It's a mouthful to say and hard to
understand what students are studying in
Michael Boyer's nanotechnology and
engineering research classes at North Penn
anode and cathode materials for
magnesium air fuel cells
Photovoltaic, thermoelectric and
piezoelectric energy harvesting roof
Microencapsulated non-Newtonian based
concussion prevention materials
But international educators have taken
Boyer and three teams of students are the
first from the United States to be invited
to present research next month at an
international science conference at St.
Paul's School in London.
"Our students are doing cutting edge
research, and they'll be able to share their
ideas with students from England, Germany
Japan ... when does that ever happen at the
high school level?" Boyer said. "It opens up
so many opportunities for them."
Students Engy Khoshit, Scott Schrum and Noah
Wendt will present their wireless energy
transfer system; Anthony Brigidi, Jason
Ellstrom and TJ Schmidt will discuss their
energy-harvesting roof shingles; and James
Drinkwater and Jake Yoder will talk about
their advanced battery separators.
Fund Me page has been set up to help the
students raise money for the one-week trip
"These students take this course as a
culmination of at least three years in our
engineering academy," said Todd Bauer, the
high school principal. "Yes, they learn
about nanotechnology and other principles of
science and math, but the most important
component which drives the passion is the
process. These students are finding
problems, doing research, designing
experiments to test their hypotheses, and
then presenting these results all in hopes
of making things better."
The engineering academy is North Penn's
five-course sequence that emphasizes
critical thinking, creativity, innovation
and real-world problem solving for students
planning on college and a career in
engineering or engineering technology.
Ten years ago, after three summers in a
technology program at Drexel University,
Boyer added the Future
is N.E.A.R. (Nanotechnology Education
and Research) program that allows
Students can't get enough of the course,
which takes up a period and a half every
day. Students willingly give up half of
their time for lunch.
"It's never enough," student Harris Levine
said. "I wish I could be here all day."
The class is not traditional, in that Boyer
doesn't stand in front of the students and
teach. Instead, they work on their projects
and learn together.
Boyer doesn't even consider himself a
teacher. "I'm a piece of metal," he said.
"I'm a door hinge ... that opens up
opportunities for students." Such as the
chance to head to the U.K.
In class, Boyer seemingly bounces from each
area where students are working.
"Gone are the days of a teacher knowing all
the answers," he said. "I've become a
colleague in the learning process, and it's
"There's no fear of failure," he added.
"It's amazing. You learn from failure more
than you do from memorizing. They learn to
make the world a better place. How do we
improve the human condition? ...
They're reviewing research papers from all
over the world. This is graduate Ph.D. work
at the high school level. These kids inspire
Student Scott Schrum said Boyer's philosophy
is "not about trying to get a good grade. He
cares more about us understanding what the
Bauer, the school principal, described Boyer
as "the most passionate educator with whom I
"His passion for his content area is
contagious, but his passion for students is
even more evident. He loves to inspire kids,
rather than motivate them, and he makes a
difference in the lives of his students on a
daily basis. Not only is he all of these
things, but he is so darn humble. I feel
lucky to work with Mike."
Boyer wouldn't describe his school day as
"I've never worked a day in my life," he
Staff Writer with The Intelligencer and
Follow me on Twitter @gweckselblatt
North Penn High School Engineering