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Samantha Shepler, a sophomore at Flowing Wells High School, was one of six local students awarded a scholarship by science-and-technology conglomerate Honeywell. In early March, the Honeywell Scholars visited Washington, D.C., for a weeklong series of seminars aimed at inspiring students to pursue careers in science and technology. Honeywell Scholars get a behind-the-scenes look at the relationships between these fields and public policy.

What were the seminars like?

People would come and talk about science and technology. One (presenter) had a robot for disabled children called CosmoBot. They were trying to get a child with autism to copy what (the robot) did to get his mind focused on one thing. And in the end, he finally did: He started raising his hands like the CosmoBot. It was pretty cool.

Did you have any interesting experiences you couldn't have had without the scholarship?

We went to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum. They had pilot simulators. This wasn't like you sit, and it kind of moves back and forth; these were what they actually use to train pilots. I figured out that piloting was not as easy as it looks. The point of the simulator was to follow this red box. ... I just couldn't do it. Also, the first female astronaut came and talked to us about her adventures in space and what field you would have to look into to get that job.

Is that something you're interested in?

No. I'm into game design, computers. I've been a gamer since I was really young, and I'm sick and tired of shooter war games. I want to make more creative games that are kind of off the wall--(some games that are not like) all of these blood-and-violence games.

Did any of the seminars relate to that field?

The first presentation we saw was about the (Iraq) war and the technology used for it, like artificial intelligence. It's kind of like a game in a way. ... The presenter would talk to the A.I., the "game," and I thought that was cool that you could talk to a "game," and it would react. Also, they talked about what you should look for in colleges. I want to go to an art school--studio art--for game design. I don't know if I want to create characters and plotlines; there is a break there in the career path. I want to have a mix, hopefully get a degree in programming and a degree in arts, so I can mix and match. Games are my passion, but technology really has caught my eye. If I don't go into game design, I'll probably go into some type of technology science, like engineering or something. Before, I wasn't thinking too much about engineering, just characters and plotlines, but now I want to get into computers and actually go into the hard drive and stuff.

Did you get a chance to see D.C.?

Yeah, touring was fun. And just by meeting people, we learned about people from outside of America. I guess I'm kind of sheltered, and I don't really think outside of America; after this trip, I want to get out there. I think the world needs to change a little bit.

Exactly what kind of change would you like to see?

We talked about a lot of controversial subjects, like global climate change, space exploration, stem-cell research and genetically modified foods. We got split into different caucus groups, and we got assigned different topics. It was like our own seminar: We'd been watching seminars all week, and now we gave our own. Our caucus got climate change. I was never into the ecosystem and the health of our world; it was just something off to the side. After this trip, I understand that our world is so close to dying that we can't even change it, but we can help it. We could invest in solar power and all of these other ways to help the Earth, but instead, we're just killing it. Global climate change is happening, and something has to be done about it. A lot of kids went home knowing that our world needs help.

And you think this is a direct result of the scholarship and the trip?

Yeah. I think a lot of kids in different communities should go on this trip. I know, personally, in Arizona, it's really hard to find (this kind of experience). They don't talk about it in our school. They don't talk about it in open air. It's kind of sad that if you ask some people on the street, "Hey, do you know who our president is? Do you know who our vice president is?" they'd just be like, "Uh, that one guy with the hair." People think everything is controlled by the government, and most of it really is, but there are other key people out there who control a lot of things, too, and everyone should know how the world really works. I went home with eyes open.


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