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Reading, Robotics and Signature

Churchill begins program for math, science and technology.

In a conventional high school education, the “Three R’s” don’t include "Robotics" or "Recognition of Objects by Artificial Intelligence."

These are two of the research subjects chosen by students enrolled in the new Signature Program at Winston Churchill High School.

In its first year, more than 125 Churchill students have enrolled in the Signature Program, the Academy of Mathematics, Technology, and Science. The program is designed to provide academic and internship opportunities for students who wish to focus on math, technology or science. Participating students must complete additional courses and projects.

CHURCHILL’S PROGRAM is run by Ruth Checker, now in her second year at the school. Her first year was filled will two other R’s: research and recruiting. Checker visited schools with similar programs, including such county public schools as Wootton, Gaithersburg and Blair. She also went to high school and middle school science classes last year to talk to the students and make them aware of the program.

“Last year was our planning year,” said Checker. “It’s been very gratifying seeing all the work we put in the first year come to fruition.”

“I heard about it at the end of last year,” said sophomore Jennifer Klein. “I’m very interested in the sciences, and this seemed like a good way to pursue that.”

THE ACADEMY IS open to all 9th- and 10th-grade students, but once they are enrolled, they must maintain an unweighted grade point average of 3.5 or higher.

Several juniors participate in the program, but they do not have the full range of requirements. This year’s sophomore class is the first that must take all required courses.

Each academy student also chooses a research project and works with a teacher on a monthly basis. Churchill math teachers Becca Thompson and Monica Malanoski work with the students on these projects.

“Some students really feel that this is something they are going to pursue down the line,” said Checker.

David Karr, a sophomore in the academy, is researching the ways humanoid robots help human.

“They can perform daily actions to help people … especially disabled people,” said Karr. “It might be fun to learn how to build them.” He added that he is also interested in the functions robots can perform in the medical field.

IN ADDITION TO Academy course and project requirements, students are also required to participate in a related internship during their senior year or the summer after their junior year. Recent Churchill graduates have completed internships with the National Institute of Health, Suburban Hospital and the Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC) at Carderock.

Students meet each month with Checker, Thompson or Malanoski to discuss progress on their culminating projects. At the end of the school year, each student will create a PowerPoint presentation on their research to display before a panel of teachers.

“It’s definitely what I expected,” said sophomore Klein, whose project is on the effects of space travel on the human body. “There are deadlines you have to meet. You really know at the beginning of the year what’s going to be required.”

CHURCHILL'S PROGRAM also sponsors events available to students school-wide.

“A signature program should affect the entire school,” said Checker. “We don’t want it to be a school within a school.”

The program has brought speakers from NIH and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to discuss topics ranging form exercise to drug protocol.

In the next academic year, Churchill will begin offering an academy for creative and performing arts. It will begin next year at Churchill and will also be run by Checker.