Posted Date: 03/07/2018
The past few days have been the best experience that I have had in education. Since September, Jay Brown has been working on a research project looking at mosquito traps. I have a friend, Lee Cohnsteaedt, who is a Research Entomologist that works for the USDA in Manhattan and we got together and found a research project that Jay could work on. Jay has quantifying the damages that a specific type of mosquito trap, the CDC light trap, does to the mosquitos. This is important because tracking diseases is done by analyzing the RNA of the mosquitos and if they die, their RNA breaks down very quickly, making live samples optimal.
Jay has spent around 100 hours outside of school working on sorting, dehydrating, and analyzing hundreds if not thousands of mosquitos over the past few months. He made charts displaying his results. There are pages and pages of spreadsheets with his data with statistical analysis that he had to learn how to write formulas for. He learned statistics using the margin of error when reporting his results. For the last month he has been working on taking his results and making a presentation. The last 2 weeks have spent time practicing a 12 minute presentation that he presented on Wednesday.
This week was the American Mosquito Control Association National Conference in Kansas City at the Crown Center Convention Center. The USDA paid for Jay to attend and present his findings in the student competition consisting of 18 presenters. The term student competition is slightly misleading. Jay was not competing against other Sophomores or even high school students. Out of the 18 entered there was 2 undergrads and the rest were students working on their Masters and several Ph. D. candidates. There were students from across the US and even the world- we met a grad student who came all the way from Korea. Then there was Jay, a sophomore from Chantue Kansas, in his bow tie. He was punching outside his weight class.
Wednesday morning we left CHS at 4:30 AM to make it up in time for Jay to register and practice his presentation in the conference room and get set up. He was the first to present that day and there were around 3 dozen people in the room to hear his presentation. Many were initially surprised to see someone so young. Lee told us later that Jay was by far the youngest person to ever present at the national conference. If you have spent much time with Jay, you know that he is not lacking confidence and he was in great form for his presentation. Afterwards he opened himself to questions and excellently answered 7 or 8 questions from the judges and audience.
Wednesday afternoon, Lee, who is very well connected and informed, asked me if we were going to be returning Thursday for the closing banquet. I told him that I hadn’t planned on it. Then he said that he strongly suggested we come back and said that it would be great. Catching on to the not so subtle hints, I called Mr. Flaton at 8:00 on the drive home and asked if there was any way that I could get transportation and take Jay back up Thursday night. We got lucky and there was a single vehicle left so we left for Crown Center at 3:30.
Thursday night we were able to meet and talk with some very interesting and influential people. All were very impressed that a high school sophomore had presented. After meeting the Manager of the Asia region of a 400 year old Japanese pest control, we went to our seats for the banquet. After series of speakers and awards the Student competition awards were announced. Jay got 3rd place overall in the student division earing $500. He gave a short but gracious acceptance speech and brought the house down with a joke. After the banquet was over and people were talking more than a few people came over to congratulate Jay and express their hopes that he sticks with it and hopes to see him at next year's conference in Orlando, several even hinted at possible sponsorships. The night could not have been any better and even though we didn’t get home until just before 1:00 am Friday morning we both were filled with excitement, not tiredness.
All in all, this was the best educational experience that I have had a teacher. Seeing a seeing a student put in such dedication to a project outside of class time is amazing. It would have been impossible for this to have worked out without so many moving pieces coming together. Lee coming up with the perfect research and giving so much in time and resources. All of the teachers that allowed me to steal their time with Jay during school; Fox, Frederick, Holmes, Ward, Reed, Bishop and Hatcher have been flexible beyond what was fair for me to ask for. Mr. Holmes helped Jay understand some basic statistics that he could incorporate to the presentation. Mr. Holman and Mrs. Frederick came in and listened to Jay’s practice presentation and gave great feedback. Mr. Lawrence, Mr. Brown and Mr. Flaton allowed me to take Jay to the lab in Manhattan or Crown Center and made last second travel arrangements. There were many others who aided Jay in some way big or small over the past few months and we are both grateful.
I told many people over the past 2 days that I have the best job in education in the state and it is because so many people find value and importance in doing whatever they can to give our students the best opportunities- not just to succeed but meet their full potential. I just wanted to say thank you to any and everyone who had a role in making the last two days possible.
Gifted Facilitator, Adam Wilcox