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Linking Science & Faith: State of the Art STEM Lab at Carroll High School Made Possible by Contribution From Catholic Nuclear Physicist

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by Mark Danis

“The world is spiritual, but it is also scientific. The more our students today know about science, the better they will contribute to the world they will enter.”

This is the expressed motivation for Bob Barthelemy’s generous contribution to Carroll High School’s new STEM Lab. STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, and according to this devoted scientist, the lab was the perfect opportunity for him to continue his long association with the Dayton-based Catholic high school.

Barthelemy was born in New Bedford, MA, and did his undergraduate studies in nuclear physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). He then joined the Air Force, where his first assignment was to Wright Patterson Air Force Base. He later earned his PhD at Ohio State University. Bob’s long association with Carroll High School started with his three daughters, all graduates. Now, some of his grandchildren are beginning their own high school experiences at Carroll.

Barthelemy says, “The greatest contribution the new STEM Lab will make to a student’s experience at Carroll is that it will allow them to ‘do,’ not just study, science. I am an inherently inquisitive person. I am a scientist, and I know that doing science is what provides the greatest benefit to learning. There are many times when I have heard students say, ‘I do not see what this is for.’ I can show them what science is for. A lab allows students to experience how to apply what they study, how it will work in the real world.”

AP Biology, Honors and AP Chemistry, microbiology and physics classes will take place in the new lab. Students now have the space to work with new materials not only in class, but as part of Carroll’s STEM extracurricular activities like Science Olympiad and statewide science fairs. Dr. O’Malley, Carroll High School science teacher, said the new labs are, “really a space for students to learn in an interactive way that is also their space.”

But, said Barthelemy, a scientific education must be built on a solid moral foundation. “Students need as much spiritual training as possible. They need a foundation in the faith,” he said. “I build weapon systems for a living, and I am a Catholic and a scientist.” Catholic education,” he said, “must seek to build the whole person, people who understand how the pieces fit together.”

In this regard, Barthelemy echoes the words of another patron of Catholic education, Pope St. John Paul II, who said, “Catholic education aims not only to communicate facts but also to transmit a coherent, comprehensive vision of life, in the conviction that the truths contained in that vision liberate students in the most profound meaning of human freedom.”

The topic of faith and a scientific education are very close to Barthelemy’s heart, but if you really want to get him talking, ask about his vision for high school education. He has given it a great deal of thought.

“Our high schools of the future must learn to partner with industry in much the same way colleges do today.” And Barthelemy should know; he founded and runs his own non-profit technology firm called Wright Brothers Institute.

Barthelemy explained, “There is no question education in the future will be more virtual, and we are learning how to do that now. But, it is not just about studying from home. High school students today are doing mathematics I did in graduate school. The high school students of tomorrow will be working virtually and participating in designing airplanes with businesses in the Dayton area. Educational institutions will benefit greatly by gaining access to technology partners. Industry will benefit by helping build its own workforce, and the local economy will benefit by developing an economic foundation for future growth. All of this must become more integrated with faith, and it must begin at the high school level.”

Barthelemy emphasized, “Catholic high schools are the ideal forum for linking vocation with faith.”

This article appeared in the September edition of The Catholic Telegraph Magazine. For your complimentary subscription, click here.

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