Since the 7th grade, Stan Palasek has been fascinated by the metabolic processes of yeasts and sugars.
"At that time, I was doing simple things. I would measure out the sugars, measure out the yeasts, and make a solution with the different components that I would need for this metabolism to take place. Then I would measure the CO2 which would tell me how much of the sugar the yeast would eat," Palasek said.
Stan's curiosity and dedication eventually crossed paths with Robert Hobbins, Stan's science teacher at the Sonoran Science Academy. Mr. Hobbins came to Tucson from Ohio State University determined to reach beyond the traditional science class. He wanted to provide his students the opportunity to perform authentic scientific research and science fair projects seemed like a natural fit.
Mr. Hobbins began working with Stan on weekends which eventually led to the creation of an Advanced Research Methods class that allowed Stan to dedicate an entire class to his project while working with fellow researchers at the University of Arizona.
Now, as a sophomore at the Sonoran Science Academy, Stan's hard work has turned into three years of award-winning scientific research. He has earned top honors for his work with yeast at the Southern Arizona Regional Science and Engineering Fairs, the Arizona Regional Science and Engineering Fair, and the International Science and Engineering Fair. Stan and Mr. Hobbins were also recognized at the 2010 Arizona Governor's Celebration of Innovation. Stan was one of only four students in the state to be awarded the 2010 Future Innovator of the Year Award and Robert Hobbins was named the 2010 Teacher of the Year.
"I think the key to being motivated is to find something about it that you really care about. I care about math and just seeing a system and finding an equation that models it is really exciting to me," Palasek said.
On this week's Teachers' Voices, Stan begins by explaining how the competitive spirit at science fairs continues to motivate him.
To hear more stories, visit the Teachers' Voices archive.
(Funding for the production of Teachers' Voices is provided by Wells Fargo and the University of Arizona College of Education. The series is produced by Matt Felix for Arizona Spotlight.)