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High School Students and Teachers From Appalachian States Gain Hands-On Experience at Oak Ridge National Laboratory

July 21, 2006

Oak Ridge, Tenn.Building robots, measuring aquatic organism populations and using infrared imaging might not sound like a summer vacation. But that’s exactly how a group of high school students and teachers spent theirs at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL). For two weeks in July, the select group took a break from summer vacation to learn from some of the world’s best scientists.

Student working with lego robot

Jeff Murphy, of Seneca High School in Seneca, S.C., prepares a robot for an obstacle course competition during the 2006 ARC-ORNL Math-Science Technology Summer Institute. Murphy was one of 44 students participating in the program now in its 17th year. High resolution version.

Hailing from New York to Alabama, a select group of 54 students and teachers came to Oak Ridge from 11 different Appalachian states to experience the cutting edge of science and technology. In its 17th year, the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC)/ORNL 2006 Math-Science-Technology Summer Institute ran July 8-21. Administered by the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE), the program gave students and teachers a chance to have fun and conduct research in one of the country’s most renowned national laboratories.

During this year’s activities, the 44 students divided into eight research groups led by mentors from among ORNL’s research staff. One group got a first-hand look at how infrared technology is used to inspect semi-trucks for homeland security purposes. Other students waded through the waters of local streams to study marine organisms. Another group built and programmed table-sized robots and put them to the test in an obstacle course.

Kristen Poorman, a junior at Dover High School in Ohio, participated in a group focused on teaching students the ins and outs of creating a Web site.

“Before I came to ARC I had no idea about technology,” she said. “I feel as if I have learned more here than I have in a year of school.”

Teachers in ARC-ORNL Summer Institute measuring trees

Dianne Chancellor (left) from Ackerman High School in Ackerman, Miss., and Tauna Davis from Hamlin High School in Hamlin, W.V., performed measurements of trees on the Oak Ridge Reservation as part of group research project devoted to the study of old growth forests. High resolution version

The 11 participating teachers didn’t let the students have all the fun—they also matched up with veteran ORNL scientists to conduct research experiments. One group studied how computers help scientists visualize the interaction of complex biological molecules. Another set of teachers took to the woods and measured trees to help identify an old growth forest on the Oak Ridge Reservation.

“The ARC-ORNL program has provided me with a once in a lifetime opportunity to work and confer with an assortment of brilliant scientists in a famous and historic facility,” said Leesa Wolfe Peery, a biology and anatomy teacher at Tazewell (VA) High School. “I was intellectually challenged and energized by collaborating with enthusiastic and knowledgeable fellow math and science educators and our gifted mentors from ORNL.”

Participants were also able to experience the local culture and visit attractions throughout East Tennessee. They had a chance to ride thrilling roller coasters during a visit to Dollywood and catch a glimpse of future major league stars at a Tennessee Smokies (AA) baseball game. Students and teachers also had a chance to explore the University of Tennessee and tour the Lost Sea, the country’s largest underground lake.

Each of the student participants in the institute were nominated for the ARC-ORNL Institute by their state governors and chosen by ARC based on their academic and leadership potential. Teachers were selected for their dedication to classroom instruction and will have the opportunity to share their experiences in the summer program with colleagues and future students.

For the names, schools and hometowns of all institute participants, please see the list below.

The Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE) is a U.S. Department of Energy facility focusing on scientific initiatives to research health risks from occupational hazards, assess environmental cleanup, respond to radiation medical emergencies, support national security and emergency preparedness, and educate the next generation of scientists. ORISE is managed by Oak Ridge Associated Universities.

The Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) is a unique federal-state partnership established by Congress in 1965 to bring Appalachia into the mainstream of the American economy. Through development of the 3,090 mile Appalachian Development Highway System and a range of development programs in areas like education, training, health care, telecom, entrepreneurship, job creation and basic infrastructure, ARC programs help reduce isolation and improve the lives and economic opportunities of the 23 million people living in 410 counties across 13 states that make up Appalachia.

ARC/ORNL Summer Institute Participants

Students High School Home Town
Larry Anderson Gordon Central High School Fairmont, GA
Bailey Barksdale Ackerman High School Ackerman, MS
Christine Behnke Dorman High School Spartanburg, SC
Elizabeth Blankenship Grundy High Breaks, VA
Brittany Brooke Boykin Gordo High School Gordo, AL
Andrew Brooks Bradford Area High School Lewis Run, PA
Nathan Brooks Bradford Area High School Lewis Run, PA
Jessica Brown Elbert County High School Elberton, GA
Sam Brown-Shakler Canaseraga Central School Canaseraga, NY
David Cagle Gilmer High School Ellijay, GA
Elizabeth Campfield Vinton County High School Hamden, OH
Alexander Chavers Greensboro West High School Greensboro, AL
Jessica Cremeans Hamlin High School Branchland, WV
Tiffany DeWitt Piketon Jr./Sr. High School Piketon, OH
Michael Digman North Hagerstown High School Hagerstown, MD
Dinah Douglas Allegany High School Cumberland, MD
Nicole Flint Canaseraga Central School Canaseraga, NY
Derek Ford Bradford Area High School Bradford, PA
Cristina Garner Dade County High School Trenton, GA
Meagan Goff South Pittsburg High School South Pittsburg, TN
Sumeet Gupta Allegany High School Cumberland, MD
Andrea Herzog Bradford Area High School Bradford, PA
Sarah Human Pike County High School Waverly, OH
Jessica Ice Cambridge City High School Kimbolton, OH
Garry Jackson Sunshine High School Newbern, AL
William Johnson Clay County High School Ashland, AL
Rachel Jude Calhoun High School Calhoun, GA
Alicia McGlaughlin Vinton County High School McArthur, OH
Allison Miller Twin Springs High School Dungannon, VA
Samuel Miller Cannon County High School Woodbury, TN
Jeff Murphy Seneca High School Seneca, SC
Brittany Owens Alvin C. York Institute Allandt, TN
Josh Pate Piketon High School Piketon, OH
Jeremy Petak Lansing High School Lansing, NY
Kristen Poorman Dover High School Dover, OH
Shane Richendollar Ohio Valley Career & Technical Center Winchester, OH
Christopher Shepard Alleghany High School Selma, VA
Benjamin Strong Lineville High School Cragford, AL
Axle Tankersley Bradford Area High School Bradford, PA
Nicholas Watson Bradford Area High School Bradford, PA
Portia Vaughn J.J. Kelly High School Wise, VA
Nicholas Watson Bradford Area High School Bradford, PA
Sean Robert Wilmot Duval High School Alum Creek, WV
Kaycee Winningham Alvin C. York Institute Jamestown, TN
Melissa Youssef Southside High School Greenville, SC
Teachers High School Home Town
Terry Bennett Calhoun High School Calhoun, GA
Thomas Brewer Abingdon High School Bristol, TN
Dianne Chancellor Ackerman High School Ackerman, MS
Tauna Davis Hamlin High/Lincoln County High School Hamlin, WV
Jonathon Escue Duval High School Griffithsville, WV
Jason Geis Altoona Area High School Altoona, PA
Craig Green Copper Basin High School Copperhill, TN
Brian LaVine Cobleskill-Richmondville High School Richmondville, NY
Leesa Peery Tazewell High School Pounding Mill, VA
Nancy Siler South Pittsburg High School South Pittsburg, TN
Kerry Townsend Gordo High School Gordo, AL

ORAU provides innovative scientific and technical solutions to advance national priorities in science, education, security and health. Through specialized teams of experts, unique laboratory capabilities and access to a consortium of more than 100 major Ph.D.-granting institutions, ORAU works with federal, state, local and commercial customers to advance national priorities and serve the public interest. A 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation and federal contractor, ORAU manages the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE) for the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).

Media Contacts

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