July 1, 2013

In order for the United States to compete in the rapidly-changing global workforce, augmenting the nation’s science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) workforce is essential. In 2010, the U.S. Department of Labor showed that of the 20 fastest-growing occupations projected for 2014, 15 of them require significant math and science preparation.

High school math and science teacher-pairs gathered at LSU’s College of Engineering for the fifth annual High School Teacher Engineering Awareness Program (HSTEAP), a summer experience focused on helping teachers develop a curriculum that exposes students to engineering and generates interest in STEM disciplines.

Developed through the Grand Challenges Scholars K12 Partners Program (GCSP) at the University of Texas at Austin and funded by Marathon Oil Corporation, Halliburton and the National Science Foundation, the week-long program aims to expose high school math and science teachers from Louisiana and Mississippi to a different pedagogical approach to teaching and interdisciplinary learning. The training will further help these teachers incorporate culturally and socially relevant curriculum into their classes and formally connect teachers and students with LSU faculty, as well as local industry. In addition, they network with teachers from across the state to develop a community of practice and work toward earning a certificate with the National Academy of Engineering as a Grand Challenges Scholar.

Director of the GCSP at UT-Austin Christina White facilitated this year’s HSTEAP, assisted by Cecilia Corral, a teaching assistant for the GCSP and master’s/Ph.D. student studying mechanical engineering with a focus in engineering education at UT-Austin.

“[HSTEAP] allows teachers and students to bridge math and science through design and engineering projects,” Corral said. “It gives teachers a new way to teach interdisciplinary curriculum to engage and reach all the students in their classroom.”

A group of 22 teachers participated in this year’s (Re)Lake Providence and Louisiana with Engineering Education program, a continuation of last summer’s (Re)New Orleans theme. The program incorporated the National Academy of Engineering’s Grand Challenges for Engineering in the 21st Century, the world’s 14 most pressing societal challenges, which may be alleviated through innovative engineering. The program focused on two of the challenges: renewing urban infrastructure and designing biofuel solutions.   

The teachers acquired skills on how to implement engineering design and project-based learning in their classes and help their students gain a better understanding of the practical application of math and science. It offered expanded ways to change students’ views of engineering and make it more attractive. They also incorporated the five pillars of the GCSP into their lesson plans: research, interdisciplinary curriculum, global perspectives, service-learning and entrepreneurship.

The participants were put into groups to build a structure for the town of Lake Providence, La., using sustainable structures and then designed biofuel solutions for their created community. The hands-on activities emphasized the connection between science, math and engineering and allowed them to brainstorm ways to incorporate these kinds of group projects in their own classrooms.

When students do group projects in class, it changes the rhythm of day-to-day learning and can help them realize their strengths and how what they’re learning can be applied to communities, White said.

“As a science teacher, I get so caught up with covering everything that I feel like I have to cover according to school standards that I forget how important projects are for students,” said Brandon McQuillin, biology teacher at Ouachita Christian School. “It’s rejuvenating for them.”

By committing to the incorporating the five pillars of the GCSP and by developing an awareness of the Grand Challenges, the teachers were able to work toward a certificate distinguishing them as Grand Challenges Scholars.

“It’s nice to be in the students’ shoes for the week,” said Lauren LaMagna, Algebra I teacher at East Ascension High School. “It’s refreshing. I can take a step back and realize what I need to do for my students.”

This year’s participants include:

Melissa Carroll and Matthew Root, Denham Springs High; Ashley Hano and Lauren LaMagna, East Ascension High School; Justin Wooley and Dian Graft, Livonia High School; Wille Lewis and Amber Hart, Madison Prep Academy; Beth McInnis and Jeannette Thompson, The Dunham School; Emerson Quirante and Ofelia Libario, Lake Providence Senior High; Yolanda Weatherspoon and Tammi Carlisle, Bolton High School; Suzanne Moyers and Stephen Goebel, C.E. Byrd High School; Tracy Hoffman and Karen Mathews, Fontainebleau High School; Leslie Reese and Penny Edwards, Operation Jumpstart East; and Brandon McQuillin and Tim Mosher, Ouachita Christian School.

For more information about HSTEAP, click here

To see the video about HSTEAP, click here.


Article written by Elise Bernard, communications intern. For more information, contact Mimi LaValle, College of Engineering, mlavall@lsu.edu or (225) 578-5706. 

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