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South Hagerstown High graduate has engineered a future

July 17, 2010|By TIFFANY ARNOLD
  • South Hagerstown High School valedictorian Jason Camarano received a $10,000 scholarship from Northrop Grumman Corp. Jason plans to attend the University of Pittsburgh, studying industrial engineering.
By Ric Dugan/Staff Photographer,

The frozen toothpaste -- one of many "Jason experiments" -- hinted at where Jason Camarano's childhood fascination with math and the physical world would lead.

Today, South Hagerstown High School's top graduate is preparing to go to the University of Pittsburgh, where he plans to begin his studies in industrial engineering for the fall semester. Camarano received a $10,000 scholarship from Northrop Grumman Corp., a global security company that develops aircraft systems, builds ships and offers other technical services.

Jason Camarano is at the age when it's perfectly acceptable to respond "I don't know" when asked "What do yo want to be when you grow up?" But perhaps it is as the 18-year-old Williamsport resident suggests: that he is among the lucky few to discover his life's passion early. He wants to be an industrial engineer.

"I've been into physics and math since I was 8 years old," he said.

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Were you to pose the question to an 8-year-old Jason Camarano, he insists the answer would have been "a theoretical physicist" like Albert Einstein.

He said he reached this conclusion from watching education programs about the origins of the universe and reading magazine articles and reference books that belonged to his parents, Marla and Joe Camarano.

Mom and Dad said they chose to home school their children - Jason has a younger sister, Lisa, 13 - to encourage them to be intellectually curious. Jason was home schooled from age 7 to 14; he attended South High and was the class of 2010 valedictorian.

"I wanted to make sure my children had the freedom to explore," said dad, Joe Camarano.

In Jason's case, curiosity fueled an interest in math and science, which in turn made him more curious about the world around him. As a child, he conducted what his mother referred to as the "Jason experiments."

"One of the things that fascinated me," Jason explained, "was how different substances reacted at lower temperatures."

So he put things in the freezer to see what would happen. As it turns out, the toothpaste wasn't so interesting frozen. "It just got hard," he said.

Jason Camarano's appetite for knowledge grew as he got older. As an eighth-grader, he was honored by the Johns Hopkins University's Center for Talented Youth for scoring above 750 in the Critical Reading portion of the SAT.

In 2007, Jason was accepted to Marshall University's Exploring Engineering: Academy of Excellence, a summer program intended to expand high school students' understanding the field of engineering.

Jason said this was the time when he determined industrial engineering was his calling.

Marla and Joe Camarano said they were excited for their son and are glad that he has been so focused, though Marla Camarano said she doesn't want her son to develop tunnel vision. Her advice to her son is to "taste a bit of everything."

"You don't even know what you don't know," Marla Camarano said. "Even if you end up staying on this path, everything else will inform your decision to be an industrial engineer."

Jason said he knows unequivocally that he wants to be an industrial engineer, and that's where he's probably going to devote most of his energy.

But he also said one of the reasons he chose the University of Pittsburgh from the many schools he was accepted to had nothing to do with engineering.

"I'm considering minoring in music," said Jason, who's been playing guitar for four years.

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