Center’s Research Experience for Teachers (RET) Leads to Programming for 6th–9th Graders

Achievement date: 
2016
Outcome/accomplishment: 

TheResearch Experience for Teachers (RET) program, led by the Nanomanufacturing Systems for Mobile Computing and Mobile Energy Technologies (NASCENT) center, an NSF-funded Nanosystems Engineering Research Center (NERC) headquartered at The University of Texas at Austin, supported efforts by 21 teachers who created engineering modules and curricula for 6th–9th graders.

Impact/benefits: 

The RET program facilitates stronger educational and engaging experiences that help to inspire students to pursue education STEM fields. This summer 2016 RET brought teachers from the Ann Richards School for Young Women Leaders, reaching a group under-represented in science and engineering. The teachers submit their lesson plans to TeachEngineering.org for wider dissemination.

Explanation/Background: 

In the RET program, NASCENT brings 10-12 teachers to campus each summer for lectures on nano-manufacturing and research-based learning, and to work alongside faculty and graduate student mentors on a research experience. Many of the teachers are from schools serving economically disadvantaged students who come from populations under-represented in STEM fields. The participating teachers receive support to design and implement educational modules based on that research. Teachers receive a stipend and additional funds for purchasing classroom supplies/equipment to support the curriculum they developed during the program.

The teachers created engineering-inspired modules for the students that include: a photolithography module for 6th graders; an introduction to electrical engineering through computer science and microcontrollers for 7th graders; and a computer simulation project for 8th graders. Two math teachers found innovative ways to ensure the math they teach is real world/project-based through the incorporation of engineering-inspired projects into their curriculum. Another teacher developed a lesson on testing hydrophobic materials and surface tension for a 9th-grade algebra class and tied it back into her curriculum through applied linear equations.