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UC Summer Institute to Improve Science and Math Education Wraps Up with Aug. 2 Teacher Showcase

With its second year of instruction underway, the CEEMS program is equipping area teachers with tools to impact STEM education in the Tri-State and beyond. The showcase on Aug. 2 marks the kickoff to an impactful year.

Date: 7/25/2013 12:00:00 AM
By: Arthur Davies
Phone: (513) 556-9181

UC ingot  
Students working with their laptops in a classroom.
First-year students learn about program expectations.

The University of Cincinnati's College of Engineering and Applied Science (CEAS) is leading an interdisciplinary effort that reaches far beyond the boundaries of the university’s campus.

That effort, the Cincinnati Engineering Enhanced Mathematics and Science Program (CEEMS), aims to elevate STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) education by building a collaborative, sustainable, education-licensure and degree-granting infrastructure throughout the Tri-State.

The CEEMS program was designed to meet the growing demand for engineering-educated teachers and equip them to provide students with a universal skill set, as well as opportunities to reach and surpass Ohio New Learning Standards for Science, Common Core Math Standards and the Next Generation Science Standards.

A portrait show of Prof. Anant Kukreti.
Prof. Anant Kukreti, Principal Investigator for CEEMS.

Now in its second year, the CEEMS program is shaping up to have a promising future. In 2011, the National Science Foundation awarded CEEMS a $9.2 million grant for five years.

“You don’t receive this amount of money without wanting to impact student achievement in math and science, which is our ultimate goal,” said professor Anant Kukreti, principal investigator for CEEMS and director of management and design of the CEEMS effort. “Our way of doing that is not by working directly with the students; we work through their teachers to create a pedagogy change so they can be more engaged in math and science through hands-on projects that have rigor and that expose students to career applications based on math and science. That’s where the engineering piece comes in.”

Prof. Dave in the front of a classroom full of students.
Prof. Janek Dave instructs Applications of Technology students.

Over the course of seven weeks, area educators become students by attending the Summer Institute for Teachers (SIT), which is now entering its final weeks of completion. SIT is one of four professional-development pathways for teacher preparedness and comprises eight engineering and science-based courses, including five engineering courses: (1) Engineering Foundations, (2) Applications of Technology, (3) Engineering Applications of Mathematics, (4) Engineering Models, (5) Engineering Energy Systems, and three science courses: (1) Modeling and Applications (M&A) in Physical Sciences, (2) M&A in Biological Sciences, (3) M&A in Earth Systems. The engineering courses are taught through CEAS, and the science courses through A&S,   The College of Education, Criminal Justice, and Human Services is also a partner on the project.

Applications of Technology is a core course where problems are presented that allow students to define, design, build and test their solutions. During classes this summer, teams worked together on design projects such as building an 8.5-inch platform capable of supporting a large load with only a (specified) limited amount of materials.

A small, 8.5-inch platform holds three reams of paper.
Students build platform capable of supporting a large load.

Course instructor and mechanical engineering technology Professor Janak Dave says many lessons are to be learned from challenges like the aforementioned one. “Students will see that planning beforehand is a key component to the challenged-based learning,” he said.  “[They will learn] don’t go into the solution with only one solution in mind.”

Applications of Technology student Erick Allen, who teaches math at Withrow University High School and who is in his second year of CEEMS, talks about the changes he has seen in his classroom as a result of his participation in classes such as Applications of Technology. “CEEMS has brought technology into the classroom,” he said. “My students are now better at presenting and are better at doing challenged-based word problems.”

The Engineering Foundations, another core course, introduces students to the scope of engineering disciplines, basic foundations of engineering science and engineering design. Working in teams, students implement the design process from the need to the prototype in an open-ended environment. This summer, one of the challenges was to build a turbine air foil and test it to see how much power it produced.

Goshen Middle School teachers Kelly Denu and Samantha McConnaughey discuss project.
Goshen Middle School teachers Kelly Denu and Samantha McConnaughey discuss project.

Goshen Middle School math teacher Kelly Denu is excited about taking concepts like these into the classroom. “I think it’s awesome, and I think that being able to bring some of these engineering designs into my class, so that the kids can apply them, is going to help them learn the math skills and concepts,” she said. “I really enjoy the engineering-design process way of thinking and approaching the problem so that the students can become better problem solvers themselves. I also like the collaboration that we [the teachers] get to do, and I can see that our kids will get to do that, too.”

Fellow Goshen Middle School science teacher Samantha McConnaughey discusses what she says is another positive aspect of the SIT. “Time is golden as a teacher; we never have time to do anything,” she said. “So the time that we have this summer to actually create a full unit and to get feedback from professionals like the resource team and engineers that we’re going to be working with is going to be invaluable.”

Engineering Foundations students test turbine air foil with a fan.
Engineering Foundations students test turbine air foil.

The SIT results in each teacher participant producing three learning units that integrate engineering’s challenge-based learning processes into secondary mathematics and science curriculum. The showcase is a way to display these units. “This gives the teachers the opportunity to highlight their work and to have some outside perspective to pat them on the back and say ‘job well done,’” said CEEMS project manager Julie Steimle.  “It is [also] a celebration of seven weeks of hard work.”

Teachers will display a poster that will summarize each of the three units they have created. “The poster session will be a time for the teachers to talk about their units and to get teachers comfortable with presenting their work to adults,” Steimle said. “One of the goals of the project is to create teacher leaders so that not only will they be great in the classroom, but they will spread the word among their colleagues, as well.”

The Closing Day Showcase is Friday Aug. 2, 2013, from 8:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m.

CEEMS is funded by the National Science Foundation, grant No. 1102990.

Select for Closing Day Showcase Agenda.

Photography Note