In 2016, Lamar University (LU) at Beaumont, Texas was awarded an NSF Research Experience for Teachers (RET) site grant titled “RET Site: Incorporating Engineering Design and Manufacturing into High School Curriculum.” The goal of the project is to host 12 high school teachers each summer to participate in engineering design and manufacturing research and then convert their experience into high school curriculum. In summer of 2017, the first cohort of 12 teachers from Region 4 and Region 5 of Southeast Texas participated in the summer research and education program at LU College of Engineering. This six-week program, open to all high school teachers in the STEM disciplines in Texas, sought to advance educators’ knowledge of concepts in design and manufacturing as a means of enriching high school curriculums and meeting foundational standards set by 2013’s Texas House Bill 5. These standards require enhanced STEM contents in high school curricula as a prerequisite for graduation, detailed in the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills standard.
In the mornings, teachers attended daily workshops to expand their knowledge of topics in advanced design and manufacturing before embarking on applicable research projects in the afternoons. Six LU engineering professors, each led one week of workshops as well. The six engineering mentors, assisted by student research assistants, each mentored two teachers on projects ranging from 3D design and 3D printing to LED modeling and robotics mechanisms. The group also participated in field trips to local companies including Sage Automation, Schlumberger, Forterra, and BASF. They worked with LU curriculum specialist, a professor of teacher education, on applying their learnings to lesson plans. Participants also met for weekly Brown Bag teacher seminars to share their experiences and discuss curricula, organized by the master teacher. On the final day of the program, the teachers presented their curriculum prototype for the fall semester to the group and received completion certificates. The program assessment was led by assessment specialist, an associate professor of teacher education at LU. Teacher participants found the research experience with their mentors beneficial not only to them, but also to their students according to our preliminary findings from interviews. Also, sharing newly acquired knowledge by forming learning communities among teacher participants was mentioned as a benefit of this RET program. The research mentors will visit their mentees’ classrooms to see the lesson plans being implemented. In January 2018, the teachers will present their refined curricula at an on-campus conference and submit their standards-aligned plans to teachengineering.org for other K-12 educators to access.
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