Teaching, Learning & Technology
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Sparking a Passion for Science in High School – Ashley’s Story

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Ashley Rosales loves science, and she believes clean energy has to be our future. What sparked her passion?

In high school, Ashley and her classmates accessed “cool science” experiments from iLab Central, a project of the Northwestern University Office of STEM Education Partnerships, supported by the HP Catalyst Initiative. These sophisticated science labs are remotely accessible from hundreds or thousands of miles away. These aren’t online simulations – they provide students access to real equipment, where they collect real (and sometimes “messy”) data, and there’s an extra benefit - real inspiration.

Ashley graduated from Lakes Community High School and now attends Southern Illinois University where she is majoring in Environmental Studies. Highlights from my recent conversation with her are posted below with her permission. Many thanks to Ashley for taking the time to share her story!








Jim Vanides, B.S.M.E, M.Ed.

Global Education Program Manager

Sustainability & Social Innovation



Follow me on Twitter @jgvanides



JGV: Think back to when you were 12 or 13 years old (before you started High School) How would you describe yourself academically? Were you always interested in science?

AR:Before high school, I was always had very high academic achievement. I really loved school and excelled through middle school. I was interested in science but it all seemed kind of boring to me. I was definitely more into English and reading before I got to high school.

JGV: When did you first experience using an iLab?

AR: I first experienced an iLab when I was a senior in high school and had the chance to use them as a lab TA for the science department. I liked the labs so much that my teacher decided to use them in my AP bio class.

JGV: How was this experience different from the typical science classes you have taken?

AR: The experience was different because it was so much more interesting. Being able to have that kind of technology in a high school classroom was awesome. It really helped fuel my interest in a variety of sciences and showed that science is an exciting subject. When I got to college and enrolled in my first chemistry lab, I was much more comfortable using the advanced equipment after being exposed to the iLabs in high school.
JGV: What made your iLab experience so special?

AR: It was really a great experience be exposed to other science fields; it was cool being exposed to things that other students don’t always get to do; getting to see and use really advanced equipment pushed me to learn more; when I got to college and enrolled in my first chemistry lab, I found myself more comfortable doing the labs and using advanced equipment.

JGV: Congratulations on your launch into higher education! Now that you have completed your 1st year at Southern Illinois University, what are your academic plans or specific areas of interest

AR: I am currently a Biology major, with a focus on Environment and Ecology; I want to study infectious disease science to work at a place like the Center for Disease Control (CDC) or I want to focus on clean energy and sustainability.

JGV: Sounds very exciting! Why did you choose those areas of study?

AR: I chose those areas of study because I am all about a brighter future. I think that humans in general need to have a bigger focus on our environment and our planet and taking steps to ensure future generations. I would love to be a part of “saving the earth” and our natural resources! Also, infectious disease in third world countries goes hand in hand with a healthier environment and I would love to work with connecting environmental science with disease management.

JGV: Looking back at high school, what word of encouragement do you have for young women who are curious but unsure about taking science courses?

AR: I say go for it! You never know what you might be interested in and you won’t know until you try.

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About the Author
Jim Vanides is responsible for the vision, strategy, design, and implementation of education technology innovation initiatives. His focus is...

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