Riverdale juniors teaching classmates astronomy concepts

by: REVIEW PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Riverdale juniors Patricia Torvalds and Lucas Rosevear are co-leading a science class at Riverdale High.Before graduating from Riverdale High School last June, Logan Rooper expressed confidence that a classmate would step up to lead the student-run, hands-on science class he created last year.

Rooper was right. While he was studying in the engineering school at Duke University these past few months, Riverdale juniors Patricia Torvalds and Lucas Rosevear have, as class co-leaders, been preparing for the debut of their curriculum on Monday.

“The project’s going to be very interesting this year; I can’t wait to see what they do,” Rooper said.

Almost 40 students have signed up for Exploratory Ventures (XV): Observatory, which focuses on astronomy, and 20 to 25 of them will get to take the class, Torvalds said.

“I stepped into the leadership role because I’m excited about the project, and, even if it ultimately doesn’t succeed, I can learn a lot from it,” said Torvalds, 17, of REVIEW FILE PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Riverdale graduate Logan Rooper (standing) began and taught a hands-on science class that kicked off in 2013 when he was a senior at the Portland high school. Students included, from left: Meg Scanlon, Patricia Torvalds and Hugh Halvorson.

Supported with about $4,000 from the community, $2,000 of which came from the Parent Teacher Club, the class involves designing three telescopes for a June trip to the Pine Mountain Observatory near Bend.

Topics will include Kepler’s laws concerning planetary motion and the concept of dark matter, which is a hypothetical form of matter that scientists say accounts for gravitational forces in the universe. Torvalds said she and Rosevear will present the material in a simple way to make the complicated topics more accessible to students.

“We understand what our peers need and want from a teacher,” Torvalds said.

Riverdale math and science teacher John Preacher will enter grades and offer support when needed.

XV: Observatory is the third of a series of projects that began as a club in 2012 that included Rooper and was called Near Space Ventures. NSV students sent two video cameras and a global positioning system device to space using a weather balloon. by: SUBMITTED PHOTO: TAL VOLK - Riverdale High School students rented a boat to test experiments on the Oregon coast in the student-taught XV: Oceans class last year.Rooper went on to teach XV: Oceans last year. The students designed six experiments to test scientific conjectures students made about what lies in the waters of the Oregon coast. The students also built a vehicle designed to capture footage of the seafloor, renting a boat to take the device out into deep waters. The electronics of the vehicle did not perform as hoped. Rosevear designed an apparatus that could sense the water’s pH, a measure of the acidity or alkalinity of a solution, and Torvalds had an experiment that tested if there was radioactive material from the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan — she did not find any, fortunately.

“Technology is the future,” Torvalds said. “We need engineers. We’re trying to get more girls involved.”

Rosevear, a 17-year-old Portland resident, said he enjoyed his project and likes the idea of making such opportunities available to students.

“It’s the fact that it’s hands on, and everything that’s part of the class is part of a final goal,” he said.

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By Jillian Daley
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