Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has received a three-year, $375,000 award from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to run a summer program that gives middle school teachers the opportunity to participate in biomedical engineering research and then use that experience to create new classroom units for their students.
The Research Experience for Teachers (RET) program is an outgrowth of a similar program, also funded by the NSF, offered in the summers of 2008 to 2010 at WPI's Life Sciences and Bioengineering Center at Gateway Park.
"We appreciate the NSF's ongoing support," said Terri Camesano, professor of chemical engineering, who along with Kristen Billiar, associate professor of biomedical engineering, coordinates the RET program. "Having our program renewed is validation that we are having a positive impact on these teachers and their students. During the first phase of this program, we've seen that teachers are captivated by biomedical engineering research and the whole problem-solving process. And when they bring that enthusiasm back to their classrooms, their students become excited about how science and engineering can help people."
WPI's six-week 2012 RET program, "Inquiry-Based Bioengineering Research and Design Experiences for Middle School Teachers," will pair up to 10 middle school teachers with WPI researchers working on biomedical engineering projects in such areas as tissue engineering and regenerative medicine. In previous years, participating teachers helped design assistive devices for people with disabilities, worked on ligament replacement technology for knee injuries, and examined bacterial resistance, among other projects. At the end of this year's program, the teachers will create and present a poster based on their research and also develop a teaching unit or project to use with their own students during the following academic year.
"This program has made a profound impact on my ability to teach engineering," said Thomas Oliva, a technology teacher at Forest Grove Middle School in Worcester, Mass., who has participated in the RET program for three years. "I have developed curriculum projects to implement in my classroom and have shared my experiences from the WPI program with nearly 1,400 middle school students. It was hands-on learning, working in WPI's labs with professors and graduate students to solve real-world problems. I highly recommend this rewarding professional development opportunity to anyone teaching in the science and technology field today."
Applications are now being accepted for WPI's RET program. Teachers selected for the program will receive a stipend and an allowance to purchase curriculum materials for use in their classrooms.
For more information on the program see https://www.wpi.edu/academics/bme/ret.html