Education, engineering departments team up for $450,000 research grant

While many students were at home relaxing this summer, some remained on campus to work on a six-week research grant project.

Research Experience for Teachers is a three-year program, funded by the National Science Foundation through a grant worth $450,000, responsible for bringing engineering and education departments together for collaborative research projects.

Tolga Kaya, assistant professor of engineering and technology, was in charge of the grant and said this was an important opportunity for students and faculty. Central Michigan University was among a group of six or seven universities nationwide selected for the grant, beating out hundreds of other applicants.

"This is a unique program where engineering faculty are paired with high school teachers," Kaya said. "We are hoping that our knowledge and experience will impact high school students because they are our future students and we want to reach them earlier."

Marlette senior Kasey Sauder, said the experience helped prepare her for her future career as a teacher.

"This program has been beneficial to pre-service teachers because we got to network with in-service teachers," Sauder said.

With the implementation of "Next Generation Standards," a set of standards for high school science teachers, to take place by 2015, she said having this type of experience will be helpful.

"The way of thinking engineers use to go about things is the way we'll be approaching science in the classroom," Sauder said.

Shawn Maison, a biology teacher at John Glenn High School, said there were many lessons learned that he can take back to his classroom.

"The collaboration in this project alone was huge," he said.  "No engineer can make a project by himself. Students need to play off each other's strengths and work together to be successful."

Mount Pleasant senior Matt Duthie said it was important to familiarize teachers with engineering concepts.

"It's really good if the teachers can bring back experiments in this format or engineering information at all," he said. "It will help high school and middle school students get more excited about engineering in general."

The experience helped to strengthen and enforce his own knowledge as well, Duthie said.

"It was good to work with people who aren't engineering majors or in the engineering field," he said. "It forces you to explain it in a way everyone can understand."

Kaya said he is excited for teachers to begin applying their new knowledge and newly developed lesson plans over the course of the coming semesters, and  he looks forward to all students will gain as a result.

"What (students) will take is to link science concepts to real life," he said.


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