This renewal Research Experiences for Teachers (RET) in Engineering and Computer Science Site at the University of Akron will focus on polymer engineering research. Polymers are a key component of many engineering challenges facing society today and are therefore an excellent intellectual focus to expose teachers in engineering research. The broad dissemination of the results of this work through the web, journal publication, local workshops, and national meeting symposia will have national impact and inform K-12 and College/University educators of best practices for Research Experiences for Teachers programs. This work will have a beneficial impact on the teachers, the faculty mentors, and the graduate student mentors involved. The teachers will gain increased confidence and knowledge in performing inquiry based science and engineering lessons in their classrooms. This will help invigorate their classrooms and encourage students to pursue further science and engineering education in college. The UAkron mentors will be exposed to a broader range of science practitioners. This experience will develop long-term relationships between the University and local high schools that will better serve the education objectives of the United States. Several of the participating school districts serve a high number of economically disadvantaged students and have schools rated as needing continuous improvement by the Ohio Department of Education. Therefore, this program will directly impact students who are underrepresented in science.
This RET Site will offer an intensive eight week summer research program for a total of 30 secondary STEM teachers over three years from school districts in the Akron, Ohio area. Faculty members and graduate students from the College of Polymer Science and Polymer Engineering and the Departments of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering and Biomedical Engineering in the College of Engineering will mentor teachers on independent research projects in the faculty members' laboratories. Teachers will also take part in professional development activities including academic and industrial lectures on engineering, field trips to local polymer industry sites, and activities focused on lesson plan development. The graduate students involved will participate in a two week classroom teaching boot camp to prepare them to visit the teachers' classroom during the academic year and assist in the delivery of the generated lesson plans. The lesson plans will be distributed on the web. A summer workshop will be held to disseminate results of this work to local teachers. A symposium at the national American Chemical Society (ACS) conference will be held each year to disseminate the results to teachers and academic, government, and industrial scientists and engineers. Evaluation of the RET site will be performed by a faculty member from Youngstown State University and submitted for publication in archival journals.