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Summer Institute Connects Appalachian Students and Teachers with National Lab Scientists

July 24, 2009

Appalachian Regional CommissionOAK RIDGE, Tenn.—Summer break usually doesn't involve thoughts of science projects and field trips, but for 55 exceptional Appalachian students and teachers, it does.

This group of 37 specially chosen students and 18 teachers representing 13 Appalachian states came to Oak Ridge July 12-24 to work on cutting-edge science projects with mentors at Oak Ridge National Laboratory and participate in a variety of East Tennessee tours and activities.

Since 1990, the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC), Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) and Oak Ridge Associated Universities (ORAU) have hosted the Math-Science-Technology Institute each summer. During that time, the program has provided a total of 354 students and 163 teachers with in-lab learning experiences at one of the nation's premier national laboratories. It has also provided them the opportunity to visit some of the area's most popular educational and recreational attractions.

The students were nominated by their state governor and chosen to participate in the program by ARC. ARC Federal Co-chair Anne Pope said that "the students were chosen for their potential in math and science, their potential to continue in higher learning and their potential to influence others in their communities as the leaders of tomorrow."

After arriving in Oak Ridge, the students were welcomed by ORAU President Andy Page and served lunch. Then they were divided into six teams led by mentors and scientists from ORNL and assigned projects with topics ranging from supercomputers, to air traffic control and analysis, to robotic systems engineering and engineering development.

The teachers divided into four teams and also participated in research, which focused on subjects such as ecology, bioenergy, nanoparticles and x-ray analysis of materials.

During this year's summer institute, the students and teachers heard a talk given by Bill Landry, host of WBIR-TV's "The Heartland Series," a local program about the people and the land of the Appalachian region. They were also provided tours of the University of Tennessee Department of Anthropology, College of Engineering and School of Veterinary Medicine.

In addition, institute participants visited various local attractions and took on the challenge of a ropes course at Maryville College. They attended a Tennessee Smokies baseball game and picnic, as well as toured Chattanooga's Tennessee Aquarium, the Gray Fossil Museum, the American Museum of Science and Energy and Ijams Nature Center.

The summer institute concluded with a ceremony attended by Pope, ORNL Director Thom Mason and Page. During the ceremony, the students and teachers gave presentations on their projects. This year, the ARC, ORNL and ORAU also hosted a Middle School Science Camp for 24 students from nine Appalachian states. They developed research projects on the topics of solar energy, biofuels and wind, as well as made presentations on their projects during the closing ceremony for the summer institute.

The Appalachian Regional Commission 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 such as education, training, health care, telecommunications, 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.

Oak Ridge National Laboratory is managed by UT-Battelle for the U.S. Department of Energy.

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).

Contact: Mike Bradley, ORNL
(865) 576-9553

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