Bard News & Events

Press Release

Bard High School Early College II Awarded Science and Math Improvement Grant by the Toshiba America Foundation

Jennifer Wai-Lan Huang
QUEENS, N.Y.—Bard High School Early College II (BHSEC II), a public school partner- ship between Bard College and the New York City Department of Education, has received a Science and Math Improvement Grant from the Toshiba America Foundation. The $13,440 grant was awarded for an innovative research project, “Urban Effects on Lightning Activity in Queens, New York,” which is being conducted as part of a ninth-grade physics course. BHSEC II physics faculty members Drs. Jeremy N. Thomas and Natalia N. Solorzano are the principal investigators for this project. The grant will fund a yearlong study on how pollution-causing human activities and changes in weather affect local light- ning activity. Students will install monitoring equipment, collect data, and share their results with the community.

Past experiments in the midwestern United States, Houston, and Sao Paulo, Brazil, have suggested that urbanization affects lightning activity, which is likely attributed to pollution and the heat island effect (increased temperature in urban areas). With the largest popula- tion center in the United States and thunderstorm activity throughout the spring and sum- mer months, New York is an ideal place to study this phenomenon. To the researchers’ knowledge, BHSEC II’s work will be the first study of urban effects of lightning in New York City.

In keeping with the Toshiba America Foundation’s mission, this project provides students at BHSEC II with the opportunity to “do science” in new ways, increasing their engage- ment with the subject matter and improving their learning. Thomas and Solorzano’s light- ning project will teach students thermodynamic principles associated with thunderstorms and introduce them to concepts in electricity and magnetism. The grant will also enable BHSEC II to host a receiving station for the World Wide Lightning Location Network, the only global lightning network.

Thomas, who graduated from Bard College in 2000 and received his Ph.D. in earth and space sciences from the University of Washington, and Solorzano, a Ph.D. from the National Institute for Space Research in Brazil, have been conducting research on lightning for several years. They will present a paper on “Lightning Activity and Intensity Change in Cyclone Nargis” at the American Meteorological Society Meeting in Phoenix in January 2009.

BHSEC II opened in Queens in 2008. BHSEC II follows an established premise, that high-school-aged stu- dents are young adults whose ambition to learn must be taken seriously. Love of learning dominates the school’s culture. A rigorous curriculum allows students to fulfill all of the New York State Regents’ require- ments through an engaging and demanding college-level education. Mastery of subjects at BHSEC II is demonstrated not by standardized test scores, but by reasoned analysis and making thoughtful and well-sup- ported cases for one’s views; it leads to the acquisition of both a New York State high school Regents’ diplo- ma and a Bard College associate’s degree, tuition free. Collaboration with the New York Academy of Sciences provides additional curricular and extracurricular opportunities in the sciences. BHSEC II is open to all New York City students. The average student-to-teacher ratio is 20:1. For more information about BHSEC II, e-mail, call (212) 995-8479, or visit

Toshiba America Foundation (TAF) is a nonprofit grant-making organization that has been supporting improvements in science and math education through its grants program since 1990. The mission of Toshiba America Foundation is to contribute to the quality of science and mathematics education in U.S. communities by investing in projects designed by classroom teachers to improve science and mathematics education for students in grades K through 12.
TAF was created with support from Toshiba Corporation, Toshiba America Inc., and the six Toshiba America group companies operating in the United States: Toshiba America Information Systems, Inc.; Toshiba America Medical Systems, Inc.; Toshiba America Electronics Components, Inc.; Toshiba America Consumer Products, LLC; Toshiba International Corporation; and Toshiba America Business Solutions. To learn more about TAF, visit or call 212-596-0667.
For more information about TAF’s grant to BHSEC II, please contact Martha J. Olson at (212) 995-8479 ext. 4073, or e-mail her at

back to top

This event was last updated on 04-28-2011