The Wright Scholar Research Assistant program is an Air Force Research Laboratory initiative designed to expose high school juniors and seniors to various disciplines of engineering and science in an effort to further their interest in future STEM career options. Wright Scholars are competitively selected to work as full-time, paid interns for 9 weeks during the summer. A panel of scientists, engineers, and educators use a “blind” review system to score and rank student applications and essays (names and personal data are removed from applications prior to review to prevent biases). Selected students are then matched with a mentor to work on a research project for the duration of their internship. At the end of the program, Wright Scholars are required to give a formal presentation of their project work to their peers and mentors, and a program certificate is awarded.
Wright Scholars also participate in weekly university classes, workshops, lectures, and tours to expand their knowledge of potential STEM career fields. The Air Force Institute of Technology provides a jet propulsion course specifically for Wright Scholars. Students also travel weekly to the University of Dayton to participate in a variety of classes and workshops through their Summer Science and Engineering Enrichment program. Wright State University's College of Engineering & Computer Science offers informative engineering sessions, while the College of Science and Mathematics offers a talk on Pre-Health programs and a tour of the medical school. The Ohio State University provides students the opportunity to participate in an exciting electrical engineering workshop and lab tour. Other tours, such as the C-17, AF Museum, various AFRL locations, and industry tours are also popular. Additionally, students attend a weekly luncheon lecture series featuring prominent scientists and engineers who share their expertise.
Applicants are solicited from local high schools, but the program is open to any students outside the area or out-of-state who meet the criteria. No travel allowances are available, and the student is solely responsible for obtaining housing, meals, and transportation to/from work.
According to program feedback, this year’s Wright Scholars enjoyed: “the opportunity to work in a world-class environment with really smart people,” “meeting like-minded individuals interested in science and engineering,” “learning how to code,” “the supplemental trip exposure to different areas and the research project aspect,” “exposure to state-of-the-art facilities,” “working with a team on a challenging project,” “learning new things while working in a lab,” “working in a STEM field learning about engineering,” “meeting brilliant scientists and engineers who helped formulate my interests,” “collaborating with a group to create something I would have never done outside of this internship,” “being able to look at different fields that interested me,” “the opportunity to work in a field relevant to my future career path,” “experiencing a real work and research environment,” “trips that gave me insight into a variety of career fields,” and “a great introduction to research in an individualized and meaningful experience.”
Since program onset in 2002, approximately 612 Wright Scholars have been hired from 95 school districts. Many have graduated from college or are attending a university majoring in engineering, science, and medical career fields. Upon college graduation, several have been hired as AFRL researchers and some are Air Force officers with engineering degrees, while others have received SMART scholarships, including paid college tuition with government service payback. Of students tracked through the years, 86% pursued or are pursuing science or engineering careers and 10% pursued or are pursuing medical careers, while 4% pursued other fields like finance or business.
So how do you become a Wright Scholar? Applications will be accepted from 18 Nov 2019 through 8 Jan 2020. Student applicants must meet the following eligibility requirements:
- Must have a demonstrated interest in STEM career fields
- Must be a high school junior or senior at time of application
- Must be a U.S. citizen. Program is not open to Permanent Residents or Green Card holders.
- Must be 16 years old and have a valid driver’s license by program start
- Must have own transportation OR a means to get to/from work place each day with someone who already has base access. Passes for base access will ONLY be issued to student intern.
- Must have overall GPA of 3.5 or higher. Home-school students are highly considered if they score in the top 20% on a national standardized test such as the PSAT/NMSQT, SAT or ACT.
- If you live out-of-state or a long distance from WPAFB, you must be responsible for securing your own temporary housing AND transportation. Program administration will not be responsible for making suitable arrangements on a scholar’s behalf. If you do not have a host family or friends with whom to stay, be aware that nearby dorms/apartments are now requiring guests to be a minimum of 18 years of age.
- Must be able to pass background check
- Must be available to start program on 1 June 2020 and attend mandatory first-day orientation
- Must commit to mandatory attendance policy during first week and also during student presentations at end of program. No absences (except emergency or illness) will be allowed during first week.
- Must be able to participate 40 hrs/wk for 9 weeks -- this is a full-time commitment.
- May not request more than 5 days of excused absence during the program (illness is excluded). Excessive or unexcused absences will be grounds for dismissal
Those students who cannot meet the minimum work requirement or adhere to the attendance policy are ineligible for the program.