Most science fair projects don't take two years to complete, nor do they end in an awards ceremony with millions of dollars in scholarships, cash and prizes, but for one senior at Salem Hills High School, this is his reality. Jacob Johnson has been working for two years on his science project titled "Motivation and Cognitive Function: examining the effect of motivation on low-stake test scores." His research involved more than 200 student subjects and months of preparation. Johnson now has the opportunity to present his findings at the International Science and Engineering Fair, which will be in the Los Angeles Conference Center on May 12. Johnson will speak to a panel of judges, including Nobel Laureates and other dignitaries. The awards ceremony on May 13 will announce the winners of $4.4 million in scholarships, cash and prizes. Among his supporters and mentors is Brad Shuler, a science teacher at SHHS. "This is a pretty big deal," Shuler said. "It is a goal Jacob has had for several years now. I have been involved with science fairs for 15 years and have only known one student who was selected to go to Intel ISEF." Additionally, Johnson credits Dr. Mikle South, a professor from Brigham Young University. "Dr. South coached me through the statistics and the deeper parts of psychology behind it," Johnson said. "He helped me take the actual project and make it a reality." According to Johnson, his presentation in Los Angeles could be as short as 10 minutes, or twice that depending on the number of questions the judges ask. "To make a good impression on the judges during the Q-and-A, you have to be able to change thought processes quickly and answer satisfactorily," Johnson said. "You will be tested. You have to know your project inside out or else you'll get eaten alive." This science project first gained public attention when Johnson presented it to the Nebo District Science Fair in February of this year. There, Johnson won Best in Show, which meant that he was in the top 10 in his school district. In March, after presenting his project to the region science fair at BYU with 250 other student competitors, Johnson won the Mu Alpha Theta award for advanced mathematics, and landed one of five spots available to present at the Intel ISEF. "I am most excited about meeting others with the same interests and aspirations as mine," Johnson said. Johnson's award-winning motivation project started with a test. He gave high school students from Salem and surrounding cities a 19-question survey with questions that were similar to an IQ test, including multiple choice, logical deductive and "what comes next in the sequence?" questions. "I randomly assigned people to two groups: motivated and unmotivated," Johnson said. "I prefaced the test by telling the subjects, 'This is a test for research. If you score 80 percent or higher you will be entered into a drawing to win $25 to iTunes.' For the unmotivated group, I simply told them it was a test for research." Johnson discovered three major things about motivation after his research. First, the students in the "motivated" category were found to be 6.1 percent more motivated than those in the other category. Second, Johnson asked the students how much they were motivated by the iTunes drawing. Their answers surprised him, because he found there was no sign of a difference between those who were motivated by the iTunes drawing and who weren't. Lastly, one question Johnson asked was about what motivated the students. Many were motivated by food, money and prizes, but those who were intrinsically motivated, or driven by their own personal achievement, did 8 percent better on the test. "I have worked with Jacob for three years on different projects," Shuler said. "I have been impressed by his effort and development as a scientist. Jacob doesn't just think like a scientist. He is a scientist. I see great things for him in the future. The sky is the limit." A study like Johnson's has multiple applications. "In education, if teachers tell students to shoot for 80 percent or better on a test and motivate them with a bonus point on their exam, they may try even harder," Johnson said. He went on say that when employers pay closer attention to what motivates a potential employee during the hiring process, they may have better success hiring those who are intrinsically motivated, or offer individualized extrinsic motivations to the ones that are motivated with material things. Johnson has high expectations for his future. He received an $80,000 scholarship to Westminster College, but intends to go to Utah State University. There he wants to study psychology and research, and especially wants to continue studying motivation. Shuler also believes in Johnson's bright future. "I believe this award will open doors for Jacob and give him experience and the confidence to accomplish great things in the future."
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Ten years ago, biology class looked like a dead frog splayed across a metal pan, the smell of formaldehyde wafting throughout the room. Now, with classes like Salem Hills High School's biotechnology course, offered as concurrent enrollment through UVU, biology has become so much more than frog dissections. "We are part of a new STEM grant in conjunction with UVU and SLCC to sequence the DNA of a type of bacteria, known as Halorubrum salsolis, that is only found in the Great Salt Lake," said Brad Shuler, Salem's Biotech teacher. Halorubrum salsolis got its name through a grade-school competition. According to Shuler, its name was chosen because it "sounds scientific" and quite literally means, "salty red thing that lives in salty environment with lots of sunlight." But name aside, H. salsolis is the subject of groundbreaking science. "It's a big unknown. We don't know that much about it," Shuler said. "The Great Salt Lake is unique and right now -- other than brine shrimp -- there is not a lot of commercial benefits of the lake. Some have suggested that once we figure out the biochemistry of the organism, it might be beneficial for a variety of purposes, whether it be biofuel or something else." Mapping H. salsolis's genome is an expensive task, however. According to Shuler, a grant from UVU in the amount of $55,000 has made this research possible for Utah Valley high school students. With the grant dispersed to 14 participating schools in Utah, half of the high schools are in Utah Valley, including Mountain View, Springville, Pleasant Grove, Timpanogos, Provo and Salem Hills. The grant money was used to purchase equipment that makes the research project possible. "Salem purchased equipment for DNA analysis. One is called a spectrophotometer; it measures concentrations of DNA and proteins. And thermocyclers for PCR reactions; these make small samples of DNA into big samples. It basically copies the DNA," Shuler said. "In class, we are in the process of doing the bacterial transformation of the cloned copies of the DNA. Eventually, they'll use the gene sequencer at UVU to complete the DNA analysis." Even with help from schools all over the county, this project may take as long as three to five years to complete. "It's a very painstaking process. There's millions of base-pairs to analyze and you can only do about a thousand base-pairs at a time," Shuler said. Students in biotech participate in many DNA-related projects. "They've had opportunities to extract their own DNA, to see what their genotype is," Shuler said. He went on to say that after spring break, the students will be testing their DNA for the "taster" gene. Apparently, only a fraction of people can taste a chemical called PTC, and Shuler's class will be testing their DNA to see who has the "taster" gene. Biotech differs significantly from a regular biology class. Shuler attests that biotech helps high school students because of the many connections it makes to possible careers. "It's lab-based," Shuler said. "It really requires technique and equipment that wouldn't be used in a regular bio class. It includes a lot of other fields like: pharmaceuticals, medical biotech, genetic engineering, crime-scene analysis, identity analysis and environmental biotech."
Well it seems things are looking up for Skyhawks tennis. The varsity team was able to pull a win over the #2 Spanish Fork Dons in a region match on Tuesday April 19th but keeping them at their current position of 3rd. Chris Beckett did an amazing job beating his opponent in a tie breaker setting a school record of only one region loss over his varsity tennis career at SHHS. Parker Dunn, in his first year of tennis, competed as a singles player for the Junior Varsity team on Tuesday and was excellent in form. Winning in the final set, he fought hard and made some key points. His hits were extraordinary, some being virtually untouchable. Salem is still fighting and doing well. We hope to see them place in the region tournament soon to come in May. Keep it up Boys Tennis, we are all cheering for you. GO SKYHAWKS!
On the April 15th, 2011, the SHHS drama department competed in drama state competition at Stanberry High School. They performed their one act and had a very good time “It was very fun, we all had a good time and performed very well. It was a good experience and I’m glad I got to perform with all my fellow students,” said Jordan Geyerman. They did well overall taking two excellent ratings and one Superior.
They also had individual events compete Anna Petersen competed in comedic monologues and DeGrey Christensen competed in musical theatre category.
DeGrey Christensen did extremely well taking straight Superiors. This, however, did not come as a surprise-DeGrey Christensen being one of the best high school actors in Utah. Anna Petersen also did very well taking overall Superior rating and ending with two Superiors and an Excellent.
So all we can say is congratulations to the SHHS drama department and good luck next year!
March 29th, 2011 the SHHS drama department competed in Region Drama against Springville, Payson, Maple Mountain, and Spanish Fork. Salem Hills came away very successfully with their 1 act play, going on to state and sending 4 individual actors to the State Competition.
Anna Peterson received straight superiors with her monologue and was honored. “It feels great, it’s my first time acting so it was a really good experience, and I’m glad I get to compete in state,” said Anna Peterson.
DeGrey Christensen also received straight superiors, “It was really cool, I’m feeling good about it and am feeling confident about state.” DeGrey competed in the Musical Theatre category.
Also going to state is Andre Salcido in the Musical Theatre category, and Tim Ellis in the Pantomime category.
SHHS also competed in the one act competition; they did extremely well and were the only school in Region 8 to receive straight superiors in the one act.
Kandalyn Russell and Jordan Geyerman also received individual acting honors for superior acting ability. “It was really cool, we both deserved it and worked very hard to get to that point,” Said Kandalyn.
Overall it was a great success for Salem Hills and we congratulate the SHHS drama department, and wish them good luck at State.
“I was surprised, I thought our whole team did well, but I didn’t think I would receive an award, but I’m very grateful and excited to compete at state,” said Jordan Geyerman.