At the official April 22 dedication for Walker Hall, McCallie's new science and engineering building (link to news item), Ace Damodaran '16 was chosen to speak on behalf of the student body. The transcript of his impressive remarks follow. A news item about the dedication event can be found at mccallie.org.
Good afternoon. My name is Ace Damodaran, and I have been a day student here at McCallie for seven years. It is truly an incredible honor to be here today, and I am humbled as a student to be part of this dedication of Walker Hall. As a student, I see every day the time and care our teachers dedicate towards educating and inspiring scientific inquiry among students. Walker Hall reaffirms McCallie’s commitment towards preparing boys for the next generation of technology and scientific endeavor, a vision that is shared by students, teachers, and Dr. Walker himself.
We are in the most exciting scientific period in history—a time when so much knowledge is readily accessible. This past year alone exemplifies some profound achievements. Mankind has launched reusable rockets into orbit and successfully landed them on landing pads back here on Earth. It’s been said that accomplishment is similar to vaulting a pencil over the Empire State Building, and landing it on its eraser in a shoebox on the other side. We’ve made significant steps into virtual reality, pioneered immune engineering, and have finally detected gravitational waves from two colliding black holes thousands of light years away. It is a challenge for teachers today to prepare us for a future that has few constants. There is no doubt a need in our community for science education. But if we only view science education through a supply and demand of labor lens, we do it an injustice.
Instead, I believe science is more about finding a way to improve the things we love.
Whether that be our understanding of our universe, or our ability to manipulate it to benefit society—science consistently tells us where we’ve come from and openly asks us where we want to go.
Today, one of the most critical places for this inquiry is in the classroom, and that cannot be understated. From learning about the spread of diseases to studying electric circuits, McCallie has fostered an environment that exposes students to the challenging questions of the new millennium.
However, lectures and guided labs alone can be insufficient in encouraging students to pursue these meaningful questions. While their value is intrinsic to curriculum and testing, they are geared towards teaching the fundamentals and how to think analytically. This only provides students with half of the story.
Walker Hall provides us with that other half of the story. Boys do not think in theory alone; we need trial and error, we want to get our hands dirty in the process, and most of all we want to know how what we learn in the classroom can be applied outside of the classroom. We believe the fundamentals are important, but one need not start there to take advantage of today’s technology. We want not to simply understand our vast universe, but to shape it—to affect real, tangible change in our local communities.
If McCallie is to keep up with the pace of technological change in our world, our first imperative is to inspire.
When I first came to the Upper School as a freshman, the Robotics Club met in the former Alumni Hall, a small room that used to function as McCallie’s Dining Hall. We stored our parts in little bins that could fit neatly into a corner cabinet. I wish those upperclassmen, who have long since graduated, could see this building.
Upon entering Walker Hall, it is immediately apparent that there is a newfound space for students to learn, collaborate, and create. We can imagine projects in the new Lebovitz Innovation Lab, and realize those ideas in the accompanying Engineering Lab. The Global Conference Center opens the doors for us to connect with the scientific community beyond our campus. In each hallway, students already are gathering at tables to discuss the past night’s assignments before class even starts. That in itself shows a new environment for scientific discussion and peer-tutoring. There is much that is new, but in every classroom you will find the same passionate teachers, guiding students through an era of rapid scientific change.
On behalf of the student body, I want to offer our sincerest gratitude to former Headmaster Walker for his service and love for this school. We thank the construction workers who have persevered day in and day out in all kinds of weather to make this building a reality. We thank the staff for maintaining these facilities each day. We offer our thanks to Headmaster Burns, the administration, generous donors, the trustees, the parents, and the dedicated faculty who inspire us and ask us to dream a better world. Thanks to the efforts of these men and women in developing Walker Hall, McCallie is no longer a place where the future of science is solely imagined, it is a place where that future is built. Thank you.