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Citadel News Service
19 Aug 2009

Education and Engineering help Baptist Hill teachers with STEM skills

The distance between Hollywood, S.C., and The Citadel got a little shorter this summer when seven math, science, and biology teachers from Baptist Hill High School participated in the GEAR UP STEM Summer Camp co-sponsored by The Citadel’s School of Education and School of Engineering.

This is the third year for the summer camp and it has evolved each year.

“Last year we had a camp for teachers and students, but this year we wanted to focus on the teachers and developing their STEM knowledge and skills,” said Stephenie Hewitt, associate professor in the School of Education. “Putting these teachers together with two engineering professors benefited everyone. And we would like to thank The Citadel School of Engineering for their support through the Bernard Gordon Foundation."

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This summer biology teachers from Baptist Hill High School participated in the GEAR UP STEM Summer Camp co-sponsored by The Citadel’s School of Education and School of Engineering. STEM stands for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics

STEM stands for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Each day during the GEAR UP STEM Summer Camp the teachers attended two sessions taught by professors from the School of Engineering. The first session found them actively working with Keith Plemmons, an associate professor in the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department, developing case studies and problem-based learning projects to take into their classrooms. In the second session, the teachers worked with Mark McKinney, an associate professor in the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department, learning about the field of engineering, engineering problem solving, and how to bring this material to the students at Baptist Hill.

During the civil engineering sessions, the teachers formed teams and developed two multidisciplinary case studies to implement in their classes. One case study addressed the problems posed by invasive species and how these species impact the environment and possibly their lives.

The other case study presented a problem linking the transportation and unemployment situation in the Hollywood area and asked the students to develop a solution with proposals, plans, and cost estimates.

“Case studies are great ways to teach because they engage students in thinking critically and comprehensively about something that very often impacts their lives,” Plemmons said. “Besides being a positive way to fulfill the state learning standards, case studies can also prompt students to look to the future and envision the different roles they can play in society.”

Through small-group work and whole-group discussions during the electrical engineering sessions, the teachers learned about the discipline of engineering, the engineering problem-solving process, and brainstormed about ways to introduce engineering to the students at Baptist Hill High School.

The teachers had several hands-on exercises to reinforce the concepts, including building and programming Lego NXT robots to accomplish a task and disassembling a DVD player to investigate the engineering that goes into everyday objects. The group also developed a list of ideas for starting a pre-engineering career track at Baptist Hill.

“Making engineering a valid career path for some of the students at Baptist Hill is invaluable. Introducing these teachers to the profession and getting them excited about teaching engineering concepts is an important first step,” said Dennis Fallon, dean of the School of Engineering.  

GEAR UP, short for Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs, has been on The Citadel campus since 1999. The GEAR UP program gives students encouragement and support to help them graduate from high school and it provides assistance in applying to an appropriate post-secondary education.

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