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High-Schoolers ‘Challenged’ in UTSI Workshop; Parents Hear Their Reports on Varied Research

Fifteen area rising high school students were presented “challenging and difficult materials” during a two-week computational workshop, and their leader said he never once heard “I can’t” or “I won’t.”

On Aug. 4, parents and other visitors gathered at The University of Tennessee Space Institute to hear the students and three participating teachers report on their chosen research projects.

Robert Gotwals, leader of the workshop, said the first week was spent in introducing the participants “to how computers are used in modern science to solve interesting problems.” During the second week, the students chose individual research projects and explained them at the “colloquium.”

Gotwals is senior computational science educator with the Shodor Center for Computational Science Education in Durham, N.C., which offers the enriched training.

This workshop was sponsored by Bill Hofmeister, director of UTSI’s Center for Laser Applications, and Alan Clark, member of the Franklin County School Board. Another member of the Franklin board, Wendy Moore, and Franklin County School Supt. Charles H. Edmonds also were present for the presentations by students and teachers.

Three teachers – JoLynn Schultz from Huntland High and Stacy Brown and Ellen Jackson, both from Franklin County North – also attended all sessions and gave oral reports on the final day. They spoke enviously of the young people’s superior grasp of computers and mathematical equations. The teachers said they themselves will share much that they learned with other students.

Research projects ranged from astronomy (programming and tools for studying the planets) presented by Ryan Qualls and Chris Yockey from Coffee County’s Central High School to Franklin County High’s Troy Allison and Chandler Hodges’ report on air pollution.

Callie Dixon, who is entering FCHS from South Middle School, and Becca Hofmeister from Nashville, reported on their study of Phylogenetic trees. Their project dealt with graphing comparison of different organisms and their DNA make-up. Becca attends Martin Luther King magnet school.

Mercedes Tiedemann (FCHS) and Kelsey Sutton (Webb School), both of Franklin County, reported on Tsunamis and the earthquakes that cause them, and Ben Fults of FCHS, explained “track warrants” and proposed various safety practices for trains. A report by Justice Wenzlick, CHS, and Shelby Stewart, FCHS, dealt with automotive engines while Katherine McConnell of FCHS focused on similarities and differences in human DNA and that of chimpanzees.

CHS’s Brittany Kriz, joined Chloe Davenport, FCHS, and Huntland’s Tommy Forrest in discussing effectiveness of drugs.