Inventor Dean Kamen Joins Teachers Across the Nation to Discuss Technology in the Classroom March 29-31 at WPI

Contact: WPI Media Relations, 508-831-5616

WORCESTER, Mass. - When asked a question, high-school principal Pauline Lamarche raised her hand, just as she hopes all good students do at her Massachusetts Academy of Mathematics and Science:

"What school would be interested in hosting a national conference for 350 teachers of science and technology?"

Two years ago, Lamarche answered "We will." While excited about hosting a national conference of her peers, she also knew that a gathering of 350 high-school and college teachers from across the United States, mid school year, is a daunting task. And there's the small matter of funding such an event.

On a recent afternoon, however, Lamarche savored a triumphant moment, driving home after a brief meeting with an executive at EMC Corp. in Hopkinton, Mass. She had just received a commitment for $50,000 for sponsorship of the conference, more than she originally requested. That conference, "Morphing Education by Infusing Technology," will be held March 29-31 in Worcester, Mass. In addition, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, home to Lamarche's Mass Academy, has volunteered to cohost the national event.

"I agonized about the conference for months after agreeing to host it," Lamarche said. "In the middle of the night, I'd wake up thinking about what it should be. I kept coming back to one key to explaining the event. In today's world, we've changed from an education that just teaches the '3 R's to one that uses 'reading, writing and arithmetic' through the 3 W's: the World Wide Web."

Lamarche's event, officially the 14th Annual Professional Conference of the National Consortium for Specialized Secondary Schools of Mathematics, Science & Technology (NCSSSMST), will take place on the WPI campus and at the nearby Crowne Plaza Hotel. Conference sessions will focus on engineering, distance learning, integration of technology and teaching techniques. In addition to a multitude of sessions and events, "Morphing Education" will present three of the country's most enthusiastic proponents of science and technology education:

Dean Kamen shows his stair-climbing wheelchair to President Clinton. (White House photo)
  • Dean Kamen, president and owner of DEKA Research and Development Corp., will speak Friday, March 30, at 7:30 p.m. in the Odeum of the WPI Campus Center, off 100 Institute Road, Worcester. Based in Manchester, N.H., DEKA specializes in advanced technologies in medical equipment. Recently, Kamen appeared on 60 Minutes II to demonstrate his stair-climbing, beach-walking wheelchair. In 1976, Kamen founded AutoSyringe Inc., his first medical device company.

    Kamen is also the founder of FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology), a non-profit organization dedicated to changing the way Americans view science and technology. FIRST holds an annual competition showcasing robots designed by a high-school team with corporate or university partnership. FIRST events promote engineering excellence and teamwork. Kamen has a long association with WPI, beginning as a physics undergraduate; he also holds an honorary doctoral degree from WPI. The university has been involved with the FIRST competition since its start and each year grants a full four-year scholarship to a FIRST team member who best exemplifies the spirit of the program.

    For more information on Kamen and FIRST, go to www.usfirst.org. Following Kamen's speech, the Virtual Orchestra, a technological musical performance, will be presented at 8:30 p.m. Frederick Bianchi, WPI music professor, developed the Virtual Orchestra, also known as the Realtime Music System.

  • Aliza Sherman, the founder of Cybergrrl Inc., will speak Friday, March 30, at 9 a.m. at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Worcester. Founder of Webgrrls, a networking group for women with interest in the Internet, she has written books including her latest, "Cybergrrl at Work," as well as "Cybergrrl: A Woman's Guide to the World Wide Web" and "Use Your Personal Power Tools: 10 Tools for Women to Succeed in Business and Life." For more information, go to www.greatertalent.com or call 917-826-5646.

  • Sheila Tobias, a noted writer and science and math education consultant, will speak Saturday, March 31, at 9 a.m. in Perreault Lecture Hall, Fuller Laboratories, on the WPI campus. From 1989 to 1996, Tobias worked for the Research Corp. in Tucson, Ariz., where she studied issues surrounding mathematics and science education. She is the author of "Overcoming Math Anxiety," "Breaking the Science Barrier" and "They're not Dumb, They're Different." For more information, go to www.sheilatobias.com.

Founded in 1865, WPI enrolls 2,700 undergraduate and 1,100 graduate students in science, engineering, management, social science and humanities. The Mass Academy (www.massacademy.org) is a public high school for students in grades 11 and 12 and a collaborative effort among the commonwealth, WPI (www.wpi.edu) and Massachusetts high schools to identify and nurture students with exceptional aptitude for mathematics and science.

The conference is $135 for NCSSSMST members and $150 for non-members. For more information, including directions, go to www.massacademy.org/ncsssmst or contact Lamarche at 508-831-5859 or 508-831-6222 for conference information.