Uranium enrichment Jesse RohrerSenior wins $5,000 for Ephrata High School, appeared on ‘Today Show’

By on November 2, 2011

By: ANGELA CABEZAS Review Staff acabezas.eph@lnpnews.com, Staff Writer

When Ephrata High School senior Jesse Rohrer was told to make a video about the elements for his science class, he had no idea that it would land him a spot on NBC’s "Today Show."

Rohrer and the rest of the students in Carlyn Fryberger’s 11th-grade Foundations of Chemistry class last year were given the assignment of making short educational videos about the element of their choice. The completed videos were then entered in the Chemical Heritage Foundation’s "It’s Elemental" competition, along with the videos of more than 1,000 other students from 36 states. Rohrer’s five-minute video, which discussed the history, properties and uses of uranium, ranked among the top 20 entries in the nation.

"I wasn’t expecting to win," Rohrer said, "but when it happened I was pretty happy."

So were his teacher and parents.

"I think they were more ecstatic than I was," Rohrer said, and it’s not surprising — the school received $5,000 in grant money for Rohrer’s video, money that will be used to "purchase additional equipment for scientific inquiry and hands-on research," according to the school district’s website.

The Chemical Heritage Foundation judged the videos on presentation of scientific information, integration of historical and/or social context, effective presentation and technical merit, and overall artistry and quality. In order to meet those criteria, Rohrer spent three months researching, planning, shooting and editing.

"The research was probably the hardest part because editing was a little more fun," he said. Part of the editing experience involved combining live video footage with computer animation that Rohrer did himself. "I took a computer animation course a year prior, and the mining footage I got from Rohrer’s Quarry because my dad works there," he explained.

In addition to winning recognition and grant money, Rohrer’s video also earned him an invitation to appear on "The Today Show."

"Dow Chemical Company was a part of the contest, and they called and asked if I’d be willing to go on ‘The Today Show’ for an education segment," Rohrer said.

As a result, he and three other students from different states, all of whom had placed among the top 20 in the "It’s Elemental" contest, found themselves in New York City to conduct experiments on the show. Rohrer’s was called "Elephant Toothpaste," and it involved mixing water, yeast and dish soap with hydrogen peroxide and food coloring.

"We went up Sunday and it was a lot" of work, Rohrer said, stating that he and the other students did not have a whole lot of free time while in NYC. "We did rehearsals for a couple hours and had meetings for a while. We had maybe an hour here and an hour there."

Though Rohrer enjoyed the element project and claims that he finds science fun, it’s not something he’ll be going to college for after he graduates in May.

"I’m planning on going to Kentucky Horse Shoeing School," he said. "I’d like to pursue a career in farriering." More ROHRER, page A18

About Ephrata Review