Tech Ed Headed to Schools
By Erica Plouffe Lazure
A $1.3 million grant from the National Science Foundation will enable East Carolina University to help public school teachers prepare students for careers in technology, science, engineering and mathematics. Led by faculty members from ECU’s engineering department in the College of Technology and Computer Science, the project will also involve professors in the departments of exercise and sport science, mathematics, and psychology.
Known as the ITEST (Information Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers) program, the NSF grant will enable ECU to host information technology academies and a symposium for teachers, students and parents from 20 rural school systems in eastern North Carolina. This is one of two grants ECU has received this year from the National Science Foundation to help develop public school curricula.
“The project team believes that a key issue in the shortage of qualified technology workforce involves making science and mathematics courses more engaging and exciting so students will be attracted to these careers,” said Paul Kauffmann, chair of ECU’s department of engineering. “We want to expose students and teachers of eastern North Carolina to a range of tools which can infuse science and math classes with practical and useful applications to stimulate student interest.”
This summer, 60 math and science teachers and guidance counselors will be introduced to robotics and biomechanics and work with engineering, mathematics, and exercise science faculty to develop lesson plans. Over the three years of the project, three groups of 60 high school students will come to ECU for a three-week summer Information Technology Academy for Students.
During the student academy, public school educators and ECU faculty members will show students how to integrate their knowledge of science, math, engineering, and technology through two course explorations. The biomechanics program will enable students to use sensors along with engineering and mathematical software to investigate the human gait. The robotics program will let students assemble and program robot rovers for navigation and speed control.
During the school year, ECU graduate students and faculty members will visit the participating schools to help implement the lesson plans and programs developed during the summer.
“We hope to help families recognize important links between school activities and the career goals of their children,” said Gail Ratcliff, chair of the mathematics department at ECU. “Parental involvement in development of technological literacy is essential at all levels of education.”