Math Science Workshop at PUC

By Amy Bauer-Heald on December 18, 2007

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Academy students from throughout Northern and Central California recently attended the 37th annual Math Science Workshop hosted by Pacific Union College. During the last weekend of February, more than 100 students participated in demonstrations highlighting the fields of math, biology, chemistry, physics, and computer science.

Sitting in the chemistry classroom waiting for a presentation to begin, Max Keller, from PUC Preparatory School, echoed a sentiment shared by many of the visiting students: “There is so much to learn. It goes too fast!” In the course of the afternoon, Max’s group of about 30 students participated in three of the Workshop’s five presentations, each one organized by a different department.

Bill Hemmerlin, professor of chemistry, is excited about what the Workshop offers students. One benefit of the weekend is the opportunity to see what college life is really like. PUC students in white lab coats lined the back of the chemistry classroom, and they did more than simply provide beakers and pour solutions, “The instructors model for the academy kids what this is all about,” says Hemmerlin.

Like the other departments—which had students taking polygraph tests and rolling dice to simulate the spread of contagious diseases—chemistry sought to involve the students in hands-on activities. Given a random sample of copper, students were shown how to determine the sample’s mass without using a scale. The goal was to highlight exciting aspects of the discipline, while showing how classroom knowledge is applicable in today’s world.

“Our demonstration involves what we call wet chemistry—lots of smoke and colors—stuff that gets their attention. But we’ve also tried to combine it with the use of up-to-date technology so the students see how computers are a part of chemistry,” said Hemmerlin.

Student reaction was positive. “It’s been fun getting to know the teachers at PUC, since I may be coming here next year,” said Faith Patricio from Rio Lindo Academy, a senior who plans to study nursing in college.

Sunday’s afternoon presentations were followed by an evening banquet and science demonstration, starring several faculty members. On Monday, visiting academy students were encouraged to observe several college classes, from calculus to computer architecture.

Before returning to their respective schools on Monday evening, the academy visitors evaluated the Workshop. Joanna Nichola, from Rio Lindo, says she isn’t necessarily planning to major in the sciences when she gets to college. But “it’s a good experience,” she said. “I’ve enjoyed gaining knowledge.”