craziest suits we could find. I would not have wanted to spend it with any other people,” Thaggard stated. 

Thaggard and his friends wore creative suits, designed in wild prints of snowflakes, camouflage, and the British flag. 

The dance culminated with the announcement of the Winter Formal Court. Vivia Davis was voted Winter Formal Queen, David Thaggard as Winter Formal King, Madison Wypyski as Winter Formal Princess, and Alan Elgin as Winter Formal Prince. 

“It was a total shocker. In all honesty, I forgot that I was nominated until I received the ballot. It was such an exciting moment. I'm thankful for all the votes. We're all queens in my eyes,” explained Davis of her title. 

Thaggard exclaimed, “Being crowned Winter Formal King is a true honor, and I feel extremely proud to represent the senior class.” 

After the Court led the students in a final slow dance, the guests were given a souvenir, made by the Winter Formal Committee--snow globes inside mason jars and cups of all sizes.  

As the exhausted dancers walked out of the auditorium with sore feet and special friends, they were one step closer to their rapidly-approaching final exams.

Photographs by Dr. Heath Stevens

Julia MorrisonComment