(542c) Integrating Engineering to K-12 by Training Teachers Using REU Concept
AIChE Annual Meeting
Wednesday, November 10, 2010 - 3:57pm to 4:18pm
Providing K-12 students an earlier exposure to engineering is recognized as a way to prepare them for postsecondary courses. There has been a significant increase in academies and workshops addressing this concept. Since there is a total turnover of students each year, training K-12 teachers has been thought as an efficient approach. Further, teachers can integrate engineering concepts during the academic year which provides a natural transition. Based on this concept, we started a Research Experience for Teachers (RET) project, where teachers were introduced to research dealing with tissue engineering. Teachers worked for six weeks (four days a week) within the research laboratory on formation of porous structures using biodegradable polymers. One unique feature of RET project was pairing teachers with undergraduate students (referred as REU students in the subsequent discussion) to bridge gaps between the knowledge and experience of faculty and teachers. REU students were selected for this project from the engineering programs, so that they are comfortable with instrumentation and understand measurement procedures that may not be familiar to teachers. REU students were also required to continue to work with teachers during the fall semester to help implement engineering research knowledge in the classroom. Teachers were exposed to the technique of forming porous structures using biocompatible and biodegradable polymers into various shapes using the apparatus available in the laboratory. The concept of design cycle was utilized with the initial starting location of researching existing polymers. Next they performed modeling of the cost followed by implementation of the freeze-drying technique. Students are also asked to measure the number of pores using light microscopy. They also had to communicate their experience to the teachers. Presence of REU student was integral to continuous input and integration during the academic year. Extended presence of the REU student benefits the project since the REU student can continue to work with the teacher to solve technical issues that arise once the teacher begins to implement the research problem at their home school. Further, REU student also had significant exposure to research. In 2010, we have expanded this experience to four teachers with one teacher returning from the previous year. We anticipate that the entire hands-on experience will stimulate their interest towards engineering or STEM fields.