Two local high schools receive science grants

ALTON — Some students in Northern New England received a surprise this holiday season, as they learned that their class was one of eight winners in S. W. Cole Engineering, Inc.'s third annual Dig Into Science contest held during the latter portion of 2013.

The company made surprise presentations to schools across Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont. Announced in September, the contest asked students in first through 12th grade to create a video in which they interviewed a person who worked in one of the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields. The prize for each winning class received a $1,000 stipend to attend a science, engineering or math-related field trip.

After choosing the winning videos from a pool of approximately 50 entries, S. W. Cole worked with the principal of each school to make the announcements in front of the winning class as well as other students in the school. This year's winners are: Ann Smith's Fifth Grade Math Class at Matthew Thornton School, Londonderry, Vicky Sweezy's AP Biology Class at Prospect Mountain High School, Alton, Bailey Bergeron's Period Six Class at Dover Middle School, Dover, David McDonald's Block 3 STEM Class at Belmont High School in Belmont. Three additional schools in Maine and one school in Vermont were awarded the prize as well.

Teachers and students alike noted the benefits of participating in the contest. Zach Mayo, one of the students in the winning class at Prospect Mountain High School in Alton, explained how entering the contest helped him learn about a topic he may not have had the opportunity to study otherwise. His class interviewed an intern at the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services about milfoil, a type of invasive species that has affected some lakes in the region. "I didn't know how bad the problem was, especially in Lake Winnipesaukee, until we started researching it," said Mayo.

Zach's teacher, Vicky Sweezy, hoped that the experience has given Zach and his classmates knowledge that they will use after they graduate. "Making this video was a great learning experience that's preparing them for things they are going to encounter in the working world, and college," said Sweezy.

"We were pleased with the response and quite impressed with the enthusiasm, creativity and hard work that all the students put into their videos," said Bob Chaput, P.E., Senior Vice President at S. W. Cole Engineering, Inc. S. W. Cole Engineering, Inc.'s President, Paul Kohler, P.E., explained that the firm has a long tradition of promoting the engineering and science professions.

"Our founder, Stephen Cole, P.E., has always encouraged our employees to be involved in professional organizations," he said. "The company has a 34-year history of hiring engineering and science students, part time and seasonally, to gain practical experience, and many of them are still with us. Our hope is that this contest encourages students to consider the engineering and science professions."