Sunday, December 21, 2014

COBBS: OHS puts science efforts to the test

By RYAN COBBS, Ottawa High School principal | 1/13/2014

High schools across the nation recently have seen a tremendous push for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) programs. Ottawa High School has been increasing its opportunities and expectations of students in an effort to ensure they have the capabilities to compete in an academic and industrial world in which STEM is becoming an ever increasing standard. I would like to take this opportunity to discuss just a few of the programs impacting our students through our science curriculum.

• Quarknet Cosmic Ray Muon Detector (CRMD) — Science teacher James Deane has been in partnership with the University of Kansas, Kansas State University and Quarknet to extend his own professional learning and be able to share his expertise with our students. Quarknet is a program that helps bring particle physics lessons and research into the high school physics classroom. The CRMD is on loan through Quarknet and is built from components designed and made by scientists and engineers at Fermilab. Deane initially is seeking student volunteers to participate in an extra-curricular program to set up, calibrate and run the CRMD. This is only the second operational CRMD run by Quarknet in the state of Kansas. The CRMD will be used in all junior- and senior-level physics classes in the future, coordinating student research teams to investigate questions having to do with cosmic rays and particle physics. Furthermore, the program will offer opportunities for our students to collaborate with research groups from other schools and universities through the Quarknet e-Lab online data system.

• K-State Engineering Day at OHS — Science teacher Kathy Egbert coordinated this activity to expose students to engineering methods and careers. On Oct. 15, Kansas State University engineering students led OHS students in 12 classes through one of two engineering activities in which students made and tested systems, participated in engineering-style revision and troubleshooting and competed against one another.  

• K-State Quarknet Masterclass — Deane sponsors an opportunity in particle physics hosted by the Kansas State University physics department. In the program, K-State researchers, professors and graduate students work with high school students and teachers to learn how to analyze data from the Large Hadron Collider at CERN or other high-energy physics data sets. Our students analyze this data to identify properties of subatomic particles using similar methods and technology as current particle physicists. This day also includes tours of the facilities and physics demonstrations. This year’s Masterclass is set for April 4.

• Partnership with Ottawa University — We have been in conversations with Ottawa University to develop a pre-engineering program to coincide with OU’s exploration of a new engineering program. Deane, science teacher Janet Prather and math teacher Kristi Miller will be working with the university to develop standards and curriculum for a high school level engineering program that would prepare students not only for the bachelor’s program at OU, but engineering programs across the state and throughout the nation. We are looking at implementing this program at OHS in fall 2015 after we can develop a scope and sequence of events and expectations.

The purpose of this column is to help draw attention to just a few of the great things our teachers are providing for the students at our school. We’ve had a great deal of discussion about our facilities during the past few months, especially with regard to our science facilities. Although we provide many great opportunities for our students to extend and showcase their learning, just think of the possibilities that would lie ahead of the students at OHS if our facilities truly allowed us to explore the sciences in the 21st century. 

Dr. Ryan Cobbs is principal at Ottawa High School. Email him at or call (785) 229-8020.

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