By CRISTINA JANNEY
Eight students from South Korea peered into brightly colored test tubes and furiously scribbled observations during a week-long camp at Fort Hays State University.
The students are replicating experiments from research conducted by Dr. Arvin Cruz, FHSU chemistry teacher, on substances that might be used as conductors in solar panels.
The students taking part in this Kansas Academy of Mathematics and Sciences camp are 16 to 17 years old and from the Daejeon High School for the Gifted in Daejeon, South Korea.
“They are very passionate,” Cruz said during a KAYS Morning Show interview. “We started [Wednesday], and they are very dedicated and almost all of them indicated they wanted to go into some area of science as a profession.”
Cruz said this can be a recruiting tool for FHSU, but more importantly it is a way to interest more students in going into the sciences as a profession.
“A lot of this is science awareness,” Cruz said. “The future of science lies in these young kids. That is why we devote a lot of our time engaging them and having global partnerships, mainly for recruitment in STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics).”
Cruz said one student who studied with the program several years ago has now been admitted to a university in South Korea to study quantum knots, which is the subject on which the students in the KAMS program are conducting their experiments this summer.
The students in the exchange participate in a selection process, and only the best of the best are selected to come to the U.S. Cruz said he thinks that has made the program even more successful.
Soyoung Lee, South Korean chemistry teacher and one of the students’ sponsors, said the work is allowing the students to understand chemistry’s broader effects on mankind.
She said, with fellow sponsor and English teacher Myoung Hee Choi translating, the students may continue their studies in another field, but they are learning the research process through their experiments with Dr. Cruz.
Lee said the students are not working toward a grade — they are not competing — so they can try new things and experience science just for the sake of learning.
In addition to learning aspects of chemistry and research, the students are also being immersed in the English language.
“Instead of just learning from texts, they are able to express themselves in English. They can communicate,” Choi said. “It has been a challenge even for me.”
This exchange began three years ago with chemistry students from the U.S. also traveling to South Korea. Although no U.S. students were able to go abroad this year, the South Korean students have continued to take advantage of FHSU’s hospitality.
In the evenings the students have been experiencing the Hays community, including a night out bowling. They also will tour FHSU’s Sternberg Museum and Exploration Place in Wichita.
Since all three years of the exchange have focussed on alternative sources of energy, the students last year toured Greensburg and were able to see how that community has made the transition to green energy.
“They were so excited about how it re-established itself,” Cruz said.
Both South Korean teachers said they wished to thank FHSU and everyone involved with the students for making the camp possible. The students will be headed home on July 16.