Native American High Schoolers Take on Engineering and Science
With support from a National Science Foundation grant, Bernie Van Wie, Washington State University professor in the School of Chemical Engineering and Bioengineering, is showing high school students from underrepresented groups, including students at the Nixyàawii Charter High School near Pendleton, Oregon, how to build environmental nanosensors that detect heavy metals and other pollutants in lakes and streams surrounding Native lands. The students learn about fabricating sensors at the nanoscale, then build electrodes, coat them with a sensitive membrane, and use a simple hand-held voltmeter to measure concentrations in various water samples. By interacting with graduate students doing cutting edge research and by placing learning in a societal and environmental context, researchers hope to pique the interest of the students in how engineering, science and a college education can help them solve important problems in their communities. And how do the students feel about the work? “Science rocks,” said one student.