Assignment: hands-on science experience

8 September 2011  •  “It’s nice to have kids who are so focused,” says Nancy Wade (UCAR Human Resources) of the 20 juniors and seniors who spent six weeks at NCAR and NOAA through the High School Internship & Research Opportunities (HIRO) program.

Al Jachcik and HIRO students
NCAR's Al Jachcik monitors an automated weather station with HIRO students Jannine Vela (left) and David Halbritter (right).

Now in its second full year, the program aims to introduce students to careers and college opportunities in atmospheric science. Although HIRO focuses on Denver-area participants, six of the 2011 students arrived from Puerto Rico through the support of the Ana G. Méndez University System. HIRO echoes the structure of UCAR’s highly successful Significant Opportunities in Atmospheric Research and Science program (SOARS) by providing summer research internships with strong mentoring. Like SOARS protégés, HIRO participants present their summer work in poster form at a closing symposium.

Many of the HIRO students are scholastic standouts who aren’t yet sure which scientific direction they want to pursue, says Wade. “We keep our eyes out for students for whom this could be a transformative experience,” she adds. The program draws on support and expertise from NCAR’s labs, including the Research Applications Laboratory, which hosted eight participants.