Fellowship Brings STEM Teachers Into Engineering Labs

The Joule Fellows pose at the end of the program.

The Joule Fellows pose at the end of the program. (Chris LaRosa/UConn Photo)

A UConn engineering program that helps teachers bring engineering into their classroom recently ended its summer activities.

The Joule Fellows Program is a six-week National Science Foundation funded research training event that allows high school and community college STEM teachers to work in a laboratory with UConn researchers.  The fellows worked in teams with a faculty member and a graduate or undergraduate student buddy on an existing research project. There were also workshops and networking opportunities, so that past and current fellows could interact.

“We want you to create a network for each other, so that you can help each other,” said Aida Ghiaei, program manager and organizer of the fellows program. One aspect of the networking opportunities included weekly lunches where the current fellows could meet together along with faculty, past participants and other engineering personnel.

The second week of the fellowship was spent participating in the DaVinci Project, where the fellows learned to incorporate engineering education into math, science and technology courses. The DaVinci Project gives teachers, guidance counselors and administrators more information about the wide variety of engineering disciplines and opportunities available to their students. It also demonstrates that engineering is a more hands-on way to teach math and science concepts.

After completing the DaVinci Project, the fellows spent the rest of the fellowship program in labs on projects such as self-assembled lipid-based nanoparticles for biomedical purposes and earthquake engineering. Fellows made three minute videos about their experience, to share with their class, school districts and put on the Joule website. They also created a lesson plan based on the research they do in the lab.

“The videos can be put together however you want, as long as it’s about your Joule experience,” Ghiaei said.

Katherine Nuzzo, who was a former Joule Fellow, said that the experience and connections gained during the fellowship was a vital resource to her curriculum.

“Because of the fellowship, we were able to plan a field trip here to UConn. It was a nice experience, to have high school students able to talk to a college professor,” Nuzzo said.

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