Two summertime courses specially designed for high school students offered at fraction of regular college cost

by: SPOKESMAN PHOTO: KATE HOOTS - Assistant Professor Dawn Taylor shows off the equipment available for high school students to use in the laboratory when they enroll in the medical detectives course at Oregon Tech this summer.

Ah, the lazy days of summer. Remember the joys of relaxing in the backyard hammock with a tall, cold glass of lemonade and a good book?

Forget about all that. The opportunities available to students in the West Linn-Wilsonville School District this summer are just too enticing to ignore.

Two of the most exciting opportunities are at Oregon Institute of Technology’s Wilsonville Campus, where WL-WV students are able to earn college credit through a program known as high school transition or HST.

Based in Klamath Falls, Oregon Tech is one of seven universities in the Oregon University System and the only public institute of technology in the Pacific Northwest. Oregon Tech students can earn degrees in engineering and health technologies, management, communication and applied sciences.

Starting this spring, WL-WV students have been able to take classes at Oregon Tech for dual credit, building a college transcript at the same time they earn high school credits in approved courses. This summer, Oregon Tech is expanding its HST course offerings with two entry-level courses designed just for high-schoolers.

“It’s really twofold,” Carleen Drago Starr said of the HST program. She is Oregon Tech’s academic partnership coordinator, and she meets individually with every WL-WV student interested in taking courses at Oregon Tech.

“We’re trying to get students in earlier but also steer them toward a college career,” she said. “The HST program allows high school students to access our college courses. We let them come and get an introduction for a really nominal fee. ... We really want to promote the idea that college is not only achievable but accessible.”

by: SPOKESMAN PHOTO: KATE HOOTS - Oregon Tech's Dawn Taylor, an assistant professor, models the lab coats that students will wear in her medical detectives class.

The two summertime courses are condensed versions of mainstream Oregon Tech introductory classes.

  • SMART computing is a three-week course providing an introduction to the software and hardware that make up embedded systems such as wearable devices, smartphones, smart homes and autonomous vehicles. It’s a hands-on, lab-based course that encourages students to think and explore. Students who complete the course will earn three college credits. The class meets Monday to Friday, 8:30 to 11:45 a.m. from July 21 to Aug. 8.
  • Medical detectives is a four-week course allowing students to explore clinical laboratory sciences. Students will explore healthcare cases ranging from matching blood types to discovering the existence of cancer cells. Students who complete the course will earn two college credits. The class meets Mondays and Tuesdays, 4 to 7 p.m., from July 14 to Aug. 5.
  • One of the best things about the HST program may be its cost to students.

    “We open up our general schedule of classes to high school students for $25 per credit hour, plus lab fees in some courses,” Drago Starr said. “If a student qualifies for the free/reduced lunch program, Oregon Tech will pick up the cost per credit for the class.”

    Normally, Oregon Tech courses cost $157 per credit hour, meaning WL-WV students can get a jump on their college transcript and explore career options at a fraction of the normal cost.

    Some classes may have prerequisites in writing and/or math, she added. In that case, high school students must take a placement test before joining the class. The HST program is designed for students 14 and older. Despite their age, high-schoolers taking courses at Oregon Tech should expect to be treated as college kids.

    “You really do integrate as a college student,” Drago Starr said. “That’s how you’re going to be treated in the classroom.”

    To ensure success, Drago Starr meets individually with each applicant to the HST program. The goal, she said, is to build a relationship that will support students as they begin to transition to higher education. That includes ensuring that high-schoolers understand what working to earn college credit and starting a college transcript means.

    “Those things do follow you,” Drago Starr said. “We want students to be successful.”

    by: SPOKESMAN PHOTO: KATE HOOTS - Dawn Taylor says that this five-headed microscope is her favorite piece of equipment in the lab at Oregon Tech. She uses it to share slides with up to four students at a time.

    The instructors for the HST summer courses are eager to welcome high-schoolers to campus. Dawn Taylor, an assistant professor and an Oregon Tech instructor in the clinical laboratory science program, is excited to shine a light on a little-known career option.

    “We find most students happen upon our program and degree by accident,” she said. “No one knows who does their lab work. ... We’re the silent, behind-the-scenes people.”

    The ideal student for Taylor’s medical detectives course, she said, is one who enjoys science, especially biology and chemistry. Many students who enroll in the clinical laboratory science program are, like Taylor herself, interested in a career in medicine without wanting to be either a doctor or a nurse.

    “Most will (go on to) work in hospital labs,” Taylor said. “It’s a crucial part of the medical system.”

    Her course offers high-schoolers a hands-on chance to explore their medical career options.

    “They’ll be working with microbiology, chemistry, immunology, hematology, blood bank,” she said. “It’s important to show the huge variety within the laboratory.”

    The computer science course also is designed to showcase the range of options available in the field, according to Jay Bockelman, program director for software engineering technology.

    “I’m hoping to introduce students to software engineering,” he said. “They may have learned languages in high school. Now that you understand programs, how do you solve problems?”

    The course will give students the computer science tools they need to start writing programs for specific devices.

    “A smartphone, for example,” Bockelman said. “They can write a program to address a specific piece of hardware.”

    By the course’s conclusion, students should be equipped to take what they know and develop something that writes code, creating an embedded system.

    “Writing programs is like using hammers and saws to build a birdhouse,” Bockelman said.

    Being able to build a birdhouse doesn’t mean you’re ready to go out and build an apartment complex, though. Additional tools — and experience — are needed before you’re ready for that more important and complicated task.

    Applying his birdhouse analogy to the SMART computing course, the course will equip students to go to the next level and “build something large,” Bockelman said.

    “It really is more about how to go about looking at an analyzing problem situations. Having that training and background, learning to analyze what you know. Problem-solving is such a huge part of life,” he said.

    “An exposure and an experience. That’s the hope for this summer course,” he added.

    Visit to learn more about Oregon Tech. The Wilsonville campus is located at 27500 SW Parkway Ave. in Wilsonville. For information on Oregon Tech’s HST program or to register for summer courses, contact Carleen Drago Starr at 503-821-1297 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

    by: SPOKESMAN PHOTO: KATE HOOTS - Students enrolled in the medical detectives course will handle biohazards, sometimes using a giant hood like this one to ensure safety.

    By Kate Hoots
    Education reporter
    503-636-1281, ext. 112
    email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
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