To the Editor:
The Math Thesis program is one of the above and beyond programs offered at Oak Ridge High School. Aimed at providing research opportunities for high school students, the program pairs students with a mentor at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, either as individuals or as teams. The students define a project with their mentor and conduct research over the summer. Then the students write a paper about their results.
One of the places they submit their results is the Siemens National Math and Science Competition. This year, a total of 2,255 students participated in the Siemens Competition, with a total of 1,504 submitted projects.
Of the 1,504 projects submitted, 30 teams and 30 individuals have been selected as regional finalists across the country. That’s right, a total of 60 projects out of more than 1,500, split evenly between teams and individuals.
This year, two of the 30 finalist teams are from Oak Ridge High School. Three other ORHS students were recognized as semifinalists. Wow.
Oak Ridge High School’s record at the Siemens Competition is nothing short of incredible. Six teams advance from the regional competitions each year. ORHS teams have advanced to the national level competition four times and have won the national competition twice. No other high school in the country has as many students recognized by the Siemens Foundation as Oak Ridge.
Most importantly, this is a story about the village. The individual students work hard, no doubt, but they didn’t get there by themselves. The thesis program was dreamed of, designed, and built by a teacher, a teacher who was empowered and backed by the school system. Other teachers have and are carrying the program forward. Even more teachers are responsible for preparing the students over time to be in a position to compete.
ORNL supports the program with workspace and resources. Each mentor contributes expertise and guidance, and each is actively engaged with the students, a task that is not part of their regular work. Whether students advance in the competition or not, this opportunity is priceless!
So, gratitude to: Benita Albert for conceiving of and implementing the program; Karl Flatau, Tammy Carneim, and Jessica Williams for carrying it forward; the Board of Education for supporting the program; ORNL for generously providing mentoring staff and research opportunities; each mentor for investing time and energy; and the countless individuals who contribute to the opportunity for the students, regardless of the outcomes. It matters.
Finally, congratulations to regional finalists Kyoung-A Cho, Yu (Samantha) Wang, Jim Andress, and A.J. Toth, and to regional semifinalists Neall Caughman, Megan Kelly, and Patrick Williams.