Jumping Higher, Teaching Better
Sneakers come in a zillion styles and sizes. Every student owns a pair, thus they can relate to those rubber-leather-canvas contraptions laced to their feet. "So why not build a science and engineering unit for kids around sneakers? It will matter to them," says Martha Cyr, WPI's director of K-12 Outreach. "Let's have them study sneaker materials and friction and volume--even their cultural significance. We'll have them build their own composite sneakers designed for specific functions, like jumping higher or riding skateboards."
It's this type of innovative, engaging science and math curricula that is at the heart of Cyr's work; finding ways to reach young people who may never have considered studying the sciences. "WPI already has a number of programs devoted to this," she says. "It's part of my mission to see how those programs can better interact and support each other, and to develop new ones where we fall short."
What better place to start than in our own backyard. Cyr will begin by communicating with Worcester schools about WPI as both a destination for college-bound seniors and a resource for teachers and younger students. With two science-minded children at home, a teenage daughter and a 12-year-old son in nearby Charlton, she has a veritable live-in focus group to assess what will fly with the schoolyard set.
This K-12 Outreach position is new, funded for three years by a generous gift from Edna and Douglas Noiles '44. (Doug is co-founder of Joint Medical Products Corporation in Stamford, Conn., and holds numerous patents for surgical devices and orthopedic implants.) "We want to increase opportunities for children to feel the excitement of learning and ideas, especially the funda-mentals from which math, science and engineering grow," said Noiles of the gift.
Martha Cyr comes to WPI after holding a similar position at Tufts University in Medford, and has brought some of her grant-funded projects with her, including work developing the National Science Digital Library--a Web-based curriculum resource for science and math educators. She earned her master's degree at WPI and, in 1997, a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering. She met her husband (Phil Cyr, BSME '86, MBA '02) while a graduate student. Of her new post on campus, she says, "I feel like I've come home."
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Last modified: Jun 19, 2008, 13:52 EDT