For more than a month, students in Bald Eagle Area High School teacher Max Besong’s honors physics class have been participating in authentic scientific research on incoming and outgoing radiation on Earth. It’s a project that took them to present at Penn State.

“This whole thing is just an awesome opportunity that most high school students and even a lot of college undergrads do not normally get to experience,” Besong said. “It went really well, and everyone who stopped by complimented our students on their work and enthusiasm.”

The BEA students started the project by writing computer code to analyze millions of data points collected by NASA satellites orbiting the planet. They then ran scripts on a supercomputer cluster that was donated to the school by Penn State to generate maps and graphs that modeled the data. From there, they created research posters to communicate analyses of these maps and graphs.

Besong said that for the past two years, he has been part of the Research Experience for Teachers program with the Penn State Center for Science and the Schools and department of meteorology and atmospheric sciences, which included planning an authentic research project to be implemented with his class.

“A couple people from CSATS came to observe my students doing this research and working on their posters,” Besong said. “They were really impressed with the students’ work and came up with the idea to hold a poster session on campus – something that graduate and professional researchers commonly do.”

He added that the experience was also something that may help the high school students choose a career path, in addition to looking good on a resume.