11 Southridge HS students were invited to attend STEM Exploration Camp in July. Students were selected based on recommendations from their advanced math and science teachers. They spent 4 days visiting three different technical work sites to meet professions in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) fields and to participate in hands-on activities to explore STEM careers.
The first day was spent with Kadlec Hospital. Students attended a presentation on health care careers. Students were surprised how many different career paths are open to them; besides the standard of doctor and nurse, there are specialties and a wide variety of support staff. They broke into groups and toured the Hospital and Columbia Basin College’s Richland Health Science Center. Students enjoyed trying out the practice robotic surgery machine. Then Occupational Therapist Dawn Niccum and Physical Therapist Ashley Manry spoke to the students about their professions and demonstrated some techniques and exercises. Students were surprised by how difficult small exercises used by the physical therapist were. After a break for lunch, Students received two wonderful hands-on presentations from Respiratory Therapist Edna Felix and Audiologist Dr.Curtis Woolf. It was amazing how small and ingenious hearing aids are and how audiologists can help people hear.
The second day was at Irrigation Agriculture Research and Extension Center (IAREC) in Prosser. IAREC runs the State AgWeather Net System which consists of 166 weather stations across the state and growing. The weather stations update every 15 minutes. The information from the stations is available online at http://weather.wsu.edu/awn.php. The students learned about each part of the weather station. Then they toured IAREC and observed a working weather station.
IAREC consist of a group of scientist and research who run the system and do research using the information from the weather stations to benefit agricultural growers and wineries. The students talked with the professors and graduate students about their research. Then students came up with and researched their own research question use the weather station data.
The third day students visited LIGO, the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory in Hanford. LIGO is a joint research facility supported by MIT and CalTech that as LIGO states “seeks to detect gravitational waves -- ripples in the fabric of spacetime. First predicted by Einstein in his theory of general relativity, gravitational waves are produced by exotic events involving black holes, neutron stars and objects perhaps not yet discovered.”
Students toured the facility and got to watch controllers in the control room. Students were matched with an employee and shadowed the employee, which many said was the highlight of the day. After lunch, the students tried to model a Laser Interferometer, a very difficult task, but several group achieve the patterned waves of light indicating success.
The fourth day students invited their parents to attend a dinner and discussion with their student of what students have done during the camp. Parents enjoyed touring LIGO and learning about what their student has been up to. Parents were very enthusiastic about the experience and the opportunity of their student to be exposed to these STEM facilities.