New Year of RED Capstones


Kevin Kane

Pictured Is Parker Morgan, a REDcapstone student in a meeting with teacher, Dr.Pohlen.

Previously under Ms. Dougherty’s leadership, the REDcapstones program is now being led by one of its co-founders, Dr. Stephen Pohlen. As BSM’s Director of Curriculum and Learning, Pohlen has been a strong advocate for student creativity. So this year, he was glad to take over the program.

The program is in its third year at BSM and prides itself in challenging students to use creativity and collaboration to solve real-world problems that are impactful. REDcapstone is formatted very differently from traditional courses. It allows students to pursue ambitious projects they might not otherwise have the support to attempt. “It’s very clear to me that the open-endedness of the program that we had hoped for is exactly what we got because we have just an incredible array of passion projects,” Dr. Pohlen said.

From treatments for Eczema to starting a car cleaning business to drone technologies, students undertake a wide array of projects. Of 14 plus students, multiple are doing projects relating to food. Other students are building robotic arms, and designing better mental health solutions. “It can be anything, we have people writing books, we have people building robots, we have people starting businesses, we have people making websites or apps,” Dr. Pohlen said.

Senior Parker Morgan wants to bring aquaponics to low-income schools to help with food shortages in those communities. Morgan, also a swim instructor in North Minneapolis, was influenced by a student of hers. “One of my students came up to me and was talking about [how] they don’t have enough lettuce… they can’t eat some foods, because they don’t have them available,” Morgan said.

It can be anything, we have people writing books, we have people building robots, we have people starting businesses, we have people making websites or apps

— Dr. Pohlen

Morgan has faced multiple obstacles in the project, most notably her decision to use aquaponics. Aquaponics is a method of growing plants without soil, using only water and minerals. The reason why using this method is such a challenge is that, unlike hydroponics, aquaponics requires aquatic animals. Therefore, it is quite complex to come up with a design that is both easy for students to interact with and able to handle the complexity of aquaponics. “There’s a lot of PVC [piping]… There’s a whole filtration system with a filter and all these different things,” Morgan said.

Senior Bianca Mojica has chosen to tackle food disparities in another way by making a vegan, nut-free version of French Macrons. Mojica originally started her project, Macrorights, because a lot of her friends have dietary restrictions. She has conducted over 10 different trials, adjusting ingredients, oven temperatures, and more. “I started thinking about the project a couple of years ago. Originally the recipe worked really well and then I started doing it again over the summer and it stopped working completely, so I had to start from scratch. Recently it’s gotten a lot better. I just had to work with oven temperatures,” Mojica said.

Though RED projects can be overwhelming, the year has only just begun. Despite encountering difficulties early on, Morgan is excited to continue her project and recommends the class. “I’d recommend [the class] to anyone who has a strong idea or a strong passion towards anything. It doesn’t have to be a business,” Morgan said.