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“The STEM programs at W.F. West High School have launched Chehalis into the statewide spotlight as a leader in STEM education.”
-Ed Rothlin, Chehalis School District Superintendent


“[They] are doing great things for STEM education. The work they do will benefit classrooms across the state.”
-Randy Dorn, Washington State Superintendent


“Chehalis is doing it right in science, technology, engineering and math education.”
-Robotx World


“When applying to colleges I actually got emails back questioning whether I’d really used the Scanning Electron Microscope or if I had just SEEN someone using it, because it’s equipment that isn’t usually used until graduate school!”
–Payton Rothlin, W.F. West Graduate

Why are people speaking so highly about W.F. West High School, the city of Chehalis, and the STEM curriculum? The Chehalis Foundation, private donors, and the Chehalis School Board, have come together to provide students with a competitive edge for college and career STEM pathways. Also, the State of Washington has designated the W.F. West High School STEM program and its status as a ‘Lighthouse School’, a model for other schools and programs.

Payton Rothlin Video Thumbnail Chehalis Foundation

Goals of STEM support by the Chehalis Foundation

STEM programs for W. F. West are just part of the overall strategy that Chehalis Foundation is calling the Student Achievement Initiative. To date the Foundation has invested over 1 million dollars to improve education quality in every classroom for every student in Chehalis. By integrating funding into every level of education, we can sustain our goal of increasing from 20% of W.F. West students earning four-year degrees to 60% by 2024. We are helping Chehalis students become college and / or career ready.

Each year, we have seen progress being made with our projects. This year is no exception. We’d like to highlight some of the amazing activities and projects that have unfolded in 2015.

MATLAB (MATrix LABoratory)

Students created Graphical User Interfaces (GUI’s) that allows them to observe changes in the amplitude, period, vertical shift, and phase shift of trigonometric functions. Sound complicated? That’s because it is. We do not know of any other high school in the Northwest with access to MATLAB.

Some W.F. West students have used MATLAB models in their Advanced Physics projects. One student, Jericka Jones (2015 W.F. West graduate), realized that she’d like to pursue a computer science degree after using MATLAB for computer programming concepts.

Mobile Application Development

Python programming language is studied to develop an understanding of basic computer programming concepts. The next language to study is Apple’s Xcode Integrated Development Environment (IDE) and the new Swift programming language to begin building simple computer and mobile applications.

Molecular Genetics Program

This advanced class has been manipulating, analyzing, and testing DNA all year long. They also learn how to design and prepare Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) and apply the use of PCR technology in DNA profiling and genetic testing procedures used in hospitals and crime labs.

Students develop and design an advanced research project, which they submit to national student research competitions such as Student Bio Expo and the Junior Science and Humanities Symposium. Two students, Maddie Phillips and Conner Howard, received honorable mentions at the Student Bio Expo held at Shoreline Community College this year.


The robotics team, S.W.A.G.(Students With A Goal) 4060, has received new tools this year to help them grow in their education: a shop bot, a band saw, and a professional-grade 3D printer. In addition to growing the tool inventory, the robotics team’s room in the school has nearly doubled its original size. It’s now a perfect space for designing, programming, and constructing their robot.

In the year 2015, S.W.A.G. 4060 received an award for ‘Gracious Professionalism’ for helping other teams to perform during a competition. Team S.W.A.G.’s alliance won Girls’ Generation (October 17, 2015), a competitive game aimed at encouraging girls to get involved in STEM based activities, which are generally male dominated.

In addition to this year’s achievements, the robotics team participates in the following activities every year:

  • Olympic Elementary STEM Day an event for fifth graders to excite young kids
  • Hosting two FTC competitions in December at our school, inspiring younger students to explore their interests in STEM fields
  • STEM Academy, a week-long (August 3-7, 2015) summer day camp which gives over 80 students from across the state opportunities to learn LEGO programming, molecular genetics, drone projects, and explore other STEM fields
  • Creating an FLL team (first meeting was September 16, 2015) at the local middle school and a Junior FLL team at the elementary school, helping younger students learn programming and teamwork skills through a popular robotics program
  • Offering students at our high school access to classes in programming languages, LEGO Mindstorm, SolidWorks, AutoCAD, hand drafting, architectural engineering, molecular genetics, and other unparalleled STEM opportunities

*Resource for the robotic team information is

Look at the hand Niko made!

Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM)

W.F. West is the only high school in the state to have a scanning electron microscope. Students are able to look at items under extreme magnification-typically 1.5 micrometers. This magnification allows students to look at the structure of organisms not seen with the naked eye.

The SEM classes allow students hands-on experience with a machine that most students don’t get to use before graduate school. Take a look at the Twitter page showing images of objects viewed under the SEM at

There is a great deal to be proud of with the STEM programs at W.F. West and the accomplishments made by the students this year. The Chehalis Foundation and the many supporters of the initiative have helped to make big improvements in STEM education for our kids. We look forward to enhancing these programs and bringing STEM programs into the middle schools, and even elementary school in the future. To learn more about how you too can get involved, please contact John Diefendorf, J Vander Stoep or Mary Lou Bissett from the Chehalis Foundation.

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