How To Get Your High School Kids Interested In Science, Without Them Knowing It

 Me, at age 15, soldering Me, at age 15, soldering
When I entered high school, I didn’t know that I wanted to advance in the fields of science and technology. Looking back on that transition now, after taking multiple accelerated science courses and as a soon-to-be college student, I can see how I was guided towards exploring these fields. I started learning the basics of scientific exploration almost unknowingly.
Some of these memories include looking at a map from the backseat of my mom’s car while trying to navigate to a geocache. This is an outdoor recreational activity where people use a GPS to hide and find containers. I also remember playing with chemistry sets in our basement and (safely, and under the supervision of my parents, of course) blowing up hydrogen gas we collected in a test tube in our basement, check out the video. These are among the first experiences that introduced me to the scientific world around me. I became interested in exploring and learning topics in these subjects, and my curiosity only increased as time went on.
A question I am often asked, whether it’s during alumni interviews or during family gatherings, is “if you could change one thing about your high school education, what would it be?” My answer is for more diverse topics to covered in classes. Having a foundation in a variety of areas is what has helped me to become comfortable taking on new challenges, overcoming obstacles, and solving problems.
 Our team of physics students with the completed trebuchet Our team of physics students with the completed trebuchet
A story I like to share with peers interested in physics or to people inquiring how students become interested in STEM fields is my trebuchet project. I had three weeks to launch a pumpkin with my team. I think I would have freaked out freshman year if a teacher had told me I had three weeks to build a trebuchet. However, as upperclassmen, we jumped into the project. We drafted a design, bought materials at a hardware store, and began construction. From pouring a concrete mold for a counterweight to laying out specifically cut pieces of wood, we slowly made progress. We had viewed several videos on how other people had built pumpkin launchers, and after experimenting with our own we transported it to our school for launch day! With little oversight (aside from using power tools, of course) and a half-page rubric, four juniors threw a pumpkin 48 meters.
It’s a simple story, but I think it gets the point across. I see students, from the freshman in the hallways walking to biology to little kids playing with intricate apps on their phones, and I can only hope that our system of education incites a desire to explore into fields of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). My love for science is still evolving, and I like to look back fondly on my memories of how my family and education have guided me towards my current and future achievements. Here’s to hoping the future holds, even more, adventures inspired by creativity in such fields.
~Nathan Thomas
Senior at Shaker High School in Albany, NY