Connecting K-12 STEM educators to hands-on science and engineering is part of NYU Polytechnic School of Engineering’s commitment to increasing the quality of STEM education. Part of these efforts include two National Science Foundation-funded Research Experiences for Teachers programs that provide middle school and high school teachers with research opportunities in NYU engineering labs.
Divided into two tracks, teachers are either accepted to work in the Cyber Security or the Science and Mechatronics Aided Research for Teachers with an Entrepreneurship expeRience (SMARTER) program. Centered around the Information Systems and Internet Security lab in the Computer Science and Engineering department, teachers in the Cyber Security program learn how computer science, forensics, law, and computer programming are leveraged to create more robust digital networks. Based within the Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering department, SMARTER participants conduct mechatronics and robotics research while gaining entrepreneurship experience.
Prior to lab work, all teachers receive two weeks of immersive training related to their research program. They are taught not only the relevant STEM content, but also how to think like an engineer. Marc Frank, in the Cyber Security program, noticed that he was encouraged to make mistakes and learn from them, and looks forward to bringing this problem-solving mindset to his classroom.
In addition to learning about new technologies to use in K-12 schools, teachers such as Horace Walcott, in SMARTER, see RET as an opportunity to develop mentoring skills to help students conducting advanced research in preparation for college. As a Regents Chemistry teacher at Brooklyn Technical High School, he mentors students during a 3-year Weston Research Fellowship. His ongoing relationship with NYU labs helps connect his students to higher education opportunities and the scientific community at large. “We’re establishing long term relationships and connections with NYU and part of that long term relationship is getting our students to come here and conduct research on a multi-year level.”
Russ Holstein, a middle-school computer teacher at IS318 also sees value to linking his students to the NYU academic community. In addition to applying techniques he’s learned in Professor Nasir Memon’s Cyber Security Lab to start a school forensics club, he sees his investment with NYU as having a lasting impact on his students. Through his awareness of STEM programs available at the Engineering School, he “…was able to plug my kids in. Not only does this open doors for them, but they are looking for high schools that offer the same kind of opportunities in STEM.”
Ramona Fittipaldi of The Young Women’s Leadership School of East Harlem, also in the Cyber Security program, anticipates using her experience building and programming basic circuits in PBasic to start a robotics club. In addition, she plans to encourage more of her female students to enter STEM fields by designing curriculum with an “…entire engineering component where they can do all these hands on activities like we’re doing to really excite them about STEM and excite them about engineering for their futures.”