High school students dive into AF research before starting college

Wright Scholars pose on the tail of a C-17 at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. The Wright Scholar Program at Wright-Patterson provides opportunities for high schoolers to explore and learn more about engineering, pre-medical sciences and other science, technology, engineering and math disciplines. (Courtesy photo)
Caption
Wright Scholars pose on the tail of a C-17 at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. The Wright Scholar Program at Wright-Patterson provides opportunities for high schoolers to explore and learn more about engineering, pre-medical sciences and other science, technology, engineering and math disciplines. (Courtesy photo)

The Wright Scholar Program at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base is one of the most unique opportunities for high schoolers to explore and learn more about engineering, pre-medical sciences and other science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) disciplines. Just to put in perspective how significant this program is, think about what it takes to become a researcher working at Wright-Patt. It takes years of education – undergraduate, graduate and often doctorate-level education.

Explorehttps://www.daytondailynews.com/news/usafsam-instructors-bring-hands-experience-classroom/TzXb0o3IvxYlREKZHWTnRN/

The Wright Scholar Program allows top high school students to dive into the research before starting their college education. Students selected for this program are each assigned a mentor, an established Air Force Research Laboratory scientist/engineer, who then guides the student through his or her research project.

The Wright Scholar Program stands out from other internships and summer programs because it involves research for the Air Force. This means that instead of being limited to one field such as biology, scholars have access to a vast range of research fields. There aren’t many places where researchers are studying how to use graphene to detect biomarkers and designing next-generation fighter jets just down the street from one another.

Student participants range from those who are familiar with research to those who have never stepped foot inside a lab, but this diversity of participants only adds to the distinction of the Wright Scholar program.

The most popular individual events Wright Scholars participated in during the course of the summer included the interactive workshop at Ohio State University’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and a tour of the U.S. Air Force Center for Sustainment of Trauma and Readiness Skills at University Hospital Cincinnati.

At OSU, Wright Scholars were given the chance to build rudimentary speaker circuits and induction circuits. It was captivating to see students with different levels of familiarity regarding electrical engineering, work side-by-side to participate in this workshop, while laughing, learning and helping one another.

Different from the electrical engineering workshop, the C-STARS tour at University Hospital Cincinnati was a highly anticipated event for Wright Scholars interested in biomedical and pre-medical careers, as well as a riveting experience for their peers interested in other STEM disciplines. This tour gave Wright Scholars a chance to see how medical research and military protocol are interwoven in the real world in the form of a unique training unit that can be utilized by a range of medical professions to enhance their abilities to treat patients in combat zones and Air Force medical facilities.

Wright Scholars were also provided an opportunity to converse with military and civilian trauma surgeons during lunch, giving them a chance to talk face-to-face with healthcare professionals.

The C-STARS tour and OSU workshop were just two of the many distinct events Wright Scholars could participate in, and their stark differences only exemplify the diverse number of activities offered for a diverse group of young students.

What is the Wright Scholar Research Assistant Program really all about? It involves working in AFRL on an individual research project under the guidance of a specialized mentor. Wright Scholars are rarely treated as just students but rather as contributing researchers with their own responsibilities and obligations.

Scholars are introduced to a unique topic of interest at the beginning of the summer and, for nine weeks, learn about and implement various research procedures, gather data, make observations and become proficient in their areas of study.

Hands-on participation and extensive mentorship allow scholars to not only learn about new areas of study, but also to make an impact by providing a helpful hand in legitimate research.

When asked what a professional working experience was like, Bellbrook High School student Rachel Kahler responded, “Overall, the experience was very humbling to be working directly with people who had masters and doctorates, and I learned to interact with those professionals, which I’m sure will benefit me later on in life.”