NSF grant produces lesson plans and resources for K-12 teachers

May 9, 2018 - By Stefi Weisburd

For the last five years, an unusual kind of researcher has investigated solar cells, LEDs and nanotechnology in The University of New Mexico’s Center for High Technology Materials (CHTM) labs: K-12 teachers. 

RET1During the last several year, 15 middle and high school teachers from around the state have gotten a taste of engineering research in the labs of seven CHTM faculty as part of a larger Energizing Engineering Education Research Experience for Teachers grant from the National Science Foundation.   

In all, the grant provided 51 research experiences for 29 teachers over the UNM campus and in the Advanced Materials Lab. Counting just the year immediately after each teacher worked in a lab, the program impacted 6,836 students, 75.8 percent of whom come from minority populations that are underrepresented in STEM and 61.3 percent are economically disadvantaged.  

To bring their experiences back to their students, teachers made videos of their lab mentors sharing stories about how they navigated challenges to become engineers. Teachers presented posters and Pecha Kucha presentations about their lab experiences. And they created 49 lessons and 62 activities to engage their students in engineering projects. Some of the CHTM-research-inspired lessons include a solar energy puzzle challenge to help “ET phone home,” a design challenge to create a solar-powered gadget using littleBits, an activity measuring sizes using lasers, an assignment to form a company and present ideas to improve solar cell prototypes, a lesson to predict whether a town will survive a zombie virus and a student-designed and built LED-illuminated Smart Farm.

To see these and other standards-based, free curricula please go here:

https://sites.google.com/site/unmret2014/home 

Some of the teachers involved in the Project-Based-Learning RET program have won several awards and multiple grants, which they attribute to the information and teaching strategies that they acquired during the program.

The CHTM-affiliated faculty who provided 20 research experiences are Steve Brueck and Tito Busani (NASCENT NERC), Daniel Feezell, Majeed Hayat and Payman Zarkesh- Ha (LESA ERC), Ganesh Balakrishnan (QESST ERC) and Sang Han.