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Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Faculty Receive 2015 Education and Diversity Grants Building on Kansas NSF EPSCoR Climate and Energy Research or Atomic/Molecular/Optical Science

The 2015 Kansas NSF EPSCoR Education and Diversity Grants are designed to enhance science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education in Kansas by supporting activities that will lead to an expanded STEM workforce or prepare a new generation for STEM careers in the areas of climate or energy research or atomic/molecular/optical science. This Fall, Kansas NSF EPSCoR awarded five Education and Diversity grants in the areas of Climate and Energy research or Atomic/Molecular/Optical Science. The projects that will receive Kansas NSF EPSCoR funding are:

Improving Climate Education through Field Observations and Data Analysis

Paul Adams
Anschutz Professor of Education and 
Professor of Physics
Fort Hays State University

The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) have a significant focus on climate change education that will engage students in observations of the climate and analysis of climate change data for K-12 students to demonstrate their knowledge and understanding. While the vision advocated by the NGSS is a significant step to improving science education in the country, the knowledge and skills necessary to implement this vision lags behind. K-12 teachers often do not have sufficient background with climate-based observations and the skills to deal with climate datasets. The proposed teacher workshop is designed to address this issue through a four day workshop that will introduce teachers to climate observation protocols developed through GLOBE (Global Learning and Observation to Benefit the Environment) and databases and database analysis tools in MY NASA DATA (Mentoring and inquiry using NASA Data on Atmospheric and earth science for Teachers and Amateurs). Introduction to these tools with academic year follow-up will increase teachers’ pedagogical content knowledge for teaching earth science, specifically climate change, in alignment with the NGSS and the Kansas NSF EPSCOR focus on climate (Track 1).

STEM Education Through Sustainable 
Energy Curriculum

Deepak Gupta
Assoc. Professor and 
Director of Engineering Technology
Wichita State University

The objective of this proposal is to expand and prepare a new generation of STEM workforce. This objective will be achieved through the development of sustainable energy systems based curriculum modules that can be seamlessly adopted by K-12 and community colleges as well as professional development of K-12 teachers and community college faculty members. To achieve this objective, Wichita State University (WSU) will partner with Wichita Area Technical College (WATC), Butler Community College, and regional high schools. The project deliverables include: (a) Modular sustainable energy systems curriculum (with the focus on solar energy) using the problem based learning (PBL) model; (b) Train the trainer program (professional development of K-12 teachers and 2-year college faculty); and (c) Mentorship program with college students as mentors for K-12 students. These deliverables focus on the following activities: (a) expand student career options with modular curriculum design that can be adopted at different grade levels, (b) partnership with K-12 and community college, (c) development of curriculum and educational materials including a focus on underrepresented population, (c) professional development program for educators, and (d) introducing K-12 students to STEM fields through mentoring and schools visits. This project will stimulate the interest of high schools students and facilitate the transition from high schools to STEM based 2-year and 4-year climate and energy research related programs. It will also use existing resources available from US Department of Energy, Brightergy and other resources.

“Fun in the Sun:  Using Solar Fuel Research to Educate, Challenge and Inspire Children”

Kevin Leonard
Assistant Professor in Chemical and 
Petroleum Engineering
The University Of Kansas

One of the grand challenges of our time is to directly convert solar energy to chemical energy (also known as solar fuels). If successful, this would have an enormous impact on how fuels and chemicals are made by lessening human dependence on fossil fuels and inhibiting greenhouse gas emissions. Dr. Kevin Leonard uses custom-built devices, robotics and 3D printers to overcome this challenge. His research demonstrates how creativity and innovation are used to address real-world energy challenges. It offers an ideal launch pad for challenging and inspiring children. This project will foster a new partnership between KU and Project CREATE, a non-profit group focused on Cultivating Responsible, Enriched, Artistic, Tech-Savvy Enthusiasts. We will pilot innovative ways to use 3D printing with children in grades 4-7 for an energy-themed summer camp. The hands-on activities will emphasize science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) concepts as well as creativity, problem-solving and teamwork. A special effort will be made to encourage female and minority youth to retain interest in STEM beyond middle school.

Advancement Via Individual Determination
(AVID) – Climate Initiative (ACI)

C. Matt Seimears
Chair and Associate Professor in 
Education/Early Childhood/Special Education
Emporia State University

The overarching goal of the Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) – Climate Initiative (ACI) is a systemic reform involving Emporia State University, USD 259 Wichita, Kansas and USD 490 EL Dorado, Kansas
K–12 public school partners (USD 259 is an urban district, USD 490 is a rural school district both with underrepresented populations of minority and first generation education students) and Butler Community College (BCC). ACI aims to develop an advantage for the high school AVID and rural students to expand their access to STEM climate career opportunities as students of underrepresented groups within the central part of the state of Kansas. ACI’s goal is to introduce and prepare all students that are part of this initiative for STEM climate career pathways, and provide climate experiences and expanding it district/school wide. Two ESU faculty, one BCC science faculty member and five high school AVID programs from USD 259 and rural students from USD 490 will be part of the initiative. ACI will also train each participant in the use of newly developed materials to create an extended assessment process of STEM climate career pathways. Four spring 2015 mini-camps and a summer 2015 camp will take place with the AVID Climate Initiative student groups to study the impact aerosols have on the climate and environment. Students will study aerosols in the air during their mini-camp and summer camp experiences at the BCC Andover, Kansas campus location. The second location will be held in various locations in the city of Wichita, Kansas. The overall goal of this project will be to develop and test a targeted partnership that will support the continued growth of AVID and rural students into STEM climate career pathways, as well as implement a model that can exist beyond the last funding date.

Energizing Underrepresented Student Populations to Enhance the STEM Workforce in Kansas

Betsy Yanik
Professor in Mathematics and 
Emporia State University

This proposal is a collaboration between Emporia State University (ESU) and Flint Hills Technical College (FHTC). The main components of the program will be a STEM Opportunities Day on each campus and a five day summer workshop offered jointly by FHTC and ESU. These programs will particularly focus on reaching out to the Hispanic population in the Flint Hills region of Kansas. The STEM Day on each campus will focus on the STEM programs offered by each institution. This daylong celebration of STEM opportunities will consist of four science hands on workshops which connect to the topic of energy. The summer workshop will allow for a more in-depth experience for students to work with STEM faculty and undergraduate students. The educational message to these young students is to value looking at situations using quantitative skills and scientific inquiry. This program will not only make Hispanic participants aware of the diversity of STEM careers, but also will better inform faculty and undergraduate students about the STEM opportunities at their “sister” institution. The pre-college participants will receive both STEM career information as well as some enrichment mathematical and scientific instruction. The summer program will extend the depth and variety of STEM activities in which Hispanics students will be engaged. The program is local in its scope but if successful may serve as a national model for better informing both faculty and students of the wide array of STEM careers facilitated by these schools; as well as develop a deeper understanding and appreciation for the educational opportunities at technical schools and universities.