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Science Seminar marks 50th year.

Byline: Lisa D. Welsh

HOLDEN - Carol Dianne (Briggs) Martin spent her formative years in Holden and has taken the lessons she learned here to the moon.

As a computer programmer for the Apollo II mission that put men on the moon, she was responsible for programming mathematical formulas that were used to help control the spacecraft and keep it where it was supposed to be. Another task was inputting data from radar around the globe to figure out the location of the craft at any given time.

"What I learned at Wachusett's Science Seminar was really inspirational and helped to set the course of my own life, education, and my career," said Mrs. Martin in a phone interview from her office at George Washington University. She is a professor of computer science and interim associate dean for student affairs in the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.

In 1959, Mrs. Martin was a sophomore at Wachusett Regional High School and one of the first students in the country to participate in The Joe Berg Foundation's Science Seminar. At the time, everyone was aware of the Soviet Union's successful Sputnik space program and the United States found itself unable to keep pace with advances in science and technology.

Science Seminar was the creation of Joe Berg, a wealthy industrialist who wanted to change the course of the United States. Using a simple formula of weekly, two-hour meetings for academically gifted students, an expert in science would talk to students for the first hour. During the second hour, students would work on a project with guidance from an adviser.

To be accepted into the yearlong program, students must pass a rigorous exam and understand that they will not receive credit or be graded. Nevertheless, 60 students find themselves in room D-12 each Tuesday night.

During the last 50 years, Science Seminars lost their support in many schools, though not at Wachusett. The anniversary will be celebrated tonight at the 50th Year Celebration for Alumni of the Wachusett Regional High School's Science Seminar. Tickets to the dinner are sold out, but the public is welcome to attend at 7 p.m. for no charge when Dr. Craig Mello, 2006 Nobel Laureate in Medicine and University of Massachusetts Medical School professor, gives the keynote speech in the auditorium.

Today, as was the case 50 years ago, advisers get paid $1 for their commitment to the program and the responsibility of getting a different speaker every week, including Neil Ault, who has been with Wachusett's Science Seminar since the first year.

"For the most part, the kids are very cooperative to work with but the hippie time was really the hardest five or six years to work," he said.

The emphasis on real-life research, data collecting, equipment ordering and presentations are part of the Science Seminar project that students work on during the second half of their weekly meeting.



CUTLINE: Current and former members of the Wachusett Regional High School Science Seminar are, from left, Matthew Dzugis, Mary Kate Schneeweis and Anna Chase.
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Title Annotation:LOCAL NEWS
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Jan 10, 2009
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