Much of the Lake Washington School District’s Vision 2020, “Making Every Student Future Ready,” hinges on strong math and science programs, so that graduates can compete in the global workplace.
Redmond High School (RHS) senior Alex Vaschillo could be a spokesperson for the movement.
He’s spending his summer at science and math camps at University of Washington (UW) and Stanford University. In the fall, he’ll present a scientific paper at the Conference of the Society for Psychophysiological Research in Berlin, Germany.
It’s unusual to meet someone so young, who’s so engrossed in math and science research. Although Vaschillo said he’s always enjoyed science and “has taken every science class there is,” at RHS, it didn’t fully click as a hobby for him until he took an AP Chemistry class and realized the “connectedness” between all sciences.
For example, the summer camp at UW was a material science camp incorporating chemistry and physics, Vaschillo noted.
In other words, “what materials should be used where.”
That learning experience was preceded by an AP Environmental Science class at RHS and by serving as the Youth Advocate on the City of Redmond’s Innovative Housing Review Panel. In both cases, Vaschillo said he liked contemplating how to construct buildings that are both energy-efficient and affordable.
And to add another layer to that research, Vaschillo said that serving on the housing panel enabled him to learn about politics and government at a higher level than within the framework of his high school.
Sarah Stiteler, a senior planner for the City of Redmond, commented, “We feel very fortunate that Alex is the Youth Advocate for the Innovative Housing Review Panel. He was selected due to his interest and willingness to ‘dig in’ and try to understand the proposal being considered. He reviews the proposed site plans carefully and has good insights and questions regarding these. He also has the ability to listen and consider public comments in a poised and mature manner. As a young resident of Redmond, he has a fresh perspective and represents a viewpoint on these issues that decision makers are most interested in.”
As for Vaschillo’s take on biology, the Society for Psychophysiological Research fosters research about the correlations between physiological and psychological responses to events such as stressful episodes.
The paper that Vaschillo will present in Berlin is called “Rhythmical Muscle Tension and Resonance in the Cardiovascular System.” The topic was inspired by his meeting with Marsha E. Bates, a prominent researcher at Rutgers, where his grandparents work.
He said he’s also interested in the study of epidemiology and hopes to earn a scholarship to further that goal.
Considering the facts that many students don’t like math or science, or struggle to understand those subjects, we asked Vaschillo how he thinks schools could do a better job of teaching the skills that will make them “future ready.”
He said that neither rote memorization of facts and formulas nor constant use of calculators is a good thing. Instead, he likes to focus on proving the facts or formulas and better explaining how they can be applied to problems.
He said he also enjoys lively debates about Richard Dawkins, the author of controversial books about natural selection and the theories of Charles Darwin.