New York City Teachers to Get Schooled in Engineering, Taste Life in Silicon Alley

National Science Foundation Grant Will Expand Program that Puts Teachers in Students’ Seats

New York City public school teachers will jockey for just 12 slots next year in a highly competitive summer program at Polytechnic Institute of New York University (NYU-Poly) — one that allows them to experience the thrills of technology entrepreneurship while enhancing their understanding of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). 

The six-week program, funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), exposes teachers to local technology start-up businesses and NYU-Poly faculty. It aims to increase aptitude in STEM subjects and offer insight into how business can advance technology innovations. 

Science and Mechatronics Aided Research for Teachers with an Entrepreneurship expeRience Program, or SMARTER, recently received a three-year grant from the NSF under its Research Experience for Teachers (RET) in Engineering and Computer Science Site program, an initiative that encourages K-12 teachers to become involved in engineering and computing research. This is the third RET Site grant that NSF has awarded NYU-Poly since 2003. 

SMARTER is an extension of NYU-Poly’s acclaimed Science and Mechatronics Aided Research for Teachers (SMART) program, also funded by the prior RET Site grants. NSF support allowed the program to reach 60 New York City public school teachers since 2003. The renewed funding will allow SMARTER to train 36 additional teachers over three years. 

NYU-Poly Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Vikram Kapila will direct SMARTER, assisted by NYU-Poly faculty, staff and students. 

“Programs like SMARTER are proven to have wide-reaching benefits, to the teachers, the students and even the schools,” said Kapila. “Reigniting and growing the passion for STEM subjects in teachers is a powerful way to foster excellence in these areas among students.”  

Each year, 12 teachers will attend SMARTER summer workshops. Participants will receive mentoring and conduct inquiry-based, hands-on, research in mechatronics — an interdisciplinary field integrating mechanical, computer, electrical and software engineering. The teachers will also have access to NYU-Poly’s Technology Management Department faculty and will spend time “shadowing” technology entrepreneurs. Once each new school year begins, many of these same entrepreneurs will partner with the teachers to offer mentoring and summer internships to students. 

“We’re very excited to bring entrepreneurship into this program,” said Kapila. “It’s part of a cultural shift in the way we think about technology commercialization, and it can be transformative for teachers and students to watch the process develop in real time.” 

NYU-Poly President Jerry Hultin echoed Kapila’s enthusiasm, explaining that SMARTER “expands the reach of NYU-Poly’s commitment to i2e – invention, innovation and entrepreneurship. We believe it is the formula for transforming great technology ideas into real-world solutions.” Hultin praised the program for “using the best of what we’ve learned from connecting our undergraduate and graduate students to inspire the young entrepreneurs of the future.” 

SMARTER will begin accepting applications for its 2013 summer session in January 2013. Potential applicants can visit the SMART site for more information.