Paul Glover saved for a year to make sure his son Jacob could spend a few days among ranks of Nobel Laureates, National Medal of Science winners and tech creators.
Jacob may only be a rising sophomore at LaFayette High School, but he has already chosen his career ambitions — which were reaffirmed by the experience of bumping heads with some of the world's foremost scientists and mathematicians at the Congress of Future Science and Technology Leaders held at the University of Massachusetts.
Jacob was one of several thousand students selected from across the country as a Delegate of the Congress, an award he accepted during a multi-day event celebrated by technology and research leaders such as Dr. John C. Mather. A Nobel Prize-winning physicist, Mather selected Jacob's application and nominated him for his 4.0 GPA, propensity for leadership and passion for science and technology, Jacob said.
Though Jacob's decision to enter the tech field and specialize in security differs from the applications chosen by Congress speakers such as Dr. Carl Dietrich, who helped created the first flying car, and renowned paleontologist Dr. Kenneth Lacovara, who is credited with the discovery of two dinosaurs (Paralititan and Dreadnoughtus), hearing them speak encouraged his choice.
"This is a crucial time in America when we need more nimble-minded and creative scientists and technologists who are even better prepared for a future that is changing exponentially," said Richard Rossi, executive director of the National Academy of Future Scientists and Technologists. "Focused, bright and determined students like Jacob are our future and he deserves all the mentoring and guidance we can give him."
The lineup of speakers spanned the gamut, from standout students whose work has broken new ground to a nationally recognized college admissions expert to former Houston Oilers safety Bo Eason. Jacob said he was also able to learn from Dr. Robert Metcalfe, the inventor of the ethernet, along with many other notable scientists.
But what stuck with him most, he said, were the stories of how those he admires arrived in their current fields. Speaker Kensen Shi's path began in high school, and that had a profound impact on Jacob.
"Kensen Shi was inspiring," Jacob said. "He started out one day when he was bored and hacked into a calculator to play a prank on friends and now he develops algorithms for collision-free paths for robots."
When he was a high school senior, Shi won the National Siemens Competition in Math, Science & Technology for developing a computer algorithm that is faster and more effective in facilitating robot navigation, netting him a $100,000 scholarship and proving that it's never too early to follow your dreams.
Massachusetts happens to be the home of Jacob's dream school, MIT, and while there for the event, Jacob's father made sure his son toured the renowned tech school.
"My goals are maintaining my GPA — especially in all accelerated classes, which is a challenge — and even as important is doing enough to get me in the doors to study at MIT," said Jacob, whose time at the conference also allowed him to brush elbows with Dr. Neil Gershenfeld, director of MIT's Center For Bits and Atoms.
"... [It] was an incredible experience and journey across the country. It is a memory I will keep with me my whole life," Jacob said.
Email Gabrielle Chevalier at firstname.lastname@example.org.