WI

UW-La Crosse developing free online math course to boost students' proficiency

A free, widely available online math course being developed by the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse could dramatically reduce the need for students to take remedial math when they start college and put them on a faster, less expensive track to graduation, the UW System announced this week.

It also could better position the state to meet the needs of employers who have difficulty finding employees with adequate basic math skills, as the course would be available to people of all ages - literally anyone with an Internet connection.

An increasing number of freshmen in the UW System need remedial math when they start college, according to UW officials. As of 2007 - the latest data available - 21% of UW System freshmen did not have the necessary skills to succeed in college-level math. Among minority students, the percentage is significantly higher (40%).

Nationally, about 25% of high school graduates require remedial math in college.

That puts them at risk of not graduating, or of taking longer to finish a college degree, increasing the cost of their education, UW officials say.

Only about 45% of incoming freshmen in the UW System who need remedial math instruction complete the requirement. But those who do go on to finish college degrees in large numbers, UW officials said.

Learning math takes time, according to math educators.

But if you learned the skills in the past and are just rusty, relearning happens relatively quickly, said project leader Robert Hoar, a UW-La Crosse mathematics professor and interim associate vice chancellor for academic affairs.

"In the course, we cover it as if it was new," Hoar said Thursday. "Virtually everybody with a traditional path through high school has already seen it, but maybe not recently. If the majority of this is something you've seen before, you can pick up new skills at this pace, too."

Students can choose to either take the course at their own pace, or follow a traditional pace with an instructor who offers daily video lectures and assignments, he said.

What's a MOOC?

A $50,000 grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will help the new UW-La Crosse design the MOOC - a massive open online course that's part of a growing niche in the online education market.

Traditional online courses charge tuition, carry credit and limit enrollment to allow interaction with instructors. A MOOC is usually free, earns no credits and allows students of all ages to learn and acquire skills without paying tuition or receiving credits toward a degree.

Hundreds can take the course at the same time. Because a MOOC is so large, faculty can't respond to students individually, so the way the material is presented and its interactivity are key. A MOOC typically uses written materials and short video lectures with pauses for quizzes to make sure the material is understood. Students frequently interact online with others taking the class.

The free six-week MOOC math course being developed at UW-La Crosse will be different from most MOOCs because tutors from UW-La Crosse will be available to students online, Hoar said.

The course will be useful for both high school students wanting to make sure they're ready for college math and for older, nontraditional students who want to brush up on math skills to return to college or advance career goals, he said. A person taking the course doesn't register as a college student.

At UW-Milwaukee, 44% of new freshmen this fall required remedial math, according to Chancellor Michael Lovell, who spoke about his concerns last week at a UW System Board of Regents meeting. Lovell raised the issue during a discussion about positioning the UW System as an engine for economic development.

"Unless we can solve the math problem we have in this state, we're never going to get past this," Lovell told the regents. "We have to get students math-ready."

The skills and concepts covered in the new online math course are found on key gateway exams, including the ACT, SAT and college placement exams. The course content was developed to align with many of the Common Core State Standards needed for college readiness, according to Jennifer Kosiak, a professor of mathematics education at UW-La Crosse.

Success in trial run

The concept already has been tested with promising results, UW System officials said.

Using start-up funding provided by the UW System, UW-La Crosse launched a "fast track" pilot program in July involving 38 students whose test scores on the state's college math placement test showed a need for developmental math instruction.

After the six-week online course, participants' scores on the math placement exams increased significantly, Hoar said Thursday.

All but one of the participants improved to the point where they could enter college-level math and science courses.

The award from the Gates Foundation will help project leaders prepare for the large number of students the new online math course is intended to support.

To study the effectiveness of the learning format, the course development team will work with a partner, Desire2Learn, to design a high-quality student experience and to ensure that useful analytical data is collected.

"For many first-generation college students and those from lower-income families, the need to repeat high school-level work in remedial courses is unnecessarily frustrating and demoralizing," Hoar said.

"Even when they persist, those extra classes cost time and money," he said. "While most (Massive Open Online Courses) available today cover the kind of information you'd find in upper-level courses, we believe this teaching-and-learning model can help many students prepare for and succeed in general education math classes, which are required by every major or program."

Another goal is to help Wisconsin create a stronger workforce, said Mark Nook, senior vice president for academic and student affairs at the UW System.

"Math skills are a key ingredient to success in college and in work. Many students who have the drive to earn their UW degree are just missing that one piece of math confidence, and this can help," Nook said.

For more information on the free new online math class, or to pre-register, go to: www.uwlax.edu/MathMOOC

source: http://www.jsonline.com/news/education/uwla-crosse-developing-free-online-math-course-to-boost-students-proficiency-477kri8-179384501.html


$1 million grant will help local students prepare for science, math careers

Marian University has been awarded a five-year, $1.25 million Upward Bound Math-Science (UBMS) grant from the U.S. Department of Education.

The grant funds will be used to prepare local high school students for a college education in the fields of mathematics and science.

The program will select 60 students from Fond du Lac High School and Horace Mann High School in North Fond du Lac annually. Participants will be students who have the desire to pursue an undergraduate degree in the STEM fields — Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.

They must be first generation college-bound and financially qualified as defined by the U.S. Department of Education. The program will ensure that participants are well-prepared for a successful college experience and careers in the fields of mathematics and science.

The UBMS program is designed to generate the skills and motivation necessary for success in education beyond high school, according to a press release from Marian.

It will offer services such as academic tutoring, preparation for college entrance exams and information on federal student financial aid programs. Participants will experience hands-on activities and intensive instruction in mathematics and science.

“The UBMS program at Marian assists in developing a new generation of future scientists, engineers, and mathematicians” said Garry Moise, program director at Marian University. “Students in the program will benefits from services ranging from, additional academic assistance, college preparation, financial literacy, and career planning. This is another great opportunity Marian has that inspires students to take part in lifelong learning experiences.”

The UBMS program will be managed by a team of faculty and staff from Marian University, Fond du Lac High School and Horace Mann High School. Program offices will be located on Marian’s campus.

It is one of eight programs funded under the U.S. Department of Education’s TRiO programs. It is the third TRiO grant that Marian University has received since 2007.

For more information on the UBMS program at Marian University, contact Garry Moise at trio.ubms@marianuniversity.edu or 923-8621.

 

 

source: http://www.fdlreporter.com/article/20121111/FON0101/311110034/-1-million-grant-will-help-local-students-prepare-science-math-careers


Bradley Tech selected for manufacturing program, receives $15,000 grant

Lynde & Harry Bradley Technology & Trade School in Milwaukee has been selected to participate in the Society of Manufacturing Engineers Education Foundation’s Partnership Response in Manufacturing Education program and recently received a $15,000 check from the foundation and Rockwell Automation Inc.

The PRIME program launched in fall 2011 with six schools in six states. Bradley Tech, part of Milwaukee Public Schools, is one of nine schools selected for the second year of the program, according to a press release.

The program involves a three-year commitment by the SME Education Foundation to help foster partnerships with local manufacturers to provide job shadows, mentoring and internships. PRIME schools receive $35,000 for the three years to support post-secondary scholarships, equipment upgrades, continuing education for instructors and a science, technology, engineering and math-based camp for middle school students.

“PRIME was developed as a response to the growing skills gap crisis in our nation along with our greater mission to inspire, prepare and support STEM-interested students,” said Bart Aslin, chief executive officer of SME Education Foundation. “Upon graduation, they will leave school with the tools to further that education and become future innovators and contributors to industry.”

Rockwell (NYSE: ROK), a Milwaukee-based manufacturer of industrial automation systems, controls and software, has previously invested in STEM initiatives at Bradley Tech.

“Support for PRIME makes sense for us because our goal is to inspire young minds to become the next generation of skilled employees, customers and partners,” said Sue Shimoyama, SME Education Foundation board director and Rockwell vice president of global sales and marketing operations. “We are working to change the perception of careers in manufacturing today, and PRIME strengthens our efforts.”

 

source: http://www.bizjournals.com/milwaukee/news/2012/10/31/bradley-tech-selected-for.html


Wisconsin is transforming its education system

 “It’s an exciting time to be in public education,” said State Superintendent Tony Evers in his annual state of education address. “We’re changing what children learn, how they’re taught and tested, and how schools and teachers are evaluated. The scope and pace of change is unprecedented, and we’re blessed to start from a position of strength.”

Evers highlighted accomplishments that place Wisconsin as a national leader in library usage and resource sharing. Student achievements include top-level ACT scores, “Best in the Midwest” performance on Advanced Placement exams, and graduation rates that are the highest in the nation. “We should celebrate our accomplishments,” he said. “But, we’ve got a long way to go.”

Data shows that nearly 6,000 students drop out each year and graduation gaps persist for students from racial and ethnic minority groups, students with disabilities, English learners, and students in poverty. Too many of Wisconsin’s youngest students struggle to read. Child poverty and homelessness have reached the highest levels in recent memory, and schools and libraries are dealing with the largest budget cuts in state history.

“Wisconsin faces many challenges and is transforming its education system to help our students prepare for the future,” Evers said. His 2013-15 budget will include expansion of early literacy and will recommend new investments in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics), career and technical education (CTE), and industry certifications. “One of the surest pathways to the middle class in Wisconsin is career and technical education,” Evers said. “Forecasts show that job openings in manufacturing, health care, IT, and service industries will continue to grow.”

Evers noted that reinvigorating CTE hinges on students and parents believing it is a viable route to lifetime success after high school graduation. “A bachelor’s degree will always be an important path to a family-supporting career. But it’s not the only one, and it’s not the path that most kids take,” he said. “Expanding CTE does not mean devaluing academics. Today’s machinists, welders, and nursing assistants need high-level math and reading skills, as well as problem solving, creativity, and collaboration skills, as much as anybody seeking a four-year degree. Students, parents, and schools need to know all of the opportunities available.”

source: http://kdal610.com/news/articles/2012/sep/20/wisconsin-is-transforming-its-education-system/

 


Wisconsin Science Festival brings wonders of science to life for all ages

After a rousing debut last fall, the Wisconsin Science Festival returns for its second year this Sept. 27-30 with an even bigger and bolder schedule of people, music, art and explosions bringing the wonders of science to life for all ages. 

In addition to returning crowd favorites such as dancing scientists, the physics of football and live science fiction radio, the festival will expand exhibits at its central sites in Madison while adding new venues statewide.

Participating organizations include the children’s museums in Appleton, Eagle River, Eau Claire, Fond du Lac, La Crosse, Milwaukee, Sheboygan and Stevens Point.

Laura Heisler, director of the festival and programming at the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation, said the event expects to draw visitors from throughout the Upper Midwest thanks to its unique offering of interactive exhibits, hands-on workshops, lectures, demonstrations and conversations with leading researchers and creative thinkers.  

“People of all ages will be able to touch, taste, look, listen and discover the wonders of science, art and innovation. The festival will buzz with activities to explore, experience and enjoy,” Heisler said. “This is a unique, family-friendly event that will leave a lasting impression on visitors of all ages.”

The festival explores the natural world in new and exciting ways from the science of making bratwurst and beer to investigating the connections between music and our brains.

Most festival activities will be held in the Town Center at the award-winning Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery, with events also taking place elsewhere on the University of Wisconsin–Madison campus, at the Madison Children’s Museum and in communities statewide.

Highlights of the programs, all taking place at the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery unless otherwise noted, include:

Are You Smarter Than a Monkey? Monkeys and people are both smart, but in different ways. Explore these similarities and differences through a popular puzzle feeder and a new iPad shape and color choice experiment. Learn why these kinds of activities are important to the health and well-being of the animals at the Wisconsin National Primate Research Center. The session runs from 9 a.m. to noon on Sept. 27.

Neuroscience and Music: World-renowned jazz pianist Ben Sidran and UW–Madison’s Richard Davidson, director of the Center for Investigating Healthy Minds, will explore unexpected connections between neuroscience and music. The program starts at 7 p.m. on Sept. 27. 
 

Stem Cell Outreach: Hands-on lab activities provide an opportunity to learn more about the stem cell research currently being done on the UW–Madison campus. Kids and teens are especially welcome, though of course adults should not hesitate to stop by and explore this field of cutting-edge research. A variety of interactive activities will take place from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sept. 28 and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sept. 29.

 

 

Chocolate from Bean to Bar: This program features a demonstration of chocolate making, from cocoa beans to a finished chocolate bar, with examples of the components of chocolate at intermediate stages. At the end of the presentation, attendees will experiment with various chocolate properties, including what happens when water and chocolate mix. The session runs from 4 to 5:30 p.m. on Sept. 28.

The Physics of Football: Participants will learn about energy and motion by drop-testing football helmets and firing miniature foam footballs from an air cannon. The session runs from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sept. 29.

Reptiles and Amphibians: The Madison Area Herpetological Society will educate the public about frequently misunderstood reptiles and amphibians and share their herpetological expertise. Society members also will provide legal and practical advice for keeping reptiles and amphibians. The session runs from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sept. 29.

BadgerBOTS: Visitors to the BadgerBOTS Robotics booth will be able to construct Lego jewelry, Lego robotic assembly kits and watch robot demonstrations. The booth will be open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sept. 29.

Science is Fun Extravaganza: Exploding balloons and liquids that change color in the dark are part of an entertaining hour of dazzling scientific phenomena. Join the Wisconsin Initiative for Science Literacy’s Bassam Z. Shakhashiri and Rodney Schreiner in their chemistry lab to learn more about light, color, liquids, gases, and more! Shakhashiri is a professor of chemistry and the William T. Evjue Distinguished Chair for the Wisconsin Idea. The session will take place at 10 a.m. on Sept. 29 in room 1351 of the Daniels Chemistry Building on the UW–Madison campus.

Special Broadcast – 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea: Wisconsin Public Radio and the 9XM Players invite you aboard the Nautilus for a trip 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea with Captain Nemo. This special live broadcast edition of Wisconsin Public Radio’s Old Time Radio Drama will be hosted by Norman Gilliland, who also adapted the Jules Verne science fiction classic for radio. The show starts at 8 p.m. on Sept. 29. 

Sponsored by UW–Madison, the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation and about a dozen other organizations as well as several corporate sponsors, the Wisconsin Science Festival seeks to inspire, educate and develop global citizens by raising awareness and understanding of science.

In addition to activities for the public, K-12 educators can attend several workshops, including special sessions conducted by the education teams behind PBS’ NOVA and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

Events in Madison will culminate with a talk by Sir Ken Robinson, an international leader in education, creativity and innovation and the most watched and discussed speaker in the history of the prestigious TED Conference.

Entry to most festival sites will be free, though some may charge their usual admission fees. A few activities may require nominal materials fees or costs for refreshments.

 

 

source: http://www.news.wisc.edu/21059

 


Bridging the STEM Gap with Girl Scouts

In a world being transformed by technology, only one-fifth of American scientists and engineers are women.

Although girls are precocious learners, they tend to leave science and math to the boys in middle school. In high school, while girls match or surpass boys’ aptitude, they are less likely to take advanced placement physics or computer science exams.

A recent Girl Scout Research Institute study discovered that girls’ future career choices are more influenced by inspiring role models than by academic interests. This is why Girl Scouts of the Northwestern Great Lakes, or GSNWGL, has made it a priority to enhance the number of fun and engaging STEM programs this year. By partnering with community professionals and asking our older girl members to take the lead, we’re bringing new levels of relevancy to our program.

Additionally, GSNWGL and other councils across the country have embarked on an advocacy initiative to raise awareness about girls’ participation in STEM with officials and community leaders at the local, state, and federal levels. In doing this, the Girl Scout organization is fulfilling its mission to be the voice for girls by sharing its knowledge and expertise with the larger community to ensure that all girls have what they need to succeed.

It is time to dismantle the stereotype that girls aren’t high achievers in math and science. Performance data paints a much different picture. According to the American Association of University Women, high school girls and boys perform equally well in math and science. Still, on average, only 20 percent of young women intend to major in a STEM subject, compared to 50 percent of young men. We must work together with our partners in business, education and the community to lift girls up to the possibilities inherent in them for success.

Girl Scouts reaches 2.4 million U.S. girls, making the organization uniquely positioned to address gender equity in STEM education and enrichment. GSNWGL serves more than 18,000 girls across northern Wisconsin and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, and while there are a number of STEM professionals partnering with us and working with our girls to make programming fun, hands-on, and memorable, we need more.

source: http://www.marshfieldnewsherald.com/article/20120906/MNH04/309060240/Bridging-STEM-Gap-Girl-Scouts

 


Partnership lets high school students try hand at tech careers
As most local students head back to the classroom, some are gearing up to earn community college credits without leaving their high school.
The Green Bay School District partnered with Northeast Wisconsin Technical College this year to offer several technical-college level courses at Southwest High School. The students will earn dual high school and college credit, with hopes that they will continue studies at NWTC and move into a technical career.
Students can learn welding, blueprint reading and graphic-design computer programs as a way to explore careers in fields with a shortage of qualified workers, educators say.
NWTC President Jeff Rafn has said most jobs will require some sort of post-secondary training, noting that he has worked with local businesses and schools to promote partnerships.
A national study shows that by 2018, 63 percent of all U.S. job openings will require some sort of post-secondary education. A 2010 study by the Georgetown University Center of Education and the Workforce estimated that businesses will need nearly 22 million workers with post-secondary degrees in another decade, but colleges will fall short by about 3 million graduates.
Local educators hope working with students while still in high school or even middle and elementary school, will help them think about and prepare for education after high school graduation.
As part of that effort, Green Bay high school students visited NWTC to survey careers they were interested in.
“They showed an interest in health care, as well as the trades, especially the technical and engineering trades,” said Brooke Holbrook, career prep specialist for NWTC. “So we decided to start there.”
The college and district also looked at labor market trends before setting up the Southwest High School program, she said.
“Advanced manufacturing is in high demand in Green Bay and in Wisconsin,” Holbrook said.. “An example we use is welding. Those graduates end up hired right away, sometimes before they graduate. If high school students get started learning that, it puts them that much further ahead.”
 
As most local students head back to the classroom today, some are gearing up to earn community college credits without leaving their high school.
The Green Bay School District partnered with Northeast Wisconsin Technical College this year to offer several technical-college level courses at Southwest High School. The students will earn dual high school and college credit, with hopes that they will continue studies at NWTC and move into a technical career.
Students can learn welding, blueprint reading and graphic-design computer programs as a way to explore careers in fields with a shortage of qualified workers, educators say.
NWTC President Jeff Rafn has said most jobs will require some sort of post-secondary training, noting that he has worked with local businesses and schools to promote partnerships.
A national study shows that by 2018, 63 percent of all U.S. job openings will require some sort of post-secondary education. A 2010 study by the Georgetown University Center of Education and the Workforce estimated that businesses will need nearly 22 million workers with post-secondary degrees in another decade, but colleges will fall short by about 3 million graduates.
Local educators hope working with students while still in high school or even middle and elementary school, will help them think about and prepare for education after high school graduation.
As part of that effort, Green Bay high school students visited NWTC to survey careers they were interested in.
“They showed an interest in health care, as well as the trades, especially the technical and engineering trades,” said Brooke Holbrook, career prep specialist for NWTC. “So we decided to start there.”
The college and district also looked at labor market trends before setting up the Southwest High School program, she said.

“Advanced manufacturing is in high demand in Green Bay and in Wisconsin,” Holbrook said.. “An example we use is welding. Those graduates end up hired right away, sometimes before they graduate. If high school students get started learning that, it puts them that much further ahead.”

 

source: http://www.greenbaypressgazette.com/article/20120904/GPG0101/309040093/Partnership-lets-high-school-students-try-hand-tech-careers?odyssey=tab%7Ctopnews%7Ctext%7CGPG-News&nclick_check=1 


Appleton teacher wins presidential award

 

Kara Pezzi didn’t want to be a teacher.

 

With a degree in chemistry from the University of Wisconsin at Superior and plans to pursue a Ph.D in chemistry down at UW-Madison, Pezzi couldn’t initially see teaching as the best way to pursue her passion for science. “I wanted to be a chemist,” she recalled during an interview this week in a high school classroom here.

 

Serving as a graduate teaching assistant, however, she realized that a doctorate in chemistry “was not the path my life would take.”

 

Pezzi quickly found that she took to teaching undergraduate chemistry like a fish to water. “I found my passion,” she remembered. It was “a chance to share my love of chemistry, a chance to open the eyes of young people, to show them the world from a different perspective.”

 

Next week (June 27), Pezzi will be among about 100 math and science teachers traveling to Washington to be recognized for their efforts through a National Science Foundation program called the Presidential Awards forExcellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching. The teachers’ packed schedule includes meetings with NSF officials and members of Congress, a White House tour and perhaps a meeting with President Obama.

 

Despite the national recognition, it’s not been a good decade for teachers, especially high school teachers. According to some estimates, the percentage of U.S. spending on education has declined by 2 percent to 5 percent of total GDP over the last decade. Despite all the talk about STEM education (science, engineering, technology and mathematics), the reality at the high school level is overcrowded classrooms, distracted students uninterested in or fearful of demanding science classes and, of course, harried teachers.

 

Pezzi, who is teaching an interdisciplinary summer school class for high school instructors, normally teaches five sections of chemistry at Appleton East High School (the school has gone from three to two chemistry teachers during her 14 years there). Pezzi has about 30 students per class in a room equipped with 28 lab stations. For many, chemistry will be the toughest class they take in high school. “They look at science as being really, really hard,” she said.

 

Indeed, the high school has only 60 students taking physics, an elective course that used to be required in the Appleton school district.

 

Pezzi just shrugs. “It’s not something that’s easy to fix,” the Milwaukee native said.

 

Along with reducing class sizes, another reform would be dropping standardized testing. Having taught high school chemistry for 20 years, Pezzi is convinced that standardized tests don’t work. “Let us teach,” she pleaded.

 

Despite the long days, students complaining about poor grades and the pervasive fear of failure on the part of many parents, Pezzi said an occasional call from a former student makes it all worth it. She recently heard from one who is earning a Ph.D in chemistry from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. You can sense her pride.

 

That future chemist and the others whose lives were changed forever by a thoroughly committed chemistry teacher in this small Upper Midwestern city are the essence of education.

 

For that, we all owe a debt of gratitude to our teachers.

 

And we’re glad Kara Pezzi changed her mind and became a high school chemistry teacher. 

 

source: http://www.eetimes.com/electronics-news/4375958/A-passionate-teacher-with-good-chemistry


 

 

ManpowerGroup survey reveals persistent shortage in skilled trades, engineers, IT

 

ManpowerGroup released the results of its seventh annual talent shortage survey, revealing 49 percent of U.S. employers are experiencing difficulty filling mission-critical positions within their organizations.

 

Although slightly lower than the 52 percent of employers struggling in 2011, a major percentage of total U.S. employers continue to face hiring challenges despite continued high unemployment. U.S. employers are struggling to find available talent more than their global counterparts, where 34 percent of employers worldwide are having difficulty filling positions.

 

According to the more than 1,300 U.S. employers surveyed, the positions that are most difficult to fill include skilled trades, engineers and information technology staff, all of which have appeared on the U.S. list multiple times since the survey began in 2006. The survey also highlights the most common reasons employers say they are having trouble filling jobs, including lack of available applicants, applicants looking for more pay and lack of experience.

 

“Based on the many conversations we have with employers every day, ManpowerGroup recognizes the ongoing challenge business leaders face when looking for the right talent,” said Jonas Prising, ManpowerGroup president of the Americas. “This skills mismatch has major ramifications on employment and business success in the United States and around the globe. Wise corporate leaders are doing something about it, and we increasingly see that they’re developing work force strategies and partnerships with local educational institutions to train their next generation of workers.”

 

In the United States, the top 10 most difficult jobs to fill are:

Skilled trades

Engineers

IT staff

Sales representatives

Accounting and finance staff

Drivers

Mechanics

Nurses

Machinists/machine operators

Teachers

 

“We’re seeing too many employers become complacent about the talent shortage and ultimately they will struggle to realize their business objectives,” Prising said.

 

source: http://www.bizjournals.com/milwaukee/news/2012/05/29/manpowergroup-survey-reveals.html


Tormach Launches New Web Resource for STEM Education

 

Tormach LLC, a premier manufacturer of affordable CNC mills and accessories, announces the launch of TeachSTEMNow.com, an online resource that promotes Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) in education.

TeachSTEMNow.com places an emphasis on manufacturing technologies and real-world shop skills. Offering lesson plans that can be readily implemented into classroom curriculum, the site also contains STEM-related articles and editorials, teaching tips and ideas, and links to educational grants and funding resources.

"The idea behind TeachSTEMNow.com is to enhance education in an exciting fashion," said Tormach President Greg Jackson. "We're looking at the integration of all technologies and supporting the idea that educators are critical to moving the next generation of tradesmen and skilled workers forward. It's our goal with this project to present these ideas to teachers."

Co-editors on the site are Alain (Al) Chirinian, STEM education expert and Science and Robotics instructor at Brookings-Harbor High School in Brookings, Oregon, and Andy Grevstad, Senior Applications Engineer at Tormach. Grevstad explains, "The types of projects we're putting on to TeachSTEMnow.com will give people the understanding that Tormach is unique in its ability to provide machines for the classroom at a reasonable price, that can do these big-time projects rather than the small desktop projects."

Noting positive growth in students' interest in shop and vocational classes, Chirinian attributes the trend to popular television shows filmed in real-world machine shops and the "maker movement." "I've never had a student say they didn't enjoy working with their hands; it's quite the opposite. Kids who didn't have any idea what a CNC mill looked like before see them on these reality shows and they want to make parts of their own," he said.

Chirinian added, "The shop teacher has the technical know-how to operate machinery. Unfortunately, you don't see a lot of mixing of the shop teachers and the science and math teachers. Collaboration is key, though, to change the whole STEM paradigm. We want to encourage teachers to move beyond the barriers and understand that in the shop class they do a lot of math and in the math class they can utilize the shop and in the science class, and so on."

For more information about TeachSTEMNow.com, visit the website at http://www.teachstemnow.comand follow TeachSTEMNow.com page on Facebook and Twitter.

 

source: http://www.kotatv.com/story/18089410/tormach-launches-new-web-resource-for-stem-education

 


At local high schools, Project Lead the Way ignites imagination and innovation in learning science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM)

Insulation, aluminum rods and 3D modeling software don’t sound like traditional back-to-school supplies. For students enrolled in engineering courses at East Ridge High School (ERHS), those classroom materials are in high demand.

“We work hard, but we get to learn a lot by doing,” says Denise Kotz, an instructor in Project Lead the Way (PLTW) engineering classes at ERHS. PLTW is a nationwide organization that partners with middle schools and high schools to offer courses that prepare students to become leaders in career fields related to science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

In these courses, students are able to apply knowledge gleaned from their textbooks while conducting hands-on experiments. “We have studied forces in truss systems, simple machines, sources of energy (both renewable and non-renewable) and statics and materials testing,” explains Kotz. “In some cases, we do this with notes on the board and solving problems in our books, and sometimes we do physical activities to learn how things work.”

Working mostly in pairs, PLTW students test concepts and theories by creating things like structural stress analyzers out of brass and aluminum rods, working with insulation to create boxes that trap heat, and building devices out of Fisher-technik materials (similar to LEGO Mindstorms). “The students are exposed to problem-solving while learning about the introduction to design,” says Dave Hawkinson, who also teaches PLTW engineering classes at ERHS.

Zach Tritz, a junior at ERHS, says taking the classes opened his eyes to applying his lifelong love of math and science to a potential future career in mechanical engineering. “The PLTW courses have given me a look at what engineers do and what it would take to be one,” he says. “I learned how to use 3-D modeling software that is in wide use in the engineering field, learned about different types of engineers, and even interviewed a mechanical engineer.”

In March, ERHS became the first school in the state to receive full certification in Project Lead the Way biomedical and engineering pathways, meaning students will now receive college credits for completing the courses. The biomedical science pathway is quickly becoming the most popular curriculum in the school; last year, 53 students enrolled in the classes, and this year over 190 eager learners will participate.

Similarly, Woodbury High School was granted provisional certification in engineering and will offer three courses this year. Principal Linda Plante says she’s looking forward to seeing students combine science, math and technology, especially in their new civil engineering and architecture course. WHS instructors will co-teach PLTW classes to give students a better idea of how the disciplines are interrelated.

No matter the final career path, there certainly is a lot to be gained from taking these rigorous but rewarding courses. Besides having a heightened knowledge of biomedical, engineering and architecture, PLTW students will likely be better prepared for college coursework, have more experience in thinking creatively and in communicating effectively with others. Hawkinson says he’s also noticed an increase in self-confidence and insightfulness in his engineering students.

“The skills they are learning, like working in groups, getting a problem and having to work through a solution, and then presenting the solution to the class, are amazing life skills,” Kotz says. “Some of the students will become engineers and some will not, but these skills are highly desirable in any career field.”

source: http://woodburymag.com/article/schools/project-lead-way-woodbury


Voucher loophole closes, halting expansion in Wisconsin

On March 13, arguments surrounding a voucher program loophole were resolved in Wisconsin. A bill passed by that state's Assembly on Tuesday will halt the expansion of the voucher system, keeping its influence contained within the cities of Racine and Milwaukee.
The original legislation that caused the controversy had only proposed to target these two cities. What proved to be a point of contention was the unclear language in the 2011-2013 budget that may have allowed a far larger expansion "without legislative oversight or community input."

The tax-funded vouchers, each amounting to $6,442, were intended to help low-income students attend private schools. In practice ,however, the program tends to siphon funds from the public school system without creating any definitive improvements.

State Superintendent Tony Evers compares the achievements of low-income students in private and public schools to refute the voucher program's premise. He states that the student in the public school does better overall, especially in the subject of math. Evers also took offense at the program's interest in the urban area of Green Bay, which has public schools that are currently excelling.

"If we look specifically at Preble High School," Evers said, "they beat the state average in reading and mathematics while maintaining a graduation rate of 89.7 percent, essentially equal to the overall Wisconsin graduation rate of 89.9 percent, which is the highest graduation rate in the nation."