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Riverdale teen transforms passion into teaching gig

Logan Rooper makes school history with project


by: REVIEW PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Riverdale High School senior Logan Rooper offers individual instruction during his class from left Meg Scanlon, Patricia Torvalds and Hugh Halvorson.Logan Rooper isn’t just a Riverdale High School senior.

Rooper is a Riverdale teacher.

The 18-year-old isn’t a student aide, nor is he covering light material. This trimester, the school began offering Rooper’s advanced science class, the first student-created and student-led course at Riverdale. Called Exploratory Ventures, or XV, students implement laser-sharp technology to study the environment, kicking off the course by examining what plagues the sea: rising water levels, temperatures and toxicity levels.

“The oceans are a major piece to humanity’s existence on earth, yet we only know very little about them,” Rooper said. “It’s imperative that humans study the ocean, so why not start in high school?”

His class has two parts. His students hit the textbooks, absorbing information on physical oceanography, geology, marine biology and ecosystems, marine technology and an introduction to robotics and computer science. Students are applying what they’re studying, but not with an ordinary lab.

They’re building modules that serve as tiny testing labs. On May 29, the students will troop over to Newport to put the modules into action. Attached to a 200-pound remote-operated vehicle, students will send them 120 feet down into the water.

Rooper said a friendly sea captain partially donated the use of his 45-foot deep-sea fishing boat. How long the ROV is submerged depends on how sick the students get while rocking on the boat, possibly two to four hours, Rooper said.by: REVIEW PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Riverdale High School student Logan Rooper is teaching his own advanced science class.

Riverdale senior Avi Berne said he hasn’t chosen what his mini-lab will assess — it is week two of the class after all. So far, Berne, a friend of Rooper’s, loves the class.

“I think it’s one of the greatest ideas to come to Riverdale,” said Berne, 18.

XV sprung from the Near Space Venture project Rooper did for kicks last summer with his classmates, shooting a vehicle more than 70,000 feet into the sky and taking video of the view below.

In the wake of a successful launch, Rooper wanted to continue. A classmate’s parent asked if he’d considered transforming the project into a class, he said. At first it seemed an overwhelming undertaking.

“I said no, there’s no way I’m doing that,” Rooper said. “But then I got sucked into it. It’s been fantastic.”

He decided he wanted to explore oceans this time and approached Riverdale Principal Paula Robinson with the idea. She approved and said Rooper has exhibited exemplary knowledge and character.

“He’s demonstrated accuracy, motivation and tenacity,” Robinson said.

The only wrinkle has been funding. Rooper spent the first two trimesters planning curriculum, pushing through paperwork to allow the class and creating a funding plan. Riverdale had no spare cash for the class, but the community came through with $4,800. This year’s budget is $4,298, according to course materials. Rooper said he will put any leftovers toward next year.

“I was very impressed with the level of interest and engagement in the community,” he said.

Robinson said the school lacks the staffing to run XV, so another student will have to step up and take the reins to continue it. Rooper is optimistic that someone will.

“There are a lot of students in the class who are very, very talented,” Rooper said.

by: REVIEW PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Logan Rooper is interested in studying computer science and environmental studies in college, but he hasn't chosen a major.He added that some of them helped him come up with ideas for his coursework. The class is full, and there’s a waiting list, so the demand is there.

Rooper has applied to 11 colleges and said he is interested in computer science and environmental studies but doesn’t yet know what his major will be. He’s been accepted by schools including Duke University, landing a place in its engineering school.

A fan of the way things work since he was a child, he has gone from visits to Oregon Museum of Science and Industry to advanced science in a short period. Last year, he completed a research internship in cryptography and network security at Portland State University. The study of climate change is a passion of his that arose after seeing news stories and former Vice President Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth.”

He’s not sure where it will take him, but teaching his course has thrilled him.

“It’s been fantastic,” Rooper said. “People have been helping me along every step of the way.”

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