Capturing a Moment in History

The solar eclipse prompted Sydnie '24 to create a quick DIY solar filter, uniting her love of photography and her pursuit of engineering.
Sydnie ’24 can often be spotted around campus behind a camera documenting student life. Photography is a skill she picked up in sixth grade during a class, working with film cameras.  
Later she joined her Dad while photographing her brother’s football and hockey games, allowing her to combine her love of photography with a passion for sports.  
“My dream job was being a videographer for the Chicago Blackhawks because that’s who I grew up watching,” says the Illinois native. “I figured I’d do videography or photography for a professional hockey team at some point in life."
But during her time at KUA, Sydnie started discovering new interests. She took honors design thinking and then, on the recommendation of a classmate, registered for mechanical engineering. Something clicked. “We were working in CAD and I just really enjoyed it. I decided that I wanted to pursue a major in mechanical engineering in college.” 
When news that KUA’s Science Department was running a trip for students to experience totality during the solar eclipse on April 10, Syndie saw an opportunity to turn her lens toward her new subject.  
Looking at the sun during an eclipse is dangerous both for one's eyes and one's camera. A special solar filter is required to protect the camera. 
"I wanted to go on the trip, and the night before, I decided I wanted to take photos. I quickly did some research to see if I could make one. A camera is like a giant microscope, so I needed a special filter, so I didn’t destroy the lens or my eyes.” 
With little time to prepare, Syndie headed to her mechanical engineering class the next morning where she enlisted the help of her teacher Jon Hastings ’01 who found five spare pairs of eclipse glasses. They got to work.  
Sydnie first used Adobe Illustrator to create a design for the body of a filter. She then used the Makerspace laser cutter to bring her design to life – rings of wood stacked then glued together that could slip over the lens. She located gaff tape in the theater tech booth to help block out the sun’s rays.  
“One of the great things about engineering is that you can quickly apply it,” says Hastings, chair of the mathematics department. “In just one class, Sydnie used her knowledge of the laser cutter and some basic design principles and was able to rapidly iterate on a working solar filter for her camera, just in time for the eclipse!” 
With minutes to spare she hopped on the bus to join 80 of her fellow students to head about 1.5 hours north into Vermont to experience totality. 
“I looked up with the filter on my camera and it worked, and I thought this was so cool,” she recalls. “I brought a blanket, so my friends and I found a place to sit and so I took as many photos as I could. I just geeked out. It was challenging to find the sun because of the zoom lens and having only one eye to use. As totality approached, the sun was getting small, and I was switching between manual and auto focus. It’s hard to squint without the urge to open your other eye.” 
Sydnie returned to KUA that evening with 618 photos and lasting memories.  “I have no idea if I’ll have a chance to see this again or photograph this again,” she says.
Next year Sydnie heads to Rowan University where she plans to continue studying mechanical engineering and play hockey. Her camera will make the trip.