URI initiative helps middle, high schools prepare students for engineering careers

KINGSTON, R.I. — November 27, 2006 — Few middle and high school students in Rhode Island learn about engineering or how their math and science coursework can be used in engineering careers. But a new initiative led by the University of Rhode Island’s College of Engineering will soon change that.

The College launched “Making a Case for Engineering: Bringing Excitement to Mathematics and Science” at a meeting in October with an overflow crowd of math and science teachers who were eager to learn how they could introduce engineering concepts and activities into their classrooms.

“The meeting was a tremendous success and we had an overwhelmingly positive response from the teachers,” said Bahram Nassersharif, dean of the URI College of Engineering. “They provided us with a great deal of feedback on how we can help them infuse engineering content and skills into their curriculum, and they offered wonderful ideas for partnerships.”

Sixty-five teachers from more than 30 middle and high schools in Rhode Island participated in the October meeting during which they learned about various engineering disciplines, brainstormed about classroom lessons and activities, and shared successful teaching strategies. Many more teachers have signed up for a follow-up meeting next spring. Teachers receive continuing education credits for participating.

“We had a very lively discussion at our table about how URI can work with teachers to increase the interest of our students in science and engineering and hopefully someday produce more engineering students at our local colleges,” said Thomas Holstein, a chemistry teacher at Portsmouth High School. “It is my hope that my students can use URI’s facilities to do research projects for activities like the science fair and to have the professors or graduate students be advisers or mentors for graduation requirements like our senior project.”

A planning committee consisting of URI faculty and administrators and Department of Education staff is developing a series of activities and events to continue the progress made at the first meeting. The next event will be a series of presentations and activities by URI engineering students and faculty at Central Falls Middle School in December.

Teachers interested in learning more about “Making a Case for Engineering” or registering for the next session in the spring should contact Professor Harry Knickle at knickle@egr.uri.edu.

Pictured above

Ray Wright (left), URI associate dean of engineering, brainstorms ideas for partnerships with middle and high school teachers at the “Making a Case for Engineering” event in October. URI News Bureau Photo by Michael Salerno Photography.