(Front L-R) Sharon Pitts, teacher, Calhoun County H.S.; Cassandra Westfall, Calhoun County H.S.; Hannah Marie Conley, Calhoun County H.S.; Kathryn Belfiore, Mount View H.S

(Back L-R) Anne B. Pope, ARC Federal Co-Chair; Ron Townsend, President, Oak Ridge Associated Universities (ORAU); Martha Hammond, program manager, ORAU; Wayne Stevenson, director, Science/Engineering Education (ORISE)

OAK RIDGE, Tenn. -- Summer break usually means hanging out at the pool or the mall for many high school students, and taking a well-earned rest from their teachers.

But this summer, a select group of students and teachers from the Appalachian region traded the food court and the hammock for lab coats and supercomputers as they spent two weeks learning from world class scientists at the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

Calhoun teacher Sharon Pitts and two Calhoun High School students, Hannah Conley and Cassandra Westfall attended the workshop.

Calhoun students were nominated by Gov. Bob Wise and chosen by ARC based on their academic and leadership potential. Teachers were selected for their dedication to teaching.

This elite group of 33 students and 20 teachers from 12 of the 13 Appalachian states broke out of the normal summer routine courtesy of the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC)/Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) 2004 Math-Science-Technology Institute.

Now in its 15th year, the institute, which ran July 10- 23, is a partnership between ARC and ORNL and is administered by the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education. The science camp allows educators and students from small, rural towns to live together, push their science and technology skills and even have some fun, all in the high-tech heart of Appalachia—Oak Ridge, Tennessee.

At this year's institute, students divided into teams for a wide range of scientific and technical projects, from designing and building robots, to capturing and releasing snails, to evaluating Internet-based heating and cooling controls.

One team learned about designing and building functioning Web sites by creating a site about the ARC/ORNL Institute.

"I am very privileged to spend a part of my summer with such captivating young men and women my age from all areas of the East," said Roxanne Eckstein, 17, a senior at Sheridan High School in Millersport, Ohio. "I grew in ways much more than math, science and technology combined."

The teachers also worked with ORNL scientists on a number of high-tech experiments, from conducting climate-related soil studies, to using cutting-edge microbiology equipment, to building supercomputers, and evaluating high-energy, magnetic equipment.

In addition to the research experience at ORNL, participants also tackled a ropes course at nearby Maryville College, toured the University of Tennessee's School of Veterinary Medicine and School of Engineering, and enjoyed time at the American Museum of Science and Energy in Oak Ridge, the Lost Sea in Sweetwater, and Ripley's Aquarium in Gatlinburg.

These and other educational and cultural opportunities in East Tennessee provided the group with information about both higher education opportunities and the economic impact of business and industry on the region.