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Department of Physics Chair Mark S. Boley interacts with regional high school students at Western.
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A unique opportunity at Western gives regional high school students an opportunity to conduct research and experimentation in a college laboratory. (Photographs by the WIU Visual Production Center)
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WIU Department of Physics Collaborates with Tri-State High Schools

November 16, 2016

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MACOMB, IL – A unique collaboration between the Western Illinois University College of Arts and Sciences Department of Physics and tri-state area high schools is providing valuable laboratory experiences for high school students, as well as a student recruitment opportunity for the University.

The program, in place since 2009, was initiated by WIU Department of Physics Chair Mark S. Boley with students from five area high schools. This year, students from at least 14 high schools will visit WIU to conduct physics experiments and learn more about the scientific facilities and programs available on campus.

This week, students from Lewistown and Athens high schools visited campus to conduct experiments with video-captured projectile motion and the ballistic pendulum. Last week, students from Camp Point Central High School visited campus.

Boley said the physics department typically hosts high school students throughout the months of October and November and then again in March and April, and even into May.

"A lot of the students who visit us are seniors from the high school physics classes and they haven't yet made their college choice at that point," said Boley. "Before conducting experiments, the students attended a session featuring solar telescope viewing and promoting WIU's unique RISE (Research Inspiring Student Excellence) program. We have had a lot of success recruiting new students, and we also get to know the physics teachers from high schools throughout the tri-state area, who then continue to serve as recruiters for our science programs."

At the start of each semester, Boley and his graduate assistants email all of the high school physics teachers located within 90 minutes of Macomb.

"If they are within driving distance, we try to reach out to them," said Boley. "This is billed as a science field trip for the students taking high school physics."

Boley said everything about the high school visitation program is a team effort within the department.

"It includes all of our faculty, our laboratory manager, our office support staff, and many of our graduate assistants and current research students in welcoming and engaging the visiting high school students," he said.

Athens Senior High School physics teacher Pam Warren said this is the second year her students have come to WIU for a day of research and experimentation.

"This is a great opportunity for my students to use lab equipment that we don't have available at our high school," said Warren. "We also appreciate having the opportunity to interact with professors. I received good feedback about last year's event from some students who were super enthusiastic about physics before we came and some who were not."

Lewistown High School physics teacher Gina Simpson said she tailors her classroom curriculum around the lessons at WIU so they are compatible. This was the sixth year Simpson's students have visited WIU.

"This gives them the ability to come to a lab to work with some things we don't have in our classroom," she said. "We study similar qualities in our high school lab so it fits well with our classroom work."

Camp Point Central High School physics teacher Alicia Schmidt said the visit to Western was beneficial to her students, as well as to her growth as a teacher.

"We left with a great appreciation for the professors who gave us a sneak peak of the WIU physics program and the labs they would perform at the college level," said Schmidt. "After the solar telescope viewing, a recruitment presentation awed us with WIU's great research opportunities."

Schmidt praised Boley for his ability to guide students through the concepts of math through experimentation during their visits.

"Students loved getting their hands on equipment we do not have; moreover, they loved seeing basic concepts discussed in class proven to be true in the lab," she said. "We are very grateful to the staff at WIU for showing us around and allowing us to utilize the equipment."

For more information about scientific opportunities available at Western, visit

Posted By: Jodi Pospeschil (
Office of University Communications & Marketing