Teaching the teachers

Programs in Tandon’s #STEMnow initiative increase the number of highly qualified K-12 STEM teachers

student instructor helping teacher

Back in 2014, leaders at NYU Tandon made an ambitious pledge: to positively impact 50,000 public school students throughout the city over the course of the coming decade by sparking their interest in science, technology, engineering, and math and helping prepare them for the 21st-century workforce.

To fulfill that pledge they enlisted the help of the city’s middle and high school teachers — each of whom holds the potential to inspire and educate hundreds of young people during the course of their career.

Tandon and its Center for K12 STEM Education are now making an indelible mark on the educational landscape by “teaching the teachers,” thanks to an array of STEM-focused professional development programs. Participants return to their classrooms energized and equipped to prepare a new generation of students capable of meeting the vast technical challenges facing the world.

The programs in Tandon’s #STEMnow initiative introduce the city’s teachers to such topics as noise pollution, wireless technology, and mechatronics. They include:

SONYC (Sounds of New York City)

This city-funded project involving nearly two dozen researchers and scientists at NYU Tandon and NYU Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development is an effort to mitigate noise pollution, among the top complaints of New Yorkers dialing the city’s 311 helpline.

Middle-school teachers have been invited to undertake two weeks of professional training in the technologies behind SONYC, followed by two weeks of classroom work alongside participating students, conducting field and lab work, including “sound walks” in Brooklyn’s DUMBO neighborhood to record ambient noises and analyze them in the audio lab of Luke Dubois, a professor and co-director of NYU Tandon’s Integrated and Digital Media program.

Learn more about Sounds of New York City


COSMOS (Cloud Enhanced Open Software Defined Mobile Wireless Testbed for City-Scale Deployment)

With the support of funding from the National Science Foundation, New York City teachers will immerse themselves in cutting-edge wireless technology and receive a unique opportunity to become part of COSMOS, one of the first and largest test beds for 5G and advanced wireless communications in the country.  They’ll design and develop web-based curricula and experiments that they will take back to their classrooms, introducing their middle and high school students to topics like the physics of radio waves, weather monitoring, and smart transportation sensors. (Through the support of AT&T, Tandon master’s students will also visit their classrooms in the fall to mentor and lend technical expertise.)

Learn more about COSMOS

SMARTeR (Science and Mechatronics-Aided Research for Teachers with an Entrepreneurship Experience)

This program gives teachers a chance to enhance their STEM curricula with hands-on exploration of mechanical engineering, control theory, computer science, and electronics — all while conducting serious research and learning such entrepreneurship skills as new-product development and intellectual property regulations.

Besides providing New York City’s teachers with new curricula, skills, and pedagogical methods, the programs give our own undergraduate and graduate students a chance to turn the tables and become instructors for the summer (proving — in the process — that among the best ways to learn something is to teach it).

Learn more about SMARTeR


Meet some of the instructors of #STEMNow

Name:   Srinija Kondapally
Major:   Electrical Engineering (’20)

female student using electrical equipment

What are you doing this summer?
I’ll be working for SONYC for the first time.

What do you hope to gain from this experience?
I’m really interested in taking up teaching as a profession, and I’d like to know the areas I should focus on and what elements I should integrate into my work to give the students a better learning experience. I feel that being an instructor is much more than just standing in the front of a classroom and lecturing. I see it as a rewarding experience in which learning can happen both ways. I plan on making my lectures as creative and fun as possible so that I can make this summer a great learning experience. I hope that by the end, I’ll be more confident as an individual and will see a significant improvement in my presentation and interpersonal skills.

What do you hope to impart as an instructor?
I want students to take what they’ve learned beyond the classroom. I want them to understand how things around them work, and I believe it is my responsibility to inculcate that interest in them. Every morning when they walk into the classroom, I want them to feel excited to learn something new and to understand that science is cool.

STEM is more than just an acronym; it involves coming up with more viable and environmentally friendly solutions to the challenges we are facing now and will be in the future. Innovation is the key to success, so we want students to be innovators and make the world a better place. STEM is what will get them there.

I’m also excited that participants will have a chance for personal growth and to bridge racial, gender, and ethnic gaps. They’re going to be more confident individuals and better citizens, and I hope to play an important role in the process.


Name: Trey Bradley
Major: Music Technology (Steinhardt ’19)

student with row of speakers

What are you doing this summer?
I’ll be working on the SONYC program.

What do you hope to gain from this experience?
I hope, personally, to gain clarity about which noise pollution and music technology topics are relevant, applicable, and interesting to a younger generation whose demands and involvement will shape the future. The scope and flexibility of our curriculum and our stress on hands-on learning look to accomplish that. I also hope to gain more comfort in synthesizing, presenting, and articulating topics in my field of study in a tangible and impactful way in order to help inspire interest in music and sound innovation.

What do you hope to impart as an instructor?
In addition to leaving the program with tangible knowledge about environmental sound, noise pollution, and the various music technologies tasked with understanding sound and music, I hope participants gain the ability to express creativity and have fun. I want to show them that there are a range of interesting and creative STEM applications in music and sound – things that are so integral to our everyday habits and environments.

It’s important to understand or, at least take an interest in learning, about how technologies that surround and define us function.


Name: Tia Dizon
Major: Music Technology (Steinhardt ’20)

Tia Dizon

What are you doing this summer?
This is my first year participating in SONYC.

What do you hope to gain from this experience? 
I hope to gain insight into what interests the K12 students of today so that I can develop new ways to make learning STEM more accessible to all. 

What do you hope to impart as an instructor?
I hope to spark an interest in STEM and audio technology in participants, and I want them to learn that working with technology can be creative and fun. I hope they’ll discover that it is possible for them to build and develop anything they are passionate about. If they pursue a career in STEM, they’ll have the power to continue innovating and making our world a better place, so I feel honored to be a part of this experience and hope it will be inspirational for them!


Name: Samantha Skinner
Major: Integrated Digital Media (’20)

student in front of sound board

What are you doing this summer?
This is my first year participating in SONYC.

What do you hope to gain from this experience?
I hope to gain experience as a teacher and mentor! With SONYC, I believe we will be able to shed light on exciting and important career paths in STEAM (with A for arts included). It's so important to provide younger people with role models for how to act around and engage with people who are different from themselves. 

What do you hope to impart as an instructor?
I’d like to get across a few points. First, that making space to use your imagination and dream up a future is important. Next, I’d like to encourage participants to be self-reflective, to think deeply and critically about what they want to do, why they want it, and who they are. I want them to understand their power and use it for social good and to be confident in their abilities and the possibilities for the future.

STEM gives us the opportunity to apply science to real-world issues and gives us the opportunity to think communally, globally, and humanely. Including the "A" in STEAM education encourages kids to lean into their imaginations and that no ideas are "wrong" or "bad." Our generation has huge issues to tackle, so I’m very excited to see what ideas grow from this open approach to science, technology, engineering, and math. 


Name: Panagiotis Skrimponis
Major: Electrical and Computer Engineering (’23)

student standing at podium

What are you doing this summer?
I’m the Tandon student lead on the COSMOS experience and am also working on the Verizon 5G EdTech Challenge, which is aimed at finding innovative, cutting-edge, education technologies that will transform middle school education.

What do you hope to gain from this experience?
I’m a Ph.D. student doing research in next-generation wireless communications, and this is a great teaching opportunity for me since I’m getting to pass on the concepts and principles of digital communications and computer networks to K12 teachers and students.

What do you hope to impart as an instructor?
I hope that I’ll be able to help others understand how the concepts they learn in school are connected to and can be applied to real-world problems. The big goal is to impart my love and passion for science and engineering. The most exciting part is that we have the opportunity to inspire future generations of students to become the scientists and engineers who can change the world.


Name: Sai Prasanth Krishnamoorthy
Major:  Mechanical Engineering (’19)

student at lab desk

What are you doing this summer?
This will be my third year helping with the mechatronics research experience for teachers.

What do you hope to gain from this experience?
I’ve had a unique opportunity to learn from NYC school teachers and help them understand the basics of mechatronics and robotics, and during the time I’ve participated, I’ve become a better instructor myself.

What do you hope to impart as an instructor?
Learning is a lifelong process with no end. I always tell students not to give up on any learning challenge and to keep pursuing knowledge.

STEM topics are especially vital if we’re going to sustain the positive development of human civilization. We cannot be satisfied by the conveniences offered by the current tech age, but always strive to improve through cutting-edge research and new breakthroughs. Of course, this is only possible through good STEM education and motivated students, teachers, parents and educators. Everyone has an important role to play in this endeavor.