Talks covered topics ranging from climate change and the technology used to study patterns in climate science to space exploration and current studies in geosciences, presented by researchers, based on their most recent experiments and findings.

MOT Charter High School was one of two high schools in the country that attended the American Geophysical Union’s Fall 2018 Conference Dec. 11 in Washington, D.C.

Talks covered topics ranging from climate change and the technology used to study patterns in climate science to space exploration and current studies in geosciences, presented by researchers, based on their most recent experiments and findings.

All students attended the keynote speech given by James Balog, a photographer whose prior work documented changes in global ice over the past few decades, featured in the award-winning documentary “Chasing Ice.” His speech addressed health concerns, imminent effects of rising water levels on coastal communities, and how rising global temperatures impact the frequency and severity of wildfires. The talk showed how art can be used to not only study but also influence science and vice versa, with resonated well with MOT Charter students since they choose a focus of study in either the arts or science and technology.

Students had the opportunity to attend the exhibit hall and poster sessions, which allowed them to talk one-on-one with representatives from research institutions and universities. While interacting with NASA, NOAA, National Geographic, NSF, and the Naval Research Laboratories, to name a few, MOT students were able network with representatives from these institutions and learn more about research, advancements in technology, as well as learning about the larger applications of science to society.

Students also interacted with representatives from colleges and universities, learning about specific geoscience programs and the schools as a whole.

Highlights for students and teachers

Students and teachers shared what they thought were the most interesting and inspirational lessons from the conference.

“My favorite was the exhibit/poster hall and interacting with scientists and colleges,” said ninth grader Nathan Merrill. “NASA scientists and Naval research laboratories were two that I spent time talking to. James Balog’s talk was interesting, talking about his research with ice…. I still want to be an engineer and this conference inspired me to want to go to more professional conferences.”

Tenth grader Becca Wang said her parents work in the sciences and they present research at conferences and so it was interesting to see how a scientific conference works.

“At the poster session/exhibit hall, I enjoyed NASA – lots of technology right there to interact with and see how it applies to geosciences on Earth and other planets,” she said. “One group of scientists at the exhibit hall had permafrost that we actually got to see. By talking with the scientists at this station, I learned about life [microbe activity] in really old permafrost and how it survives.”

Seun Ogundimu, a ninth grader, said the trip was “amazing.”

“I learned about so many current developments in science and engineering like a machine that can detect things deep in the ground to make sure areas are safe for construction,” he said. “The keynote speech showed me how I can combine my love of photography and science together and really fueled my drive to start taking pictures of the amazing sciences and nature around us. I also realized the major need for an end to climate change as the photograph showed how bad life on Earth was becoming because of humans.”

Ogundimu said Balog’s keynote speech inspired him to promote changes in our communities and in the world, especially with his quote, “We are one storm away from being a part of history.”

“This really left me in a need to make a change as we are not only destroying the future but also the current day,” said Ogundimu. “Overall, the speaker influenced a change in my life and mindset that will push me throughout my science career.”

Tenth grader Serene Abiy said along with Balog’s information about the imminence of climate change, she appreciated the information at the conference about how she and fellow students can pursue careers that have an impact in that area.

“I really liked the various universities and organizations that showcased their science majors and science projects. I like that I had a better idea of what I am interested in such as environmental, biological and astronomical sciences,” Abiy said.

Caitlin Wrinn, an 11th grader, said the first-hand information about different careers was enlightening.

“This was really an eye-opening experience for me as far as my future career goes,” Wrinn said. “Being able to talk one-on-one with someone about their work and how they got there helped me understand far more than whatever else I could have gained from the trip. I was able to find different fields that related more to what I was interested in, like biogeology….The exhibition room was fun to visit, and it gave me a great chance to see different companies and the application of the sciences we learn about in school.”

MOT Charter physics teacher Scott Snell said he knew the students “have the makings of good scientists” and he was very proud to see them interacting with professionals noted for making great strides in their respective fields.

“Watching them speak to scientists and debate and discuss their research with great respect for both the scientists themselves and for their work only reinforced for me that the future of the scientific world will be in good hands when these kids are eventually at the helm,” said Snell.