Splendora High School is continuing to stress the importance of career and technical courses by bringing students in on a cutting edge program and innovation in science.
The multifaceted Biotechnology Program, which was funded with help of a grant approximately three years ago, allows students the opportunity to raise algae, as well as differing forms of bacteria for biofuels, pharmaceuticals and nutraceuticals.
“It’s fun, but smelly,” said Advanced Biotechnology student Caleb Enix. “It’s a really big learning experience and it really helped me figure out what I really want to do. It broadened my horizons.”
Many of Enix’s fellow students, including lab partner Addyson Angers, seem to agree. The student-built program is extremely unique in the opportunities and experience it provides and is the only high school laboratory of its kind in the nation.
The class serves approximately 100 students and has quickly cornered a market on providing research and products to organizations and corporations all over the world.
According to instructor Ron Riley, there is even a species being sent to India that is used for food products.
“These students come in with basic biology and chemistry knowledge and there is really nothing for us to lean on. Now people are leaning on us,” said Riley. “I always say that it is kind of like building an airplane while you are flying it.”
Despite the newness of the course, the success of the program is apparent and many of the students have become more enthusiastic than ever about their coursework in the program.
“We wanted something original and something that was cutting edge in biotech,” said Riley. “It’s been very satisfying for the kids and for the community. It’s all very hands-on and they are essentially learning by doing. They have fun, too. The student enthusiasm makes me more enthusiastic.”
According to Riley, the student excitement has escalated since the implementation of the program, which allows them to use sophisticated laboratory equipment to perform statistical analysis and practice various quality control techniques.
Students conduct investigations, both in the field and in the laboratory, to determine decision-making methods, including ethical and social decisions involved with the application of biotechnology to various forms of scientific technology.
“We do a lot of field testing for new products that are sent by various companies — places all over the world,” said Riley. “The kids are always excited to get a new experiment. Almost every time there is a new box on the desk, they are excited about it. I think as a whole, it really gives the students more respect for science and the impact they can have on it.”
The students in the program have also become acutely aware of the fact that they are participating in coursework and experiments that aren’t even a part of many college curriculums, thus putting them ahead in the field.
“There is a place in The Woodlands that offers a two-year biotech program and some of the kids have expressed interest in that,” said Riley, who adds that he has already seen a few of his students go on to do so. “This program is on par with some universities. Some have even come in and modeled their programs after this program.”
The program has also been included in various publications throughout the nation, highlighting the many accomplishments associated with the student research.
“We cover all the way from species selection to marketing and everything in between,” said Riley. “The kids research and see which direction the market is going. We approach a lot of bioethics and they learn the politics of this type of business so that they can go into the world with all of this different knowledge and these experiences and know how to approach it all.”
Photo: Splendora High School students Addyson Angers and Caleb Enix work in the district’s biotechnology lab, which works to produce and study algae.
View original article at: Biotech program inspires interest in science at Splendora ISD