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NSF awards grant for computational science training

(Apr. 14, 2000)   —   A new nationwide project, developed in part by East Carolina University, intends to help improve science and mathematics education by bringing computational science to high schools across the United States.

A $1.03 million National Science Foundation grant to a consortium of nine educational institutions will develop a core group of about 200 high school math and science teachers trained in the latest computer technologies. The consortium includes: the Association for Computing Machinery, IEEE Computer Society, East Carolina University (ECU), Krell Institute, National Center for Atmospheric Research, National Center for Supercomputing Applications, Ohio Supercomputer Center, Shodor Education Foundation Inc., and the University of Alabama at Huntsville.

Dr. Jeffrey Huskamp, the ECU chief information officer and principal investigator for the grant, said the teachers will be taught to use the tools, techniques and technologies of computational science as a way to spark interest and pursue scientific methods in their classrooms.

"Computational science can help motivate students to expand their interest in scientific inquiry and problem solving through hands-on modeling, simulation and visualization," he said.

Computational science is an expanding field that is known by such names as scientific computing, computing modeling and computer simulation. It makes possible a new approach to science that produces mathematical models and complex algorithms in ways that can be displayed graphically to provide answers to questions that are difficult or impossible to determine with experiments.

Some of the latest uses include DNA sequencing, weather patterns, ocean flow, celestial mechanics and hurricane track forecasting. Huskamp will administer the "Developing Educational Leaderships in Computational Science" project with other co-principal investigators.

They include Edna E. Gentry, a professor at the University of Alabama at Huntsville; Scott Lathrop, the program manager for the Education, Outreach and Training program of the Partnerships for Advanced Computational Infrastructure (EOT-PACI) team at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Ernest G. Marshburn, director of Strategic Initiatives at ECU; Dr. Robert M. Panoff, executive director of the Shodor Education Foundation; and Dr. Helen Parke, director of the ECU Science, Mathematics and Technology Education Center, round out the leadership group. They will be assisted by members of the EOT-PACI team and by others involved with the SC 2000 and 2001 national high performance and networking conferences.

"It is our desire that teachers learn to use computational science to motivate students not only to learn science and mathematics but to realize the thrill of scientific inquiry and problem solving," said Gentry. "As a result of teacher involvement in computational science, and consequently student involvement, students learn how to apply the scientific method, develop higher-order thinking skills, and learn how to be better communicators."

The teachers for the project will be selected from a national pool of applicants. The first 100 teachers will attend the SC 2000 conference in Dallas on Nov. 10 where they will go through five days of instruction. Later they will attend a two-week summer program of training at the University of Alabama at Huntsville. In between, there will be on-line monthly seminars and teleconferences. A similar regimen is planned for the second 100 participants in 2001.

"The overall goal of this program is the development of a core group of teachers who, through a rich and stimulating environment including interactions with leading computational scientists and year-round support, will reach out from within their school d


Contact: ECU News Bureau | 252-328-6481