Science and Engineering Careers

of High School Modeling Physics Students

by Kelli Gamez Warble, physics and calculus teacher at Buckeye Union High School from1993 until 2006. At the time, Buckeye was a rural town just west of Phoenix. Kelli has co-led Modeling Workshops each summer since 1998.  She wrote these recollections in 2003.



The students discussed below were members of my physics and/or calculus course at Buckeye Union High School in Buckeye, Arizona from 1993-2002.  The physics course was taught using the Modeling Method.  The calculus course was taught by the same teacher as the Modeling physics, and was thus strongly influenced by many of the Modeling ideals:  multiple representations of calculus ideas, a guided inquiry approach to learning mathematics, hands-on activities in which students constructed their own ideas about calculus concepts, and an attempt to promote student discourse throughout the year. 


Years of Buckeye attendance are approximate (my best recollection).


Christopher Urwiller was a student in physics and calculus at Buckeye Union High School in 1994.  He attended ASU in the aeronautical engineering program and was one of few students accepted as a Boeing Intern the summer after his junior year in college.  His mother works at Buckeye high school and she and Chris’ father have several times expressed their appreciation of all that Chris learned in his high school courses.  They have told me that Chris’ experience in physics at Buckeye inspired him to seek a career as an engineer and left him well prepared for the difficult technical courses he took in his path to attaining that goal.  Chris is currently a practicing engineer at Honeywell in Phoenix.


B.J. Spire was a student in physics at Buckeye Union High School in 1994.  I saw him several years ago at Northern Arizona University (NAU) where he was majoring in microbiology.  At that time, he told me he was one of few undergraduates assisting in microbiology research at NAU and that his interest in science was spurred partly by his high school physics experience.  Although his area of research was not specifically in physics, he felt that the inquiry and model-building encouraged in his Modeling physics course directly transferred to his appreciation for the scientific process and aided him in his university experience.  He was hoping to pursue graduate study in microbiology or medicine.


Dawn Graham was a student in physics and calculus at Buckeye Union High School in 1996.  She attended ASU with the intent of majoring in biology or pre-med on the road to becoming a veterinarian.  However, as she attended her university math courses she found herself tutoring almost all of her peers.  They were having a great deal of difficulty understanding the material, and they ended up in study groups led by Dawn.  She says she realized how much her mathematical understanding had been strengthened during her high school years in Modeling.  She became very frustrated at how college mathematics material was presented as a disjointed collection of facts.  She switched her major to secondary mathematics education and is now back at Buckeye Union High School as a mathematics teacher.  She loves incorporating hands-on Modeling type activities into all of her 9th and 10th grade mathematics courses, and requires her math students to complete lab write-ups using the Modeling lab report rubric.  She says she is disappointed she didn’t also get certified to teach physics, and is exploring the idea of enrolling in the MNS program for high school physics teachers at ASU.


Leatta McGlaughlin was a student in physics and calculus at Buckeye Union High School in 1998.  She attended ASU as a business major and recently graduated.  Her mother works at Buckeye HS, and she commented that Leatta went into her first year college mathematics courses very well-prepared.  She mentioned that Leatta was tutoring many of her fellow business students, especially in the use of technology (such as graphing calculators and computers) as required in their college mathematics courses.  Leatta was not intimidated by the technology, and often helped her fellow students because she had already “learned to do that in high school.”  Leatta is currently exploring graduate programs in International Business and hopes to travel abroad for her studies.



Female Engineers from BUHS:  As a teacher I traveled with a group of high school students to ASU engineering day several years ago.  When we checked in, a former student (now in the engineering program at ASU) greeted us warmly, saying that she hoped some prospective engineers from her former high school would be coming.  This student was a female, and joked that the whole day was going to be a Buckeye reunion for me, as many of my former students were leading the tours to the various engineering labs.  Sure enough, I crossed path with three more former students, who started listing the names of several others also enrolled in various engineering disciplines.  What struck me most about the day was that out of about ten names, all of these future engineers but one were female!  As a former female engineering student myself, I was gratified but not surprised.  Modeling Instruction encourages cooperation and discourse about complicated ideas in a non-threatening, supportive environment.  I became turned off from engineering when it appeared to me to be competitive and isolated.  Females who view science, engineering, and technology as fields encouraging cooperation and supportiveness will, I believe, become much more attracted to these non-traditional areas.