This award provides funding for a 3 year continuing award to support a Research Experiences for Teachers (RET) in Engineering Site program at the Tennessee Technological University (TTU) entitled, "RET Site: Research Experience for Teachers in Manufacturing for Competitiveness in the United States (RETainUS),"under the direction of Dr. Mohamed Abdelrahman.
This Research Experiences for Teachers (RET) in Engineering Site hosted by the Center for Manufacturing Research at TTU will provide a total of 30 math and science high school teachers (10 per year for 3 years) with a 6-week multi-disciplinary summer experience in manufacturing research with an academic year follow-up plan. This proposed program will contribute to retaining and advancing the manufacturing base in the U.S. through meaningful changes in the teachers' understanding of manufacturing and how it relates to the Math and Science Curriculum. This program aims at improving the teachers' comprehension of the research and development process through hands-on experience and real world problems that relate to: a) advancing the state of the art in conventional manufacturing processes such as metalcasting; b) new trends in manufacturing such as rapid prototyping, c) emerging technologies such as nanomaterials and manufacturing of fuel cells and special coating materials, and d) enabling technologies serving manufacturing processes in general such as intelligent optimization. Special attention will be given to counties and schools where minorities and underserved populations are concentrated. In addtion to working with in-service teachers, RETainUS will expose pre-service teachers to the exciting world of engineering research and how to uniquely incorporate it into the learning environment.
There is a plethora of national reports that emphasize the critical need for developing a STEM workforce as necessary for maintaining the competitiveness of the US in the current knowledge based economy. All agree that high-quality mathematics and science education in the K–12 period is absolutely necessary to achieve this goal. The Research Experience for Teachers in Manufacturing for Competitiveness in the United States (RETainUS) project immersed 30 high school teachers and community college faculty in the engineering research and design process. The program was implemented in two institutions: Tennessee Technological University (TTU) and Texas A & M University at Kingsville (TAMUK). The first is located in middle Tennessee where a large percentage of students live in underserved and economically disadvantaged communities. The latter is a minority serving institution with majority of the teachers serving communities with mostly Hispanic populations. With the help from faculty mentors and graduate students, each of the teachers developed a relevant research question and became the principal investigators for their part(s) of the research, with the mentors and graduate students supporting them as facilitators and consultants. Participants' projects were based on ongoing research activities from multiple engineering disciplines including Electrical and Computer Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Chemical Engineering, Industrial Engineering, Manufacturing and Industrial Technology and Environmental Engineering. The teachers experienced examples of how "silos" of knowledge are integrated within manufacturing and engineering applications. Simultaneously, these educators were trained to design and implement an interactive methodology for training students known as the Legacy Cycle. Each of RETainUSâ€™ participants created and implemented in their classrooms at least one legacy cycle based on their research experience. The research experience and the legacy cycles improved teachers and students understanding of manufacturing as a self-fulfilling environment, fertile with research and development opportunities. The teachersâ€™ research experiences, legacy cycles and implementation within the curriculum forged an improved educational environment for hundreds of students. Teachers and faculty members shared their experiences, best practices and developed legacy cycles with other teachers and educators in local, regional and national workshops and conferences. To date twelve papers supported by RETainUS have been published in the proceedings of the American Society of Engineering Education and other venues. Additionally teachers coauthored scientific journal publications based on their RETainUS research. Two provisional patent applications have been filed based on research supported by RETainUS.