ATE Impacts

From the Archive: Teaching with Snack Foods - Engage. Educate. Enjoy!

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A photo of a person using flour in a baking scenario

Who said teaching complex STEM concepts couldn't be as easy as pie—or perhaps as crumbly as a cookie?  Within the ATE community, some inventive educators have transformed everyday snack foods into meaningful learning opportunities. By utilizing everyday pantry treats, they present scientific and mathematical principles in ways that are not only more approachable for students but also delightfully delicious.

In this month's From the Archive blog post, we highlight three ATE projects and centers that have creatively used common confections as educational tools. First, a marshmallow becomes the focal point of a lesson on measurement and calculations. Next, chocolate chip cookies serve as a model for understanding the process and impact of surface mining and land reclamation. Finally, we delve into the practical and experimental aspects of candy making, discovering melting point, temperature, and emulsions. Each resource is crafted to engage, educate, and, of course, entertain.

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ATE PI Eric N. Wooldridge Earns the National Science Board’s Science and Society Award

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Somerset Community College Professor and ATE PI Eric Wooldridge received the NSB’s 2024 Science and Society Award.

Eric N. Wooldridge, principal investigator (PI) of four Advanced Technological Education (ATE) grants at Somerset Community College in Kentucky, received  the Science and Society Award from the National Science Board (NSB) on May 1 with Sheri McGuffin, the STEM coordinator at AdvanceKentucky, an initiative of the Kentucky Science Technology Corporation.

Wooldridge and McGuffin were honored for their work since 2020 spreading high impact and accessible additive manufacturing education to community colleges and high schools across Kentucky. The award recognizes “their successful effort to support and encourage people in Kentucky to join the STEM workforce.”

During a panel discussion with NSB members and other award winners on May 2, McGuffin reported that their AdvanceKentucky Influencer Model had trained 201 community college, secondary, and elementary school educators and introduced 3D printing concepts to 5,000 students. Their collaboration has also resulted in the first state-endorsed career and technical education pathway for additive manufacturing.  

In response to follow-up questions from NSB members, Wooldridge suggested the model could be replicated to help the nation grow its semiconductor fabrication workforce, especially given the advancements in low-cost virtual reality technologies. This is the focus of one of his current ATE grants.

“Community colleges are truly nexus points that have the power to directly affect K-12 educators, students, and even the economic profile of a region,” Wooldridge said. (See his comments and McGuffin’s to the NSB at 1:08 of this recording of the board's meeting on May 2.)

The National Science Board advises the president and Congress and sets the policies of the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF), the independent science agency. NSF’s largest investment in two-year colleges is the ATE program, which focuses on improving technician education.  

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Maximizing Conference Impact with Greg Kepner

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A photo of the inside of a conference center, with booths and people milling about

Having a strong presence at conferences can make a big impact on your project and center work – helping support your outreach efforts, connecting you with colleagues, and creating partnership opportunities. In this blog post, Greg Kepner, PI of the ATE Collaborative Outreach and Engagement Project (ACOE), shares his insights for creating a memorable conference booth.

As part of the ACOE during 2022-23, Greg hosted the ATE Community Exhibit Booth at 28 national, regional, or state conferences and gave presentations, hosted roundtable discussions, or poster sessions at 17 conferences. As a follow up to the ACOE project, the NavigATE project was recently awarded to continue hosting the ATE Community exhibit to increase awareness and visibility of the ATE program, the ATE centers and projects, mentoring initiatives, and educational materials and resources developed through the program. Greg is also the Co-PI of the ATE-funded Micro Nano Technology Education Center(MNT-EC) with over 30 years of experience as a faculty member and administrator at Indian Hills Community College. His expertise spans Robotics, Automation, Control Systems, Electronics, CAD, and more.

Crafting an Attention-Grabbing Booth Setup

Greg emphasizes the importance of visually appealing booth setups. "The key elements for an attention-grabbing booth setup include interesting images and text on banner stands or backdrops," he says. Offering practical items like pens, USB flash drives, and even candy can also enhance the booth's draw.

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Needed Math Framework Helps Tech Educators Add Workplace Problems to Lessons

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Needed Math Logo with NSF grant number 2100062

From its identification of 40 important math skills for manufacturing technicians to know, the Needed Math Project has developed a framework for instructional scenarios. The team hopes that technical educators will use the framework with their local industry advisors to create scenarios that teach math skills in the contexts of the advanced technology workplaces where their students are likely to work.

The project website (https://www.neededmath.org) also has nine sample scenarios. However, at conferences and in journal articles this year the team is directing attention to the open-ended framework.

During a lively Zoom interview for the ATE Impacts Blog, Principal Investigator Dr. Michael Hacker and the project’s four co-principal investigators shared their hope that community college educators will use the framework for conversations with industry advisors in order to inform lessons.

This emphasis on the framework is also because the team members have found during their collective decades of professional experience that educators are more likely to adjust what and how they teach if they are involved in developing the instructional materials.

Hacker put it this way in comments that referenced the work of Dr. Gerhard Salinger, co-principal of the Needed Math project and former co-lead program director of the Advanced Technological Education program at the National Science Foundation (NSF):

“Gerhard led for years the instructional materials development program at NSF, and so much good stuff came out of that. But, you know, some turned into shelf ware ... without a lot of sustained promotion, a lot of professional development work, much of this good curriculum,  much of this great stuff that really is well-conceived, pedagogically brilliant, sits on shelves. It just does not get translated. And what teachers want to do is they want to develop their own stuff for their own students—that fits their own interests, in their own communities.

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ATE Impacts Book Promotes Technical Education and Celebrates 30 Years

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The graphic cover of the new ATE Impacts book

We are excited to inform you about the upcoming release of the new ATE Impacts 2024-2025 book! You can order copies of the ATE Impacts book online  - and digital copies of the book can be accessed once available on the ATE Impacts site as well. The digital copies will be viewable across all devices via any web browser.


The ATE Impacts 2024-2025 book showcases the work of the National Science Foundation’s Advanced Technological Education Community. This edition includes a foreword from National Science Foundation Director, Sethuraman Panchanathan, and features the work of 24 centers and 35 projects across the seven ATE areas, as well as applied research.

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MNVP’s Community College-Research University Partnerships Bring Veterans into Nanotech Workforce

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Students acquire characterization data in a Georgia Institute of Technology cleanroom.

The Microelectronics and Nanomanufacturing Veterans Partnership (MNVP) project utilizes the knowledge and resources developed over the past 25 years by other Advanced Technological Education projects funded by the National Science Foundation at Penn State University to bring military veterans into the nanotechnology workforce.

By pairing four community colleges with research universities near them, the project also builds on the strengths of each institution. Sixty veterans have participated during the first three semesters of the program offered at Rio Salado College and Arizona State University in Arizona; Southwestern College and University of California, San Diego in California; Georgia Piedmont Technical College and Georgia Institute of Technology in Georgia; and Tidewater Community College and Norfolk State University in Virginia.

Promising results have led to plans to expand the project at Tompkins Cortland Community College and Cornell University in New York; at Columbus State Community College and Ohio State University in Ohio; and at Tarrant County College and University of Texas at Arlington in Texas. MNVP classes will begin in fall 2024 in these regions where semiconductor manufacturing and related industries are growing. 

“The community colleges go out into the community—because they have that sense of community—and they recruit these veterans into the program. But what they don't have is these state-of-the-art cleanrooms required to do the training for the veterans. So the research universities come in there and they open up the doors to their facilities,” said Zachary Gray, managing director of the Center for Nanotechnology Education and Utilization (CNEU) at Penn State.

“Without the community colleges it wouldn't be possible. Without the research universities it wouldn't be possible,” Gray added.

Gray knows well the benefits of cross-sector collaborations. He is a 2007 graduate of the nanofabrication associate degree program that the National Center for Nanotechnology Applications and Career Knowledge (NACK), an ATE center, developed in partnership with Pennsylvania community colleges.

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Connecting with ATE Central’s Outreach Kit

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Whether you're starting out on your first grant proposal or have already secured funding from the National Science Foundation's Advanced Technological Education (ATE) program, outreach and dissemination activities are pivotal to the success of your project or center. Our blog post explores the significance of outreach and dissemination in the ATE program and introduces a valuable resource – the re-vamped Outreach Kit and accompanying Template – designed to guide you and your project/center through the process of developing a strategic outreach plan.

Understanding the Importance of Outreach and Dissemination:
NSF mandates that grantees demonstrate the broader impacts of their work, aligning with the mission to advance science, national health, prosperity, and welfare. Outreach and dissemination play a crucial role in meeting these broader impact requirements while achieving the specific goals outlined in your ATE grant.

In the ATE program, outreach and dissemination encompass activities like knowledge sharing, community building, recruitment, and knowledge transfer. These activities should be thoughtfully designed to serve the goals and objectives of your project or center.

Introducing the Outreach Kit and Template:
To assist ATE projects and centers in their outreach endeavors, ATE Central developed an Outreach Kit and accompanying Templates. Our resources aim to guide you through a comprehensive process, considering core ideas, primary audiences, stakeholders, partners, resources, and issues like branding and messaging.

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3 Projects Share Strategies for Recruiting & Retaining Females in Advanced Technology Programs

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A BCTC instructor explains lockout-tagout procedures to middle school students during a Girls Can, Too! workshop.

 

Many of the 36 projects featured in ATE Impacts 2024-2025 are testing strategies to recruit and retain populations historically underrepresented in science, technology, engineering, and math fields. Today’s blog highlights the work of three projects that focus on encouraging women and adolescent girls to embark on advanced technology careers.

“We decided to focus our projects on recruiting females and non-binary students for STEM-related educational programs to increase gender equality and overall diversity in conventionally male-dominated careers. Traditionally, female students were not encouraged to excel in math and science, which limited their access to careers that utilize these skills. Today, STEM-related careers are some of the fastest growing and highest paid jobs and our programs seek to recruit females into these academic programs,” Jacequeline I. Mitchell, director of the Business and Entrepreneurship Career Pathway at Durham Technical Community College, wrote in an email. She is principal investigator of the  Power of Us: Increasing Female Enrollment and Retention in Career and Technical Education Programs at the Durham, NC, college. Power of Us offers a speaker series, female mentors, and week-long summer camps.

The Advanced Manufacturing: Girls Can, Too! Project at Bluegrass Community and Technical College (BCTC) in Georgetown, KY, is driven by these data: “70% of all high school dual credit students are female, however, only 7% of those are taking industrial maintenance courses. Meanwhile, only 12% of maintenance workers are female and 70% of maintenance workers are over 40.” Hannah Green, co-principal investigator, and Shelby Cox, administrative assistant, provided the data and reported that the project is beginning to see changes. “We have had some students enrolled in dual credit courses through their high schools, as well as some students from the Girls Can, Too! program that enrolled full time in BCTC last fall. We have found that female students excel in the courses, and we feel like we are on the right path in bridging the gender gap,” they wrote in an email.

ATE Impacts 2024-2025 will be released this spring. It is part of an Advanced Technological Education project led by the Internet Scout Research Group at the University of Wisconsin-Madison with funding from the National Science Foundation. Keep reading for more excerpts from the book and insights about effective recruitment strategies from the project teams.

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Insights into Online Behavior and Platform Preferences

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A screenshot of a chart from Pew showing the majority of teens visit TikTok daily

Pew Research Center's recent study on U.S. teens' digital habits offers critical insights for organizations, particularly those in STEM fields, looking to engage with this demographic through social media for outreach and recruiting. As teens continue to embrace online platforms, understanding their preferences and usage patterns becomes essential for effectively reaching and connecting with the next generation of STEM professionals.

Key Considerations for STEM Outreach and Recruiting:

1. Platform Preferences:

Recognizing the dominance of YouTube, TikTok, Snapchat, and Instagram among teens is crucial. Tailoring outreach strategies to align with content consumption on these platforms can enhance visibility and engagement.

2. Decline in Facebook and Twitter Usage:

The decline in Facebook and Twitter usage suggests that these platforms may be less effective for reaching younger audiences. STEM organizations should focus on platforms where teens are more active to maximize the impact of their outreach efforts, such as TikTok or YouTube. Creating short videos like ATE's Student Success Stories can grab attention more quickly than a static image. 

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BEST Institute Focuses on Less Carbon, More Action Strategies for Better Buildings & Tech Education

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Lustgarten said, “environmental changes are more extreme and they’re already unfolding more quickly” than in the past.

The Best Center’s 2024 National Institute on January 4 and 5 featured 28 speakers—many of them Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory researchers—talking about new energy technologies and sharing climate data in the context of educating technicians to run energy efficient buildings.

The keynote speakers were Abrahm Lustgarten, author of On the Move: The Overheating Earth and the Uprooting of America, and Mary Ann Piette, a senior scientist and associate lab director in the Energy Technologies Area of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL)—a U.S. Department of Energy-funded research and development center.

BEST, which stands for Building Efficiency for a Sustainable Tomorrow, is an Advanced Technological Education center at the University of California, Berkeley, that focuses on preparing educators to teach the advanced technical and cognitive skills that people need for careers in building automation systems, energy management, and heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC).

Recordings of the 12 hours of live webinar presentations with transcripts and PDFs of the speakers’ slides may be accessed for the next year at no cost from the institute’s event agenda.

BEST leaders also used the virtual institute as a forum to report on the High-Performance Building Operations Professional (HPBOP) certification they developed to meet international industry standards and accreditation guidelines. Center leaders hope that by hitting these benchmarks, the certification will become the national standard for the knowledge, skills, and attitudes for building technicians to operate and maintain high-performance commercial buildings for safety, health, and sustainability.

The center is currently seeking educators and technical professionals to participate in pilot tests of the certification exam to help the center finalize the bank of test questions it developed with industry partners and testing experts. For more information on the exam see https://hpbop.org.

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