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University professors help high school students

Posted 7/2/2008

Discover Your Future participants learn technology, engineering and science

RENO -- The University of Nevada, Reno knows how important it is for high school students to continue their education at the next level. Several professors at the University didn’t hesitate to help some teens gain a better perspective about classes and college life.

Representing science, engineering and technology, about 12 of the University’s faculty volunteered for the College Tracks session of Discover Your Future, a weeklong 4-H program for teens interested in college, held June 15-19.

Students attended three three-hour class sessions in their major field of interest. On the last day, students from the three fields gave presentations to fellow participants and faculty, showing them how they took advantage of the instruction. Students also got a glimpse of possible career options at the career fair.

"We wanted to expose them to different careers and fields of study," Warren Andersen, 4-H military and technology assistant, said. "They learn to work well together and expand their horizons as they hopefully find interest in a career."

Geography instructor Patrick Guiberson worked with the technology group and introduced GPS navigation to the students. They used the device to track and map Frisbees they threw across the lower quad. In the final part of the exercise, Guiberson helped the students create maps in the computer lab.

"We used the GPS equipment to mark locations outside and then take that info and put it on the computer," Guiberson said. "Hopefully when they learn about this technology, they realize it’s not just for geography majors. Education is not just in books. You have to get your feet wet."

College of Education professor David Thomas gave the technology group its first lesson of the week. Thomas gave a brief introduction on the history of mathematics and then segued into remote sensing.

"We have something better than sand and sticks," Thomas said about technology and math. "We have something that’s free - GeoGebra (a program used to test axioms)."

Thomas also let students experiment with models that test certain scenarios, like AIDs or wildfires, over a period of time.

"What’s happening is they’re all getting infected," Thomas said after generating a 50-week simulation of the AIDS model into three minutes. "How could you use this model to describe this terrible problem? You can see what is most effective in preventing spreading of the disease. This has huge social implications."

The science group had some hands-on experiences when they dissected a sheep’s eye and heart. The students also learned about economics, which was useful to describe the concerns with the present economy.

"It gives us some prediction on what will happen," resource economics instructor Mike Price said about using models. "As an experiment in practice, we don’t know if we suspend taxes (on gasoline). So many things influence the decisions we make. We don’t know everything that’s going to happen. We don’t know how your parents or consumers will respond to suspended taxes."

Students were also exposed to the University’s Seismology Lab and learned about the recent swarm of earthquakes in the Truckee Meadows. They also maneuvered robots and toured the heat and cooling plants.

A waiting list for next year’s program has already started after Discover Your Future attracted the largest student numbers in its three years. For more information, contact your local Cooperative Extension office, or Steve Schafer at 775-784-6207.

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