VINTON–Students from William Byrd High School who also attend the Roanoke Valley Governor’s School for Science and Technology (RVGS) participated in the annual Student Project Forum on February 6.
The Governor’s School is a specialized regional center for the advanced study of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) for students in grades 9-12.
The forum is a somewhat intensified version of a science fair. During an “Intersession” of about three weeks in January, Governor’s School students focus full-time on a research project which they then present for judging at the forum. Their work is done at the school, but may also involve community resources off-campus.
Projects are categorized into several divisions, including animal and plant sciences, behavioral and social sciences, biomedical and health sciences, cellular chemistry and molecular biology, computational biology and bioinformatics/mathematics, earth and environmental sciences, embedded systems/systems software, physical and chemical energy, engineering mechanics, environmental engineering, materials science, microbiology, physics and astronomy, and robotics and intelligent machines.
The event was held at Patrick Henry High School in Roanoke on the campus where the Governor’s School is located.
Students set up their projects in the morning, which were then judged by panels of professionals from the community. The public was invited to review the projects once the judging was complete. An assembly followed to announce the winners and to award cash prizes: $50 for first place, $40 for second, and $30 for third. There were also such recognitions as “Most Promising Project for Future Research,” “Most Outstanding Presentation,” and “Most Enthusiastic.”
Students from WBHS and their projects included Reilly Hatfield with her Behavioral and Social Sciences project: “The Effect of Learning Style and Ethnicity on Facial Recognition.” She partnered with Allison Henion from Cave Spring.
In the Computational Biology and Bioinformatics/mathematics division, Stephen Olsen studied “The Effect of Tragic Events on Tourism” based on recent events in Paris.
Richard Qiu tied for first place in the Embedded Systems/Systems Software A division for his project entitled “A Control Circuit to Sense and Maintain Environmental Carbon Dioxide Concentration.”
Luke Johnston won second place in that same division for “A Device to Diagnose Pronation.”
Hunter Locke teamed with Logan Brand from Hidden Valley, to win second place in the Embedded Systems/Systems Software B category for “Automated Medication Dispensing System.”
Meagan Webb tied for third place in the Engineering Mechanics A division for her project “Device for Easily Lifting Fallen People.”
Ryan Buxton also entered the Engineering Mechanics A category with “Using Additions to Reduce the Drag Coefficient of Passenger Vehicles.”
Ryan James researched “The Inexpensive Dual-Flush Toilet” in the Environmental Engineering B division.
Joshua Tate placed third in the Materials Science category with “The Effect of Tessellated Infill Designs on Compressive Strength.”
Abbey Ingram presented “The Effect of Zinc Pyrithione on the Bioluminescence Inhibition of V. fischeri” in the Microbiology B division.
The RVGS was established 30 years ago in 1985 as a cooperative effort of seven regional school districts to improve education in math and science. It is one of Virginia’s nineteen regional Governor’s Schools.
Director Dr. John Kowalski said that the establishment of the RVGS allowed the school systems involved to pool their resources to the advantage of all.
This year the RVGS serves 269 students in seven school divisions including Roanoke, Botetourt, Craig, Bedford, and Franklin Counties, and the cities of Roanoke and Salem. Students come from William Byrd, Patrick Henry, William Fleming, Cave Spring, Hidden Valley, Northside, Glenvar, Salem, Craig County, Franklin County, James River, Lord Botetourt, Liberty, and Staunton River high schools.
Students apply for positions in what is a competitive process. Each school division has a specific number of student slots at the school. The number of open slots each year for each division is determined by the number of students from that division who graduate and any additional students who do not return.
Each school division selects its own students to attend the RVGS. A regional meeting is held in the spring to review the individual students selected at the division level.
Students attend the Governor’s School for half of the day taking their math and science courses, including Advanced Placement and dual enrollment classes, and the research elective which results in the forum project. All other classes are taken at the students’ home schools. For the most part, Roanoke City students attend in the afternoon; other school divisions are in the morning sessions.
Parents do not pay a fee for their students to attend. Costs are covered by the school districts and the Virginia Department of Education.
The RVGS says that most students find their schedules to be different than that at their home school. The pace is faster; there are many different methods of evaluation used by the faculty; and the computers and scientific equipment are state-of-the-art. There are specialty labs for biotechnology, environmental sciences, chemical instrumentation, and geographic information systems. The engineering lab contains a computer-interfaced wind tunnel, stress/strain testing apparatus, a milling machine, a 3-D printer, and laser engraving/cutter apparatus.
There is emphasis on labs and hands-on learning, as well as time management, study skills, and college preparation.
While the curriculum is fast-paced, many students find the atmosphere more relaxed with close relationships formed between students and faculty serving as instructors and mentors. Students, teachers, and administrators are expected “to be open to innovative instructional practices that are essential for growth and learning.”
One of their “Belief Statements” says that “the process of education is more than the accumulation of facts.” Another emphasizes that “teaching and learning involve the establishment of interconnections between and among disciplines.”
More information is available on the RVGS and its programs at www.rvgs.k12.va.us.
Students who participate in the Governor’s School Project Forum may also enter a variety of science fairs at the regional, state, and international levels. The Roanoke County Science Fair for all secondary students is coming up at William Byrd Middle School on February 27.