Hoeven touts STEM Center

WEST FARGO — More science and math centers could be created if the next federal education law gives states and school districts freedom to decide how to spend their share of funding, Sen. John Hoeven said Tuesday.

“You can’t have a federal one-size-fits-all program,” the North Dakota Republican said during a tour of West Fargo School District’s middle school STEM Center. “What they’re doing in Chicago and New York may not work here.”

Hoeven is a co-sponsor of the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act, a possible replacement for No Child Left Behind that he said would use a block-grant system to encourage innovation and let local leaders decide where funds need to spent.

Hoeven called the 250-student STEM Center “a great example” of what he hopes the ESEA can fund. STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

“Who knows best? The federal government or these teachers right here? And the answer is obvious: these great teachers,” he said.

The STEM Center was originally created as an enrollment safety valve for Cheney Middle School, which was busting at the seams due to the school district’s fast growth. But the program has proven so popular students get their spots in a lottery system.

The STEM Center has partnerships with North Dakota State University, North Dakota State College of Science, Rasmussen Business College and area businesses, including Microsoft, Sanford Health, John Deere, Moore Engineering and others, Principal Michelle Weber said.

“I know some people have issues with using the real world, but just really having students be engaged in the learning process and seeing how it is connected to the world of work” is important, Weber said. What they learn “certainly prepares them, almost like a pipeline for a future career.”

Hoeven said he encourages all of the region’s tech-oriented firms to make that “interface with education.”

“We’re driving innovation for this country. And it starts with young people learning these skills — sixth, seventh and eighth-grade and younger,” he said.

Hoeven later toured the construction sites for Sheyenne High School and Liberty Middle School and visited Freedom Elementary, which opened this fall.

He also met with Andrea Noonan, an eighth-grade teacher at Cheney Middle School, who is the state’s 2013 teacher of the year.

source: http://www.jamestownsun.com/event/article/id/171066/group/News/

North Dakota State University Awarded $400,000 NSF Grant

This is big. When it comes to research, scientists often generate oceans of data, which can create challenges to capture, store, analyze and understand. Standard computer systems cannot handle what is known as “big data”— high-volume, high-velocity data sets that are often in the terabyte and soon will be in the petabyte range. The National Science Foundation, in a competitive grant process, has awarded North Dakota State University a $400,000 grant over three years to create a Data-Intensive Cyberinfrastructure for Research and Education at NDSU, Fargo. The Office of the Provost will provide more than $171,000 in additional required matching funding. The computing infrastructure will be housed in NDSU’s Research and Technology Park.

The award will enhance research capabilities at NDSU. It will also provide opportunities for high school and undergraduate students, as well as students from underrepresented groups in computational research, said Dr. Martin Ossowski, director of the Center for Computationally Assisted Science and Technology (CCAST) at NDSU, which will oversee the computational enhancements for researchers and a co-author of the grant proposal.

When completed, the system will be used by NDSU faculty, students and staff for research in photophysics and photochemistry, plasma physics, new-generation energy conversion devices, multifunctional nanomaterials, biomimetics and coatings, computational biology, clay micromechanics, human brain injury under blast and impact, overland flow modeling, climatology and agroinformatics, structural monitoring of bridges, data mining, stochastic and bio-inspired computing, design automation of system-on-chip and many other computational research areas. NDSU undergraduate students will be integrated into several of the research projects and data-intensive computing will be incorporated into senior design projects.

“The grant award will be used to develop and operate a new generation of advanced computing infrastructure at NDSU, Fargo,” said Provost J. Bruce Rafert. “The resources that NSF provided to NDSU through this highly competitive award both recognize and accelerate NDSU’s emerging leadership in cyber infrastructure.” The new system will consist of tiered storage subsystems, tape library subsystem serving policy-driven near-line active archive, and a heterogeneous distributed memory compute cluster.

“These facilities will allow researchers access to additional state-of-the-art research computing resources, where ‘big data’ analytics are transparently coupled to high-performance modeling and simulation environments,” said Ossowski. “What we are really excited about is that the system is designed to expand as NDSU’s computational needs grow, by using what’s called a ‘condominium model’ where individual researchers and research groups will be able to plug in their own hardware modules, resulting in unprecedented economies of scale.”

The system will be tightly integrated with national resources including the National Science Foundation’s Extreme Science and Engineering Discovery Environment (XSEDE) and the NSF-Department of Energy cross-agency Open Science Grid.

Outreach efforts of NDSU’s Computational Research and Education initiative will include working with dynamic student groups. With the grant, NDSU will develop high performance computing (HPC) Summer Days to provide training in HPC for students in the Nurturing American Tribal Undergraduate Research and Education (NATURE) program. A cooperative effort between the state’s research universities and tribal colleges located in the region, NATURE offers opportunities in science, technology, engineering and math to tribal college students. NATURE is an initiative of tribal colleges and the North Dakota Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research.

In addition, outreach efforts will include developing HPC Spring Days, a week-long program for local area high-school students. Proposed activities will include data intensive computing, as well as mentorship by an NDSU faculty member. Future outreach efforts will include HPC Fall Days, a project-based semester-long activity that pairs students involved in the ESTEEM Institute with NDSU mentors to tackle real-life computational science problems. The Institute, in its initial phases, includes area schools and colleges working to encourage opportunities for students in science, technology, engineering and math.

The NDSU Major Research Instrumentation team will also work with Dr. Pavan Balaji, a computer scientist from Argonne National Laboratory. He serves as Chair of the Technical Committee on Scalable Computing (TCSC) of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). Dr. Balaji will augment outreach activities by using NDSU facilities as a computing test ground to conduct the Midwest portion of a data-intensive programming competition called the IEEE TCSC HPC Cup. NDSU’s future outreach efforts also could include computational opportunities with private sector partners.

Twenty-five leading NDSU computational researchers from nine departments contributed to the proposal to the National Science Foundation. “The success of the proposal illustrates the importance of computational science as a unifying driver to researchers across the university,” said Dinesh Katti, principal investigator for the successful proposal. “The rapid growth of computational power, along with important developments in computationally-driven science and engineering, has and will aid in major discoveries in a wide variety of fields.”

“Computation often serves as a fourth dimension of research,” said Philip Boudjouk, NDSU vice president for Research, Creative Activities and Technology Transfer. “When looking for a needle in what are essentially billions of data haystacks, the new tools provided by this initiative become critical to researchers.”

The Data-Intensive Cyberinfrastructure for Research and Education (DICRE) at NDSU will be managed by the Center for Computationally Assisted Science and Technology. The process to set up the computational infrastructure at NDSU is expected to take more than six months. DICRE at NDSU is funded by National Science Foundation Award No. 1229316.

source: http://www.hpcwire.com/hpcwire/2012-09-14/north_dakota_state_university_awarded_$400_000_nsf_grant.html 

University grant will help fund virtual science lab


The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has awarded a two-year, $1.08 million competitive grant award to Dr. Brian Slator, a North Dakota State University computer science professor, for his faculty start-up venture known as WoWiWe (pronounced Wow’ ee) Instruction Co. The group develops internet-based educational software.

The Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant through NIH’s National Center for Research Resources will be used to develop a multi-user virtual biology environment for discovery-oriented science education. The award includes $369,276 for NDSU’s Center for Science and Mathematics Education, led by Dr. Donald Schwert, professor of geosciences.

While Hollywood film crews create blockbusters with Academy Award-winning animation software, a team of researchers at NDSU develops software that creates virtual worlds to teach science. For a generation of students whose daily existence is tethered to the internet, the World Wide Web Instructional Committee at NDSU has developed unique methods to reach them. Slator established the WoWiWe research start-up company to commercialize educational simulation games developed by NDSU’s World Wide Web Instructional Committee.

The virtual worlds created by these educational software developers transport students inside cells, helping them learn complex biology. Students seamlessly enter a virtual world to become scientists: performing experiments, interacting with the world and with each other, applying the scientific method. “This approach represents the notion of learning by doing,” explains Slator. “You are having experiences in the role of a scientist.”

The grant award will make it possible for Slator and his team to produce educational software that helps students grasp complex biological concepts. The resulting software products will be targeted toward parents and high school students who want to better prepare for college-level science courses. Brad Vender, who received his master’s degree in computer science from NDSU, serves as principal investigator on the grant award.

source: http://www.ecampusnews.com/technologies/university-grant-will-help-fund-virtual-science-lab/?ast=31&astc=2487



NDSU serves as hub for STEM education research

A novel research area is gaining momentum among American scientists and mathematicians and NDSU is a driving force behind it.

It’s the study of how people teach and learn areas of science and mathematics.

Essentially scientists and mathematicians are using their training to apply research methodologies, commonly associated with cognitive science and education, to better understand the complex system of how students learn subjects like physics, biology, chemistry, biochemistry and mathematics.

Studies range from analyzing students’ ability to transfer calculus skills to the physics classroom, to more broadly looking at how students develop and articulate hypotheses to examining curriculum and assessment.

The area is called Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education research, also known as discipline-based education research.

NDSU is one of the first universities in the nation to offer a graduate program in STEM education. It embraced the emerging field in 2007 by adding three tenure-track positions and establishing an interdisciplinary doctoral program between the College of Science and Mathematics and the School of Education.

For both students and faculty, an attractive feature of NDSU’s program is the network of faculty. Mila Kryjevskaia, assistant professor of physics, says the opportunity to collaborate with colleagues from other departments in an interdisciplinary group is rare. “Quite often only one faculty does this type of research in the entire department or maybe in the entire college,” she said. “We have a unique situation that we have many faculty in the College of Science and Mathematics who do discipline-based research in education.”

Other universities recognize the uniqueness of NDSU’s program. At a recent biology education research conference, some NDSU faculty were repeatedly asked, “What’s going on at NDSU that is putting you on the map in terms of the place to be?”

“It comes down to a lot of vision at the college level. This was a broad umbrella saying, ‘Yes, this is important,’ ” said Jennifer Momsen, assistant professor of biology. “Why not have North Dakota be at the forefront of it if we can?”


source: http://www.ndsu.edu/news/banner_stories/stem_education_research/


North Dakota schools will receive $1.2 million for 2012

Several low-achieving schools in North Dakota are set to receive $1.2 million through the U.S. Education Department's School Improvement Grants program. The North Dakota school system is no stranger to the program, having received $11.5 million since 2009.

The grants are not given out on good faith alone, however. Schools in question must demonstrate a willingness to implement one of four intervention models: Turnaround (improve school as it its), Restart (close school and reopen as charter school), Closure (close school and send students to better schools in the district), and Transformation (replace principal and curriculum and improve school as it is).