Now, we have a space (old storage room) in between our Chem-Phys classrooms, where students can do work, but also relax during a free period to relieve stress. There is also an old (dating back to the 1960s), relatively small lab section that is mostly unused at the moment, behind the Theory Center section.
We want to upgrade this space, and transform it into a modernized Research Center for ETHS students. The working name for this is The Center for the Advancement of Basement Science, which is where CABS comes from.This space would allow opportunities for training and original work outside of professional labs, such as what are potentially available at Northwestern University.
But I have big ideas for this, beyond just ETHS students
doing some projects.
1) ETHS Research Opportunities: Yes, up to now, the past five or six decades has seen hundreds of student research projects and submissions to national contests. But these have all been done, almost to a person, by students in the Chem-Phys Program. And this is because the teachers who have dedicated large amounts of time to research have been the Chem-Phys teachers. A dedicated space for science research would allow students from any other classes to try something of interest, and also without the need of a professional lab. This may be in experimental work, if we are able to get the upgrades completed; or in the analysis of countless online datasets from various fields of STEM (such as those ETHS students have accessed in the past in astrophysics research); or in computational work, where students either write their own code for simulations or make use of professional packages for simulation research. The latter two types of projects are done in the computer portion of the facility. Yet another interesting possibility to develop is for some experiments that may need certain equipment that is not common in high schools - we can collect datasets and make those available, or even try to create several remote experiments where students can access the hardware online and collect data, much like our iLab radioactivity lab run out of Queensland, Australia.
2) Development and Publication of Research Questions & Resources for ALL: The most difficult part of the research process at any level, but particularly at the beginning high school level, is finding novel, doable research questions and ideas for students to work on. The vast majority of schools around the country (and globally) DO NOT have access to professional labs and expertise, nor equipment, to do advanced research. The thing is, there are a large number of possible original projects that can be done with basic, cheap, easily accessible materials, but most don't know about it.
We will develop these project ideas and research questions in the CABS facility, as well as online resources that will teach others how to do the research, so they can take it on.
We already have interest from numerous professors and graduate students at NU and other institutions, who will help with the development of research questions, research techniques that are doable at the high school level, analytical tools and how to videos, ask a scientist resources, accessibility to online datasets and databases (and how to videos for access/analysis of those datasets), accessibility to online simulation packages and appropriate resources, and working with ETHS students so they may develop some of the resources and even collaborate with peers at other schools to teach them how to do the research. This will be especially relevant and important for rural and inner-city schools.
For teachers at these other schools who do not have research backgrounds and want to learn or develop new programs for their schools, we want to provide resources for them, too.
We are not aware of anything available at the high school level that would provide resources for research at such an extensive level.
I want ETHS and our students to lead the way for the tens of thousands of schools that do not participate in the highest level contests to have that opportunity - all that is required are a few curious students who want to try research, but have no idea how to go about it. We will help! This could affect schools around the nation and ultimately around the world! Yes, I want to go global with this eventually! I am fortunate to be involved with national and global education groups, with many colleagues interested in getting their schools into real science research!
We have collaborators lining up at universities, national labs, local STEM industries, and national organizations such as the Society for Science and the Public (SSP) that administers the Science Talent Search, to help develop these resources and online platform, and we are trying to get the funding necessary to make it happen. This movement also provides a unique outreach option for those professional research groups looking for funding, such as required by the National Science Foundation (NSF).
3) A modern Communications System: To take this national and to go global with this work, a good communications platform is needed within the CABS facility. Whether it is communicating online with NU personnel as our high school students learn how to access data or do analysis, or having our trained students and teachers work with other students and teachers at other schools we are helping or collaborating with, or whether we are working on other projects with sister schools around the world (my classes already are working with schools in Australia and Malawi, and new efforts are in the works with schools/NGOs in India, with many more possibilities brewing).
The hope is by having our Chem-Phys classes take the initial lead in these efforts, we will get more of our own students from other classes interested, excited and involved in any and all aspects of what is being described here. I am hopeful that this will help get more students of color and girls involved in more advanced STEM activities, and possibly even enrolled in Chem-Phys or our standalone AP Chemistry and Physics classes, as well as AP Calculus and Computer Science classes. I am hopeful that by working globally, our students and community becomes at least globally aware of various issues, and possibly even work on the notion of having our students evolve into global citizens - gaining insights and understanding of other cultures, our similarities and differences, and actually communicating and sharing and learning from each other as we collaborate. This is how it already works at the professional levels of STEM, and to have this experience while still in high school is so important.
Yes, this is all quite ambitious, but I firmly believe entirely possible!! Let's give it a go by developing the facility and resources necessary to make it happen - to have ETHS become a national and global leader in the way high school science works!!