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Educators Become the Students in Summer Engineering Program


Educators Become the Students in Summer Engineering Program


Educators Become the Students in Summer Engineering Program

Educators Become the Students in Summer Engineering Program

With technology continuing to move forward on the borderless highways of tomorrow, more and more high schools in Texas are beginning to adapt a fresh take on teaching science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

With a new curriculum, however, comes a new way of teaching it.

Starting June 23 and continuing through July 24, the second annual UTeach Engineering Summer Institute for Teachers (ESIT) will take place at The University of Texas at El Paso. Teachers participating in the five-week program will return to the classroom with the tools necessary to engage their students in meaningful, project-based lessons in engineering and science.

The program will conclude when ESIT teachers present the results of their learning at the 2010 Conference for International Research on Cross-Cultural Learning in Education (CIRCLE Conference) being held at the University.

“Our primary goal is to enrich teacher activities with new forms of teaching methods that promote STEM education, ” said Debra Little, P.E., clinical professor of engineering education.

One of the many things the institute provides are examples of low-cost activities that provide the same top-notch education as highly technological projects.

On July 2, the ESIT teachers teamed up with 260 freshmen from Austin High School and the Ysleta Independent School District participating in GEAR UP (Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs) at the University.

The students were separated into groups of 20, one group per ESIT teacher, and were given the task to develop three paper airplanes in a contest held at the Undergraduate Learning Center (UGLC).

Each airplane then was thrown from the first, second and third floors of the learning center to see which one flew longest and farthest. The winning high school was Hanks, whose team flew its plane a distance of 65 feet.

The end result was a daylong lesson in basic engineering that involved design and physics. “Each student group had different results, where they were able to see, hands on, how engineering worked,” Little said.

The program emphasizes a creative process in developing curriculum at a low cost. One method of teaching is reverse engineering, where a class takes an object apart, separating it into pieces to see how it works. For instance, a teacher may take apart a mechanical pencil and reveal that it has up to 20 components.

“(What the summer institute provides) is a giant toolkit for each teacher involved that can help them to build a successful curriculum to educate their students in primary engineering education,” Little said.

The challenge of the program is teaching primary engineering education at the high school level. Currently, only a handful of high schools in Texas have instituted engineering as an elective program. This challenge, however, is a chance to grow, not only for the students, but also for the teachers, Little said.

“I ’ve found that the hands-on approach to teaching is very effective,” said ESIT teacher Gilberto Monarez, a computer and Web design teacher at Austin High School. “Children like to tinker. When you want to know how something works, you take it apart.”

Judging by the speed of technology, it is crucial that children begin to develop a basic understanding of technology before they reach college, according to Little.

The group of teachers previewed a video before the beginning of the session in which Richard Riley, former U.S. Secretary of Education, said, “Children are preparing for technological jobs that do not yet exist. The most important thing a student can do today is learn to learn.”

However, just as the paper airplanes flown from the top of UGLC were a design process, so is the program, Little said.

“The challenge is not the lack of a prescription, rather taking a challenge and turning it into a positive form of action,” she said.

Originally posted on News @ UTEP.


The University of Texas at El Paso
College of Engineering
Engineering Building Room A148
500 W University Ave
El Paso, TX 79968

Phone: (915) 747-6444
Fax: (915) 747-5437

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