This award provides funding for a new Research Experiences for Teachers (RET) Site focused on Emerging and Novel Engineering Technologies at the University of Texas-Pan American. Each year 12 middle and high school teachers from school districts in the Rio Grande Valley will participate in research projects at the university. The projects span a large array of topics in engineering and computer science including control systems, power and energy, wireless networks, algorithms, and robotics. The teachers will also develop modules related to their research which they will implement in their classes in the following school year. The teachers will showcase their work and build communities of practice with other educators at an annual workshop. Through participation in the RET Site the teachers will have an enhanced knowledge base in engineering and computer science and the skills to translate this into their classroom practices, thus impacting their students and motivating them towards science, technology, computing, and engineering disciplines.
The intellectual merit of this project revolves around the expertise of the research team and the clearly-defined projects that are of current interest and relevant to the teachers. K-12 curriculum units that are developed are tied to state and national standards. The evaluation plan is outstanding. Overall the project is conceptually sound with authentic research experiences tied to research goals that are compelling and of interest as models for others.
The broader impacts of the project lie in the potential to impact STEM education in the Rio-Grande Valley, a region with a population that is 86% Hispanic. Teachers will learn about engineering and computer science through active participation in research combined with professional development and sustained follow-up during the academic year. This should motivate and prepare an untapped student talent pool to careers in engineering and computer science. Materials will be disseminated to a large number of teachers in the participating schools and broadly through the national TeachEngineering.org Digital Library. The goal of the project is to build a long-term collaborative partnership between the university and the area schools. The project should enable the partners to work together to build a sustainable foundation of outstanding computing and engineering education in the region.