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On June 10, eleven of the thirteen students in the Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program hiked up to the Cascades Recreation Area with REU mentors Dr. Bose and Dr. Thamvichai. Among the thirteen students in the program, there are five Virginia Tech students, five students from Puerto Rico, and three from different universities all over the country. After two weeks of lectures and meetings, the students got into some really intense research work with a hike up the mountain, climbing on the rock formations, and swimming in the lake at the base of the waterfall. Well, maybe it wasn’t intense research work, but it was a great time for the students to get to know each other better and to relax with the other students and faculty with whom they will be working in the next weeks of the program.
On June 17th, our students in the REU (Research Experience for Undergraduates) program set out on a scavenger hunt around the town of Blacksburg. They were given a list of forty-five tasks and were instructed to complete as many as they could, which involved traveling all around town. The tasks included things such as visiting various stores and restaurants in town and answering questions about them, getting photos or signatures from particular people, and answering questions about various other locations such as the number of basketball courts at Nellie’s Cave Park and the number of windows on the front façade of the president’s house.
The students were divided up into three teams. Chris Evans (Virginia Tech), Garrett Vanhoy (University of Arizona), and Carlos Lopez (Caribbean University, Puerto Rico) made up team “Wildcats.” Noel Torres (Polytechnic University, Puerto Rico) and Zachary Leffke (Virginia Tech) were team “SatCom.” Kevin Burns (Virginia Tech), Angel Martinez (University of Puerto Rico at Mayaguez), and Bill Clark (Virginia Tech) made up team “Fire.”
The teams were then awarded for most tasks completed, furthest distance traveled, most pictures taken, first back to the meeting room, and funniest story. Team Fire was the last to return to the meeting room, but they had completed 29 tasks, which won them a prize. They had also had traveled the farthest. They were close to also winning the prize for most pictures taken, until Team SatCom counted up the pictures taken on their cell phones in addition to those taken on the disposable cameras that each team had been given, and came out far ahead. Team SatCom had also reached the meeting room first, narrowly beating the Wildcats. However, the Wildcats were not left out, winning the prize for funniest story.
Regardless of who won what prizes, all three teams looked back on the day with satisfaction. Each group spoke of how well their members worked together, how much fun they had, and how the scavenger hunt had helped them to better know the town of Blacksburg.