ATE Impacts

From the Archive: Summer Camp Programs in ATE

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A group of students and teacher conduct an experiment.

With the end of the semester just a few short weeks away, some in the ATE community may already be looking toward summer. Traditionally a time for camps, bridge programs, summer internships, faculty training opportunities, and an assortment of other curricular activities, this year’s programming may still be somewhat different from summers past. Nonetheless, programs are moving forward, whether online or in person, and many aspects–from planning to outreach, registration to evaluation–may well be much the same. 

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3 Free Algebra Games Show Students How Appealing Math Is

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xPonum is a puzzle game that teaches algebraic concepts.

Borough of Manhattan Community College Mathematics Professor Kathleen Offenholley is a math games maven. She sees art and playfulness in math and has long used hands-on games of her own creation in her courses as a vehicle to raise students’ interest in math.

“I find that especially for anxious students, games can take students out of their anxiety,” she said.

Educators can now access the three open-source digital games at Math Games for STEM, which she worked with professional game developers to create for the gatekeeper algebra course that STEM majors take at the Borough of Manhattan Community College.

The games are xPonum – a puzzle game; Algebots – an equation-solving game; and The Project Sampson – an adventure and resource management game.  “In all three, the math is intrinsic to the puzzle,” Offenholley said. Download the free games and educator guides at https://mathgamesforstem.wordpress.com/

Offenholley said the games were extremely effective when tested in a summer immersion program for in-coming geographic information systems (GIS) majors, who were the focus of her ATE project: Simulation-Based Curriculum to Accelerate Math Remediation and Improve Degree Completion for STEM Majors (Award # 1501499). The free algebra textbook that she and colleagues also developed for this project is at math56oer.wordpress.com.

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Sustainability in the ATE Community: An Interview with Nancy Maron of BlueSky to BluePrint

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Image of Nancy Maron

For those of us in the ATE community sustainability is a topic woven into our projects and centers from the start. Anyone who writes an ATE proposal has to include a section about how they hope to sustain at least some portion of their activities and resources. As work progresses, the PI and team considers how best to sustain project or center deliverables—a summer institute, industry tours, a faculty professional development series—beyond NSF funding. Particularly for those new to ATE, the concept of sustainability can be a bit confusing and feel like a daunting task. Thankfully there are ATE peers and outside experts who can help all of us think through strategies and lean on practices that have been successful for others. 

Nancy Maron, founder of BlueSky to BluePrint, has been working with ATE Central and the ATE community for almost a decade, providing guidance and support in this critical area. Nancy always has great advice and thoughtful examples of sustainability from those in, and beyond, ATE. Recently Nancy was kind enough to answer a few questions about her own background and provide some thoughts on sustainability.

ATE Central: Can you tell us a bit about your own background and work and how you came to launch your business BlueSky to BluePrint?

Maron: The idea for my company evolved over time, as my professional interests drew me into fields that to an outsider might not seem related! I started off in trade publishing, as a marketing and salesperson back when the national chains were just taking hold, so I got to learn the nuts and bolts of how sales and distribution channels work. I continued studying “cultural diffusion” in graduate school, by exploring the early years of mass media culture in France. When I returned to publishing, I wanted to be somewhere where I could see and understand the big picture of the digital transformations taking hold, and the not-for-profit think-tank Ithaka S+R (parent organization of JSTOR) was the perfect place to pursue those interests. While there, I led several research projects focused specifically on understanding how innovative digital initiatives in the academic and cultural sectors have found creative ways develop and grow beyond their initial grant funding.

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Researchers Examine Economic Impact of ATE

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The Hidden Innovation Infrastructure conceptual model  maps how ATE initiatives flow into economic development.

Rutgers University researchers are examining the economic impact of the Advanced Technological Education (ATE) program in a multi-year study that eschews the usual metrics of return-on-investment calculations and student completion data. 

Instead, as Michelle Van Noy, the principal investigator of The Hidden Innovation Infrastructure project explained in a recent interview, researchers are scanning the entire ATE program for economic development activities and taking a close look at community colleges’ ATE initiatives, the “innovation ecosystem or infrastructure” that ATE grants influence, and the interactions of ATE centers and projects with regional labor markets.

Van Noy, an assistant research professor and associate director of Education and Employment Research Center (EERC) at Rutgers in New Jersey, said the research project was planned before COVID, but that she hopes the findings will assist colleges deal with imperatives triggered by the pandemic. “I think the role for community colleges—in terms of economic development—is even more important now and being that anchor in the community that can spur job development, and create resilience and create innovation,” she said.

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Select Resources for Accessible Remote Education

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A woman works on a laptop at home.

The ATE community has risen to the challenge of remote and multimodal instruction during the last two semesters. An important aspect of teaching in general, and remote teaching in particular, is creating and providing learning materials that are accessible to all students. As many educators begin preparing for spring instruction, the following resources may be helpful for making remote instruction more widely accessible. Do you have additional resources focused on online instruction or accessible education that you’d like to share with the ATE community? We’d love to hear from you – email us at info@atecentral.net – and we can share them out through ATE Central as well as our sister site AccessATE, which focuses on providing a host of accessibility resources and solutions for the ATE community.

Make the most of Open Educational Resources (OER) with CCCOER’s OER Tutorials.

As the world adapted to increased online learning during spring 2020, the Community College Consortium for Open Educational Resources (CCCOER) was at the forefront of the transition with their five-week webinar program for open educational resources beginners. Designed for instructors and support staff, the program tackles best practices "for student-centered instruction in fully online courses or face-to-face courses, augmented with online components," creative commons basics, and how to select trustworthy and accessible classroom resources, among other key topics. The CCCOER website hosts recordings, slides, and resources from each installment of the OER Tutorials series. In particular, the OER: Vetting tutorial provides information on vetting digital resources for accessibility and the principles of Universal Design for Learning. A plethora of additional open educational resources can be found on other sections of the CCCOER's website. For more OER materials, check out our blog on OER resources for STEM education.

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Alumni Share Appreciation of Renewable Energy Program

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John Schwarzmeier leads SunPeak’s Systems Integration Group. (Photo courtesy of SunPeak.)

Two alumni of the renewable energy technology program at Madison Area Technical College (Madison College) credit the industry connections and experiential learning opportunities that Professor Kenneth Walz makes available to students as essential for positive turns in their career paths.

For John Schwarzmeier, leader of the Systems Integration Group at SunPeak, the critical experience was presenting his honors project—a gravitational potential energy storage device he created—to the renewable energy program’s industry advisory committee in 2018. Afterward several employers chatted with him about his design, and a few weeks later he “was carrying panels on a roof” for SunPeak. His troubleshooting acumen and other skills helped Schwarzmeier advance quickly from an entry-level solar installer position to leading commissioning and maintenance operations for the company’s large solar energy projects.

Alex Thomas attributes his 2020 internship working alongside Schwarzmeier at SunPeak, where he too is now employed fulltime, to a sequence of events that began when he showed up to help with a research project. The optional field activity, which Walz made available to his renewable energy students, was to help him install a small solar array. It tested whether aluminum sheets underneath bifacial photovoltaic (PV) panels would increase their energy production and compared the snow melting performance of bifacial panels with traditional, single-sided PV modules. Thomas was subsequently invited to volunteer at RENEW Wisconsin’s Renewable Energy Summit in January 2020. There he met employers and leaders of the Midwest Renewable Energy Association (MREA). During conversations he learned about a paid internship program funded by the Department of Energy that MREA administers with Wisconsin Technical Colleges. By late August Thomas had secured an internship at SunPeak.

During separate interviews via Zoom both Schwarzmeier and Thomas encouraged ATE educators to offer students authentic research experiences and opportunities to meet employers as part of their technician education programs.

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Select Open Educational Resources for STEM Instruction

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A young woman writes in a notebook while reading on her computer.

ATE community members are likely already connected with open education resource (OER) hubs (for example, the Community College Consortium for Open Educational Resources). Whether you are a novice or knowledgeable OER user, it is always nice to add new tools to your toolkit. Particularly in the textbook realm, OER tools can increase accessibility, equity, and efficacy in classrooms. As COVID-19 continues to impact learning environments, open textbooks are more important than ever. This blog post connects ATE community members with several great platforms. Do you have a favorite OER textbook tool beyond our list?  We’d love to hear from you – email us at info@atecentral.net!

Find course texts for a variety of disciplines with LibreTexts.

This resource offers libraries for such fields as mathematics, physics, medicine, chemistry, engineering, and biology. The site also has a hub of materials in Spanish and a Workforce Library focused on tech and trade skills. Within all these libraries, readers can find bookshelves of digital textbooks, campus courses of customized LibreTexts, homework exercises, and ancillary materials such as visualizations and simulations. LibreTexts is directed by its founder Delmar Larsen, Associate Professor of Chemistry at the University of California, Davis, and these materials are developed collaboratively between faculty, students, and outside experts and scholars. 

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Marina Achterman Exemplifies Potential of Late-to-STEM Students

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Marina Achterman says the “passion for what I was learning, sparked the extra attention and wanting to excel."

Marina Achterman has a 4.0 GPA at Pasadena City College (PCC) where she’s majoring in chemical engineering and doing research as a paid intern. Achterman’s rise to STEM star—she is one of 30 students whose scientific posters were featured at the 2020 Virtual ATE Conference—is a delightful turnaround from her performance in high school biology.

“I was terrible at science,” she said with a light laugh during a recent interview via Zoom. She explained that as a teenager she didn’t see that it mattered to pay attention in school. “I guess I never really applied myself. I wasn’t interested in biology in high school. After I went to PCC I got really interested in chemistry,” she said of the self-discovery that occurred in an introductory general chemistry course.

“I had to start at the bottom. I’m glad I did because I found that I have a passion for it…It was the wavelengths of light that got to me. I love learning about photonics,” she explained.

Then in her second semester of chemistry, Achterman heard Jared M. Ashcroft, principal investigator of the new Micro Nano Technology Education Center (MNT-EC), talk about undergraduate research experiences. A natural sciences instructor at PCC, Ashcroft has had various leadership roles in the college’s robust undergraduate research programs.

“He came into class and was talking about nuclear chemistry and stuff like that, and I was like, ‘Sold!’,”  she said, raising her hand during the Zoom interview to mimic her response to Ashcroft’s pitch in that 2019 class.

Using research opportunities such as paid internships to recruit students to STEM—particularly individuals whose previous education experiences did not identify them as “good at science”—is a mission to Ashcroft and one he considers “vital” for other community college educators too. 

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I Am ATE: Brandon Keller

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Photograph of Brandon Keller.

Name: Brandon Keller

Title: Agriculture Instructor

Institution: Northeast Community College

Project Name: Developing a Precision Agriculture Workforce Ladder through Secondary, College, and Incumbent Worker Education that Integrates Emerging Technologies and Farm Data

URL: https://northeast.edu/nsf

ATE Central: How did you become involved with ATE?

Keller: I became involved with the ATE program shortly after being hired by Northeast Community College in Fall 2017, as the then-PI for our current grant wanted to transition out of the role. Since I came into the college with some previous grant experience during my master’s program at Northwest Missouri State University, my supervisor asked me to consider taking over the PI role on the project at the end of year one. That fall I got to attend my first NSF ATE PI Conference in Washington, D.C. and I was immediately hooked on the ATE program! I was amazed by all of the opportunities and dedicated faculty members out in the ATE community. 

ATE Central: Tell us about the goals of your project.

Keller: The overarching goal of our project was to create a laddered approach to increase skilled precision agriculture technicians in Nebraska, addressing an industry shortage that the 20 country region our college serves was witnessing. To make this happen we broke our ladder into three areas: 

High School: To help develop awareness and interest in Precision Agriculture early in high school student careers through the use of a five-lesson curriculum that will eventually be proposed to the Nebraska Department of Education to be integrated into the Introduction to Agriscience curriculum across the state.

College: To create a modularized and hands-on curriculum for our students that will provide real-world, hands-on instruction in the classroom. It was also a goal to take the farm data produced on our 530 acre college farm and identify ways to integrate that date into our agriculture programing. 

Incumbent Workforce: To provide short-course workshops, modularized trainings, and customized trainings to help continue the education of technicians in our service area.

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Student’s Independent Study Leads to Interest in Data Analytics Career

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Photograph of Kelly Fitzpatrick, Associate Professor of Mathematics at County College of Morris

Thomas Ortega’s comparison of sunspot data with New York City metropolitan area temperatures since the 1930s was one of 30 student scientific posters showcased at the 2020 Virtual ATE Conference.

His authentic research findings reflected both his commitment to investigating a scientific question as well as the dynamic qualities of Kelly Fitzpatrick, associate professor of mathematics at County College of Morris (CCM) in Randolph, New Jersey, who guided his data analysis.

Fitzpatrick took Ortega and his independent study under her wing in the spring 2020 right about the time she received her first Advanced Technological Education (ATE) grant award for the project entitled Expanding Pathways to a Data Science Career by Developing a Certification in Data Science and Analytics (Award # 2000887).

Fitzpatrick taught Ortega the programming language R, which he used to analyze the data he retrieved from online government sources. This fall he took the Introduction to Data Science course that Fitzpatrick created over the summer.

“It was written and ready to go,” Fitzpatrick said matter-of-factly when asked about the quick launch of the new course—the first of the five-course certificate. Despite COVID-related challenges Fitzpatrick and her colleagues on the project team have already accomplished many of the Year 1 goals of the project that aims to prepare students for entry-level data analytics positions.

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