Independent Projects

Advanced Independent Projects

A Hill-Stead Museum Junior Tour Guide

"To be at Hill-Stead listening to a current student first lead us through a detailed tour of the house and the art collection and then play a couple of pieces on the Founder's piano was an incredible experience. Bravo, Micheal!"

Michael Xie '22 – Art History

This fall, Michael Xie spent his Wednesdays at the Hill-Stead Museum working with Archivist Melanie Bourbeau and the Director of Education Kate Ebner, studying the collection of paintings and memorizing the facts and history of the Hill-Stead. Michael is finishing up his internship and will be receiving his official status of 'Junior Tour Guide' this January. After presenting sections of the tour to the sophomore class—along with students from MPS—in November, and presenting his first official full-length tour on December 3, 2021, Michael will be continuing and finalizing his studies in January 2022. Michael's charm, wit, and passion for arts and history were evident and in brilliant form.

We hope that Michael's initiative and enthusiasm as a student liaison to the museum will inspire others and cement our joint history though TPR's history and legacy. We are excited that such an opportunity has begun and hope future students will step into this role with the same amount of curiosity and pride.

"Kate guided Michael’s initial training via Zoom and directed his self-study. I oversaw his weekly on site practice in the museum. He improved dramatically from his first test tour with me on November 17, to his second on December 1. And then I was quite honestly blown away by the exponential improvement over just two days of continued self-study ahead of Friday’s practice tour."
- Melanie Bourbeau

"Michael's passion for the arts is evident as he is an accomplished painter, musician, and conductor. Michael used this passion to provide perspective, context, and history for each piece of art, making the pieces come alive in the eyes and ears of the listener."
- Rob Whitty

The Advanced Independent Project Program

The Advanced Independent Project Program is for students who show exceptional skill in a niche area such as photography, video, art, writing, scientific research, or engineering. Students work under the expertise of professionals both on and off campus to learn how to expand in their own gifts and desires to excel. Each student is required to complete a significant project or series of projects and then present what he learned to the entire student body at the end of the time allotted. Given the space to experience a trade with the guidance of trained and proven adults, students build their resume and gain invaluable experience as they seek further education in that field.


Learn More

Spring 2021 Content Creators

Wes Legere '22 & Stratton Pratt '23 – Genomics

"I’m very fortunate to have been afforded the opportunity to pursue the Biodiversity AIP this past spring. To be in contact with one of the largest DNA sequencing companies in the world and use technology that has significant and current real-world applications is something I couldn’t pass up. I greatly enjoyed my time working with Dr. Sanford and Stratton, both of who shared my passion and curiosity in the field. We worked hard every day, spending 10 a week on our project, even committing to weekend meetings when necessary. As someone who is personally interested in genomics, this was the perfect activity for me to explore how my future may look, and to pave the way for other boys at Avon who would benefit from an experience like this."
- Wes Legere '22

"This AIP opportunity gave me an experience I couldn’t have possibly imagined. While I’ve always had a strong interest in the medical sciences, I hadn’t often considered the field of research. My AIP in identifying biodiversity with DNA sequencing opened my eyes to a whole new field and helped me hone my laboratory skills that I’ll be applying in further research projects down the line. I’d like to thank Dr. Sanford for his unwavering support and guidance throughout the project, and Mrs. Pinton who made it all possible."
- Stratton Pratt '23

An Analysis of Biodiversity on
Avon Old Farms Campus

Intro to Mergers and Acquisitions
John Steber, senior from Avon, Connecticut

"I participated in an Intro to Mergers and Acquisitions AIP because I plan to work in the finance industry after studying at Penn State University and I thought this would be a great opportunity for me to put my foot in the door early. 

"During this AIP I worked with alumnus JP Rotchford. JP is an associate at NovaQuest Capital Management. We met over Zoom weekly to discuss topics ranging from investment banking to how to build a resume.  Overall, I learned more than I could have imagined from this experience and I consider myself extremely lucky. My largest takeaway from this AIP was learning the skills I need and the steps to take to enter the finance world after college. JP and I went over a timeline of when and how I should be preparing for internships and how to get the connections to receive internships."

The Mergers & Acquisitions AIP: Part 1

The Mergers & Acquisitions AIP: Part 2

Winter 2020 Content Creators

Preston Runk '21 Speaks About His AIP Experience

A Study in Modern Architecture

"My parents love looking at open houses, and as a child they took me along. I was always fascinated with the wide range of architectural styles, but modern architecture specifically captivated my imagination. I found myself  losing track of time playing in my room with legos creating small cities and creating drawings of modern buildings or landscapes. To this day, I still join my parents on their expeditions; and when I see a home of that style, I get lost in its beautiful spaces.

"This year I decided to take advantage of the AIP Program with the support of two architects at StoneFox in New York Chris Stone '88 and Andrew Corrigan '98 so that I could try my hand at the artistic style I love."

Spring 2019 Content Creators

Making Music: A Video by Caleb McKernan

Caleb McKernan – Music Production

In the spring of 2019, Caleb McKernan '20 focused his Advanced Independent Project on learning new music software, recording live instruments, and familiarizing himself with the world of music. McKernan had envisioned going into the studio, playing some chords and lining them up right to build beats. But, it went much different:

"I learned music production is much more than just making music, and rather the art of manipulating sounds to create the best result," he said. "At the start, I downloaded Logic Pro X which is music producing software. I watched many tutorials on Youtube, and with help from a fellow student, learned my way to producing beats. During the start of my AIP, I began to familiarize myself with the world of software music editing and started developing a skillset. I learned how to build melodies and then how to use different sounds to contrast them. I learned how to alter instruments sounds using EQ, how to level and master tracks, and then I applied these skills and started to create."

Toward the end of his AIP, after making four finished tracks, McKernan took on Logic Pro to remix tracks by merging different songs and sounds together.

"Overall in my AIP, I learned A LOT. I reached my goal which was to learn how to make a song, but also expanded my knowledge of a whole new realm of music that I didn’t know existed. I will always hear music differently now and appreciate it much more knowing how detailed and intense music production is. Thank you to Mr. Raposo, Ms. Pinton, and Mr. Davey for giving me this opportunity, helping make it happen, and chaperoning us throughout the process."
— Caleb McKernan '20


Gabe Gross – Marketing

The Hartford Wolf Pack is a minor league hockey team that plays in the AHL, which is one step down from the professional NHL. Our parent team was the New York Rangers, so we constantly had players moving up in down from New York if guys got injured.

I was a part of the Promo Pack, which is what we called the game-day marketing/promotions staff. Our job was to execute all pre/post game and in-game promotions. This included everything from setting up and finding the fans to play the games that you watch on the jumbotron, escorting the kids that ride the zamboni during intermissions, telling the teams when to go on the ice before the game, selling 50/50 raffle tickets, and even the mascot; making sure he gets to his birthday visits and has enough t-shirts. I went in to the XL Center for every game, two hours before it started to help set up and stayed about an hour after each game to help clean up.

Fall 2018 Content Creators

Robert Aughtry – Fashion Design

During my first Independent Project study in Fashion Design, I created my own logo using heat-set acrylic, ripped up, sewed, re-sewed, and created a new style of t-shirt. I even created a website and have been selling my products.

I learned during that being in the studio gave me escape—a way to zone in on the process and let go of other stresses in life. 

In my second Independent Project study in Fashion Design, I created an entire brand/style that is unique. I branded my clothing and set to work to launch Robert Aughtry Clothing, complete with several collections. 

Spring 2018 Content Creators

Matt Jensen – Photography

Photography helps me relax and makes me feel good about my talents. An AIP seemed like a good way to focus more and hone my skills further.

During this AIP, I found a style of photography which I find favorable; a simple composition with a singular focus, either one subject or a small group of subjects. During the spring, I developed an understanding of how photoshoots work. Before I would take photos on the fly and with very little preparation, but now I have learned to form a setup and put thought into getting the shot just right.

This AIP allowed me to explore different mediums for photos as well, including printing on acetate. This process gives the photos an interesting and pleasing appearance, and I discovered that some angles make the photos appear three-dimensional. This AIP was a very beneficial experience for me as it expanded my abilities and further evolved my methods for completing photo projects.

Chris Zhang - Darkroom Photography

This spring season, I worked with photographer Ty Morin to delve into analog photography. I grew an insatiable curiosity about it in my Darkroom Photography course and was eager to learn more about it. During AIP, Ty systematically elaborated the exposure and printing technique in film photography and the usage of a large format camera, as well as the diverse peculiarities of various films.

More importantly, we investigated the vintage tintype technique. Widely popular during the 1860s, the tintype is performed by collodion coating a piece of metal. Ty and I started the long and detailed process from scratch: mixing chemicals like silver nitrate, ammonium bromide, potassium iodide, etc. After the mixture aged, we experimented multiple exposure and portraiture using tintype. It was an absolutely unique experience working on tintype with a professional photographer; I am also grateful that Mrs. Pinton and the school would give me this valuable opportunity to explore an unknown territory that I am so excited about.  

“This AIP has allowed me to work with upperclassmen who share their carefully mined knowledge and experience with me, but has also offered me friendship, lessons in cooperation, and allowed me to be a more informed person in a highly technologically-based world through hands-on, looking-under-the-hood experience." - Calvin Xu '21

Peter Feng ’18, Tony Liu ’19 and Calvin Xu ’21

Peter Feng is a senior who has been interested in computer science since the time he entered grade school. Calvin Xu is a lover of many fields including history, literature, language and computer science; he wanted to be literate in the principles of technology that encompasses modern life. And Tony Liu is a Junior who started to learn programing at the beginning of his Freshmen year, while he also has a passion for drawing and photography. Together, these three men set out to better the lives of Avonians by reducing out-of-date paper methods employed on our campus – primarily as it relates to student life and activities.

In this group’s AIP, the three young programmers expanded upon Spectacle – the weekend activities program that was created last year to track students traveling on busses or checking in for a mandatory school-wide event. The ultimate goal is to create dashboards for teachers and students to allow for effortless tracking of weekend leave slips, activities, permissions, and even grade postings. Most impressive, perhaps, is that these programmers are working with real-world technologies: React (used by Facebook, Instagram, New York Times), Kotlin (Pinterest, Evernote), Bootstrap (Walmart, Target, Bloomberg), MySQL (Spotify, Netflix, YouTube), Docker (Paypal, Expedia, General Electric), (and JIRA (U.S. Department of Defense, Twitter, NASA).

View The Code

Charles ‘Trey’ Di Bona ’19

When I was little, I didn’t think I was creative at all. I wanted to be an engineer, and so for all of middle school and a good part of high school I stayed away from anything that wasn’t related to math and science. I didn’t really consider writing an interest of mine until I took a creative writing elective offered by my public school during my sophomore year. That piqued my interest and I put together a portfolio, but I didn’t know what to do with it and for months afterwards it just collected dust. I finally added some more to it in the fall of my junior year and showed it to Mrs. Pinton, who taught my journalism class. From there, she set me up with an AIP, and once I could finally focus on writing I began to love it. Since then, it has shifted from a hobby into a central component of my identity, and something I’m even considering pursuing as a career.

In a nutshell, my AIP was an effort to broaden my creative horizons and to begin submitting my work to competitions. In order to move out of my comfort zone, I began to write shorter stories with more human narratives than the largely impersonal pieces I wrote before. I finally began putting my own emotions into my work, which I had avoided doing before out of fear that words on paper couldn’t ever adequately capture the depth and breadth of what we, as people, feel. At first I was right, but after a great many failed attempts I managed to get the hang of it. I still have a long way to go before I can do it evenly and eloquently, but this AIP has pushed my boundaries and put me on the path to further development in the coming years.


- 177 pages written, 56,402 words
- Current awards: Scholastic Silver Key, Honorable Mentions x2, TeenInk Featured Story

Read Short Stories

Dennis Wang '18

Dennis Wang a senior on his way to Harvey Mudd College to double-major in math/CS and engineering. This winter, Dennis worked with Jackson Laboratory (JAX) in Farmington. JAX lab’s mission is to discover precise genomic solutions for disease and empower the global biomedical community in our shared quest to improve health.

“As someone interested in the young field of synthetic biology, I chose to spend my afternoons this second semester working in the lab of Professor Jacques Banchereau focusing on understanding isoforms of alternative splicing in breast cancer cells and normal PBMC cells,” explained Dennis.

This was accomplished by using Single Molecule Real-Time (PacBio SMRT) sequencing and a novel algorithm to cluster and quantify the obtained isoform transcripts. Modifying targeted genes or their expressions can have ripple effects in the body that are not completely understood yet, but by applying engineering, artificial intelligence, and mathematical principles to predict potential outcomes, we can modify our approach to ensure optimal target solutions for gene editing technology. Dennis hopes to be a part of this exciting mission. This semester's project was an extension of work that Dennis completed last summer at MIT.

View Dennis's Poster

Fall 2017 Content Creator: Alvaro de la Cruz '18

Alvaro de la Cruz '18 is a promising filmmaker who has used his creative energy to promote the mission of non-profit organizations such as the Healing Meals Community Project through video storytelling. Alvaro was born and raised in Puerto Rico and is currently completing his fourth year at Avon Old Farms School. He is an integral part of the community at the school, a member of the swim team and outreach program, and president of the Red Cross and International Club.  

As part of the Afternoon Independent Project program offered at Avon Old Farms, Alvaro is dedicating his fall afternoons to capturing and presenting feature snippets of his classmates — other Men of Avon. Alvaro hopes to "gain more experience as a cinematographer and learn more about the social media marketing aspect of digital storytelling" as he pursues a future career in filmmaking. 

THE "MAN-2-MAN" SERIES: An Avon Student by Alvaro de la Cruz—An Avon Student

Spring 2017 Content Creators

TJ Shaw

I am a photographer who has spent three years shooting at Avon Old Farms. I specialize in sports, but I also really enjoy shooting concerts and other events on campus. I have been fortunate enough to have my work been published several times in different magazines and journals. Aside from photography, I am the Vice Editor in Chief and Photo Editor of the Avon Record, I am the Co-President of the photography club and am a member of the Varsity Golf team. This year I am seeking to train a new student photographer who will replace me and continue a legacy of students photographers at Avon Old Farms. 

View TJ's Photography

Cam Andrews

I am currently a junior experiencing my second year here at Avon. Outside the classroom, I have always enjoyed pursuing photography independently, however this year I have been working alongside TJ and the Communications Department, helping to generate content for our school and the community. Shooting for friends and family is one thing, however it is also an extremely fulfilling experience when you get to help out your brothers by capturing some of the more significant moments in their lives, whether it be scoring the winning goal, or clutching the championship. Here at Avon, I look forward to continuing my passion for photography and look forward to what opportunities the future has to offer, as I prepare for my senior year.

View Cam's Photography