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SMART Future Project Builds on Previous ATE Grant

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Andrew Kott, left, uses industry-grade equipment and a small-scale simulation of an automated distribution center in Chippewa Valley Technical College’s Mobile Manufacturing Lab to teach rural high school students about Industry 4.0 concepts and the Industrial Internet of Things.

Andrew Kott is the “perfect technician” to teach rural high school students about automated warehouses and supply chain technologies, according to Shamus Funk.

As principal investigator of the Smart Manufacturing and Resources for Transforming the Future (SMART Future) project, Funk hired Kott to teach students and to work with high school teachers in Chippewa Valley Technical College’s Mobile Manufacturing Lab.

“Students respond well to him,” Funk said, citing Kott’s youth, energy, and knowledge. Kott worked in industry after earning a two-year machine tooling diploma at Chippewa Valley Technical College in 2012. He’s currently taking courses to earn a bachelor’s degree in education.   

Laughing modestly about the compliment, Kott said, “I enjoy what I’m doing; I’m enjoying sharing this information with the students and seeing them grow.”  He credits the students’ engagement to the mobile lab’s “cool equipment.” For the SMART Future project the lab has been equipped with robotic industrial arms, a CNC vertical mill, a laser engraver, laptop computers, and a small-scale simulation of an automated distribution center.

The project’s goals for the high school students include having them demonstrate mastery in automation, networking, programming, and supply chain technologies to qualify for industry certifications and/or college credits. The project’s other ambitious goals include devising a sustainable system to gauge its impact on students’ career paths.  

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Video Presentations from the 2018 STEM For All Video Showcase

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This May, 713 presenters and co-presenters shared their videos that showed projects that are centered around STEM education. The showcase, which was funded by NSF and encompassed 214 video presentations, explored a plethora of diverse fields that involve teaching, research, and career pathways in STEM.

Many of the submitted videos focused on integrating STEM into young children’s lives and education. One such video, “STEM in the Playscape: Building Knowledge for Educational Practice,” submitted by a team of researchers from the University of Cincinnati, explores STEM concepts in relation to nature-based play in early childhood settings. The presentation shares how much of an impact a “playscape” can have on the burgeoning mind of a child, and how exploring the “science of living things,” can impact concepts such as inquiry skills and spatial cognition in children. 

“S-POWER Engineering Pathways for Transfer Students,” submitted by Claire Duggan of Northeastern University and Massachusetts Community College, explores the impact of a grant from NSF for transfer students from under-represented groups who are studying energy. S-POWER (Student Pathways Opening World Energy Resources) seeks to address two primary concerns: low persistence rates of under-represented transfer students in STEM-based programs and the need to train a new generation of students to work in STEM-based disciplines. 

The ATE community was represented in this video showcase. One such video, “A Peek at iCREAT Project’s Multi-Disciplinary Courses,” by PI Shamsi Moussaka and Co-PIs Giuseppe Sena, Susanne Steiger-Escobar, and Marina Bogrod at Massachusetts Bay Community College, looks at how classes on STEM topics such as coding and robotics can impact students from underrepresented groups. 

The STEM For All Video Showcase is a great resource for ATE projects and centers in terms of the diverse settings in which STEM-based principles and theories can be applied. This showcase, which is an annual event, provides a great example of how STEM concepts can be integrated into a multitude of settings and is an inspiration for teachers, researchers, and students alike. Visit the video hall to view the full archive of the 2018 showcase. 

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Contextualized Math Course Aims to Break Barriers to STEM Careers

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Indian River State College graduates Tyrone Joseph (left) and Hykeem Spencer (right) were among the students who successfully completed the contextualized math course developed by Kevin Cooper (center), principal investigator of the Regional Center for Nuclear Education and Training (RCNET).

The high percentage of students who succeeded in the contextualized remedial math course that the Regional Center for Nuclear Education and Training (RCNET) created for students in the electric power technology program  at Indian River State College (IRSC) has led college leaders to broaden its reconfiguration of college-level algebra.

This fall 150 engineering technology students—most of them new to the program at the Fort Pierce, Florida, community college—will take the redesigned math course that teaches trigonometry, statistics, and algebra in the context of STEM technician careers. The new course replaces the college-level algebra course that has historically stymied students, particularly African-American males.

“This is one of the few things that has moved the needle,” said Kevin Cooper, referring to the increase in enrollment and persistence of minority students in the electric power technology program at IRSC. Cooper is principal investigator of RCNET and assistant dean of Advanced Technology at IRSC. Before a highly engaged audience of 50 educators, Cooper talked about how to eliminate math as a barrier to entry and success in technical fields on July 25 at the High Impact Technology Exchange Conference (HI-TEC) in Miami, Florida.

Cooper, an RCNET industry partner, and students talk about the contextualized math course in this video:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cU5aUQZN73M

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From the Archive: Workforce Education at our Community Colleges: What Works?

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In addition to the STEM curriculum and professional development materials that ATE grantees create in large volume, some members of the community also conduct research, compile reports, and share their findings with the broader STEM community. In this month’s From the Archive blog post, we highlight the work of three ATE projects and centers that have produced insightful publications that address such areas as program evaluation, educational reform, and recruitment and retention of minority students. These resources represent only a few of the assorted research reports, articles, and best practice guides created by ATE grantees; for more reports, check out the links below or try browsing our reference materials by resource type.

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ATE Impacts 2018-2019: 25 Years of Advancing Technician Education is Available

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In ATE Impacts 2018-2019 Hilda Arguelles (right), a senior structures discipline manager in Pratt &Whitney’s Global Services Engineering, describes how Karen Wosczyna-Birch’s first ATE grant 20 years ago influenced her career. Wosczyna-Birch (left) is principal investigator of the Regional Center for Next Generation Manufacturing.

This month ATE Impacts 2018-2019: 25 Years of Advancing Technician Education rolls off the presses for mass distribution to centers and projects around the nation, and to attendees of the High Impact Technology Exchange Conference (HI-TEC) that begins July 25 in Miami.

The book showcases the work of the National Science Foundation’s Advanced Technological Education community and celebrates the 25th anniversary of the program.  In addition to the summaries of ATE projects’ and centers’ activities and outcomes, the new book has an article that offers a snapshot of the ATE program’s influence on students’ careers.

The article features Karen Wosczyna-Birch, principal investigator and executive director of the ATE-funded Regional Center for Next Generation Manufacturing (RCNGM), discovering how the first ATE project grant she received nearly 20 years ago influenced the career of Hilda Arguelles, one of her students.

The two women reconnected at the 2018 Connecticut Technology Council Women of Innovation® Awards ceremony. Both women had been nominated as statewide innovators.

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Brookings Report - Learning About Learning: Meaning Matters

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This new report from the Brookings Institute outlines effective and non-effective learning strategies in educational settings from kindergarten through college. From data gathered by a study conducted by the Knowledge Matters Campaign, it’s deduced that interactive, hands-on learning, regardless of the educational material or concept, is a much more effective learning strategy than traditional, passive instruction.  

Professor Noah Finklestein, of the Physics Department at the University of Colorado, conducted research on learning attitudes and student beliefs and structures his classroom around those findings.  This research suggests that college students usually learn less than 25 percent of basic concepts that they did not already know in introductory physics courses. Furthermore, the students do not see the relevance of the content to their lives. Finkelstein coordinates classroom material to be in an “interactive-engagement” style of learning, where students work in small groups and apply the content in computer simulations and hands-on activities. The data show that student-learning outcomes of the most seasoned lecturers are equal to the lowest performing interactive-engagement classrooms, and when done well, the interactive-engagement format vastly outperforms the top lecturers with students learning more than double the physics content.

The report compares this research with early childhood education methods. Researchers Molly Welsh Chilston and Linnea C. Ehri published their findings on research done on vocabulary learning with third graders. They taught third graders six unfamiliar verbs presented in either a coherent context—like a birthday party—or as a set of matched but unconnected contexts. Children learned more of the words when they were nested within a theme than when they were more independent. This hard evidence suggests that using a hands-on, interactive approach to learning greatly enhances the probability of actually remembering what you’re learning. 

ATE projects and centers may find this report of use when considering classroom activities or how to incorporate an interactive-engagement lesson into a curriculum.

Please visit the Brookings Institute to view the report in full.   

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POWER Careers Project Seeks to Transform Women’s Lives with Energy Careers

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Monique Gallegos, a nuclear processing technician, is one of several women featured on a POWER Careers YouTube video.

Two women alumni of the ESTEC program at Idaho State University credit the POWER Careers project with helping them persist in the rigorous academic program that prepared them to become nuclear processing technicians at Fluor Idaho, LLC.

“The skills that they brought with them coming out of this program—they had a high degree of math aptitude—that really gave them the foot through the door,” said Shannon Bowman, human resources manager at Fluor Idaho. Another plus for Monique Gallegos and Samantha Phillips was “the fact that they were very familiar with different types of energy generation, and that they had exposure through the ESTEC program to terminology that’s typically used in the nuclear industry.”

In a Power Careers video Gallegos, Phillips, and other women talk candidly about their academic pursuits and careers. Providing Opportunities for Women in Energy Related (POWER) Careers is an ATE project that is testing strategies to recruit and retain women for the five associate degree programs offered by the Energy Systems Technology and Education Center (ESTEC) at Idaho State University in Pocatello, Idaho.  

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From the Archive: Evaluation and Review of STEM Programs

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A special thanks to our practicum student, Xiuyuan He, for contributing this month’s From the Archive blog post. Xiuyuan is a recent graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison iSchool.

Evaluation is a process that critically assesses a program by gathering and analyzing data on a program’s design, implementation, and results. It assesses the program from different aspects, such as relevance, effectiveness, efficiency, impact, and sustainability. This month, From the Archive highlights materials on evaluation and review processes for STEM education programs; these materials may be useful to evaluators, educators, and administrators alike.

The first resource includes a set of tools offered by the Evaluation Resource Center for Advanced Technological Education (EvaluATE) for different stages of the evaluation process. The second resource from SRI International provides a framework for Workforce Education Implementation Evaluation (WEIE). The last resource, from the Florida Advanced Technological Education Center of Excellence (FLATE) and the Consortium for Alabama Regional Center for Automotive Manufacturing (CARCAM), offers useful insights into program and curriculum review in advanced technology education fields.

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ATE-Affiliated Automotive Technology Program Attracts Tesla’s Attention

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Eleven of the 12 students (four women and eight men) in the first cohort of Tesla START trainees at Rio Hondo College will complete the 12-week certification program this month. The one student who had to stop out for personal reasons is expected to be in the next cohort of START trainees.

This month Rio Hondo College in Whittier, CA, will graduate it first cohort of automotive technicians from its new Tesla START program. Rio Hondo and Central Piedmont Community College in Charlotte, NC, are the first U.S. sites for the 12-week Tesla certification program that teaches automotive technicians about electric vehicles and Tesla-specific repair procedures.

Professor John Frala, alternative fuel technology instructor at Rio Hondo, attributes Tesla’s decision to locate its program at Rio Hondo to the innovations he has been able to introduce with support from two National Science Foundation (NSF) Advanced Technological Education (ATE) grants. The official ribbon-cutting of the 4,000-square-foot Tesla training center with upgraded equipment and six Tesla vehicles is scheduled for May 23.

A Tesla spokesperson did not address the ATE connection. But via email provided this statement: “We’re working with some of the best automotive education programs in the country to educate students on electric vehicle technology and our unique approach to customer service to prepare them for a career at Tesla. Students graduate with a job opportunity, certification, and the skills necessary to succeed in the growing electric vehicle industry.”

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Pew Research Center Report: The Future of Well-Being in a Tech Saturated World

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This recently-published Pew Research Center Report discusses some of the attitudes of Americans in the continuously evolving world of technology and how technology impacts our lives. In particular, the report focuses on benefits, harms, and possible remedies to digital life through respondent interviews and a “canvassing of experts.” In the report, we learn that among those surveyed, 47% of respondents predict that individuals’ well-being will be more helped than harmed by digital life in the next decade and 32% say people’s well-being will be more harmed than helped. The remaining 21% predict there will not be much change in people’s well-being compared to now.

Themes expressed from respondents range from optimism toward global connectivity to dangers of digital addiction, to ideas on how to redesign media literacy. One respondent, Daniel Weitzner (principal research scientist and founding director of MIT’s Internet Policy Research Initiative), said of digital connectivity: “Human beings want and need connection, and the internet is the ultimate connection machine. Whether on questions of politics, community affairs, science, education, romance or economic life, the internet does connect people with meaningful and rewarding information and relationships... I have to feel confident that we can continue to gain fulfillment from these human connections.” Others expressed a more cautious outlook on how technology can, in a sense, take over our lives. David S.H. Rosenthal, retired chief scientist of the LOCKSS Program at Stanford University, said, “The digital economy is based upon competition to consume humans’ attention. This competition has existed for a long time, but the current generation of tools for consuming attention is far more effective than previous generations.”

Many respondents reported ideas for mitigating the diverse set of issues that go along with living a digital life, such as appropriate technology education and reevaluating our expectations. Alex Halavais, director of the M.A. in social technologies program at Arizona State University, said, “The primary change needs to come in education. From a very early age, people need to understand how to interact with networked, digital technologies. They need to learn how to use social media, and learn how not to be used by it.”

To read this engrossing and interesting report in full, please visit the Pew Research Center’s website. In the report, readers also have the opportunity to read the detailed section entitled, "About this canvassing of experts," to see who was canvassed and what questions they were asked. 

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