STEM Education News
May 24, 2012
In This Issue:
- CoSTEM Seeks Public Comment on STEM Education Design Principles
- 1,500 Young Scientists Compete for $3 Million at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair
- New NRC Report Findings Could Improve Undergraduate Science and Engineering Teaching
- Iowa to Implement Regional STEM Hubs
- Nominate an Educator for PEOPLE Teacher of the Year
- Legislative Update: Legislation Would Help Retain Talented STEM Graduates in the U.S.
CoSTEM Seeks Public Comment on STEM Education Design Principles
The National Science and Technology Council‘s (NSTC) Committee on STEM Education (CoSTEM) is currently accepting public comments on its recently released draft of “Design Principles for Federal STEM Education Investments.” CoSTEM is currently in the process of developing a 5-year Federal STEM education strategic plan, as called for by the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010. This draft of design principles will inform the final version of the plan, which the committee plans to release later this year.
In December 2011, CoSTEM published an inventory of Federal programs and investments in STEM education. The inventory determined that Federal agencies are making 252 distinct investments in STEM education for a total of $3.4 billion. The portfolio concluded that no programs were duplicative, and identified only a few programs with similar objectives, target audiences, products, and STEM fields of focus. In February 2012, CoSTEM released a progress report that provided an overview of the strategic plan and its development process. The final strategic plan will “describe the approaches that will be taken by each participating agency to assess the effectiveness of its STEM education programs and activities.”
CoSTEM is now accepting public comments on the Design Principles draft online until June 15, 2012.
1,500 Young Scientists Compete for $3 Million at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair
The world’s largest high school science research competition, the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF), a program of Society for Science & the Public, announced this year’s top winners last week. More than 1,500 young scientists representing 446 affiliate science fairs and 70 countries and territories gathered in Pittsburgh, PA from May 14-18 to compete for more than $3 million in awards.
Fifteen-year-old Jack Andraka of Crownsville, MD won first place for his new method to detect pancreatic cancer. Based on diabetic test paper, Jack created a dip-stick sensor to determine whether or not a patient has early-stage pancreatic cancer. His study resulted in over 90 percent accuracy and showed his patent-pending sensor to be 28 times faster, 28 times less expensive and over 100 times more sensitive than current tests. Jack received the Gordon E. Moore Award, named in honor of Intel co-founder, and $75,000.
Two students, Nicholas Schiefer, 17, of Pickering, Ontario, and Ari Dyckovsky, 18, of Leesburg, VA, each received the Intel Foundation Young Scientist Award of $50,000. Nicholas was honored for his “microsearch” research, discovering ways to search the fastest-growing information medium: small amounts of content, such as tweets and Facebook status updates. Ari investigated the science of quantum teleportation to find methods for safely sending encrypted messages without running the risk of interception. In addition to the winners mentioned above, more than 400 finalists received awards and prizes for their groundbreaking work.
“We support the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair because we know that math and science are imperative to future global growth,” said Wendy Hawkins, executive director of the Intel Foundation. “This competition encourages millions of students to engage their skills for innovation and develop promising solutions for global challenges.”
A full listing of finalists is available in the event program (beginning on page 57). The Intel International Science and Engineering Fair 2012 is funded jointly by Intel and the Intel Foundation with additional awards and support from dozens of other corporate, academic, governmental and science-focused organizations. The Society for Science & the Public, a nonprofit dedicated to public engagement in scientific research and education, has administered the ISEF since its inception in 1950, as the National Science Fair.
New NRC Report Findings Could Improve Undergraduate Science and Engineering Teaching
Discipline-based education research (DBER) has generated insights that could help improve undergraduate education in science and engineering, but these findings have not yet prompted widespread changes in teaching practice, says a new report from the National Research Council. Science and engineering faculty, institutions, disciplinary societies, and professional societies should all support high-quality DBER and the adoption of the evidence-based teaching strategies that have emerged from it, the report says.
DBER is a collection of related research fields that investigate how students learn in particular scientific disciplines and identify ways to improve instruction. This research is emerging in many scientific disciplines, including physics, chemistry, biology, the geosciences, and astronomy, as well as in engineering. DBER combines the expertise of scientists and engineers with methods and theories that explain learning. A DBER scholar in physics, for example, might investigate how students learn concepts such as force or acceleration and try to identify effective ways for instructors to teach these concepts.
Scholars in all DBER fields share the goal of improving teaching and learning by using findings from empirical research. Although they have made inroads in terms of establishing their fields, the report says, these scholars still face challenges in identifying pathways for training and professional recognition. And findings from DBER have not yet led to widespread change in the teaching of undergraduate science and engineering.
Notable research findings from DBER on undergraduate teaching and learning include:
- Student-centered learning strategies can enhance learning more than traditional lectures.
- Students have incorrect understandings about fundamental concepts — particularly phenomena.
- Students are challenged by important aspects of the domain that can seem easy or obvious to experts.
The report recommends that institutions and professional societies support venues for DBER scholars to share their research findings. In addition, they should support faculty efforts to use evidence-based teaching strategies in their classrooms and work together to prepare future faculty who understand research findings on learning and teaching.
Future directions for DBER investigations should include research that compares learning among various student populations; longitudinal studies on how students acquire and retain understanding (or misunderstanding) of concepts; studies that investigate student outcomes other than test scores; and studies of organizational and behavior change that could aid the translation of DBER findings into practice. The study was sponsored by the National Science Foundation and is available for free download or purchase of a hard copy on the National Academies Press website.
Iowa to Implement Regional STEM Hubs
The state of Iowa is embarking on a new STEM education initiative that could serve as a blueprint for the rest of the nation. Earlier this month, the Iowa Governor’s STEM Advisory Council announced it will be forming six regional network hubs that will promote science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education and economic development across the state. This is the first major initiative of the council which was formed last July by Iowa Governor Terry Brandstad to answer the question: “How do we recapture national and international competitiveness in STEM education for all Iowans?”
Each hub will work with local businesses, colleges and universities, informal science centers, youth agencies, and other nonprofits to grow a comprehensive STEM network for the region. They will focus on their area’s STEM challenges and opportunities, and how to best meet them.
“Iowa possesses some outstanding STEM programs in schools, after-school clubs, summer camps and communities but their reach is limited,” said Jeff Weld, executive director of the Governor’s STEM Advisory Council. “The Council is determined that the best STEM programming should be available to families everywhere in a way that best fits local needs, interests and resources.” Jeff Weld, a Triangle Coalition Board Member, also oversees the Iowa Mathematics and Science Education Partnership (IMSEP), the operations arm of the Council.
Advisory council co-chairs, Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds and University of Northern Iowa President Benjamin Allen, appeared at the Iowa Statewide STEM Summit last week to officially announce the planned hubs to an audience of 300 educators, business and civic leaders, and STEM education champions.
The six hubs are:
- Northwest hub – Iowa Lakes Community College
- Northeast hub – University of Northern Iowa
- North central hub – Iowa State University
- Southwest hub – Southwestern Community College
- Southeast hub – University of Iowa & Kirkwood Community College
- South central hub – Drake University
IMSEP is accepting applications until May 30 for high-quality STEM education programs to become part of the pool “Scalable STEM Projects” eligible for implementation at the Regional STEM Network Hubs.
To learn more about the STEM education efforts underway in Iowa, visit the Iowa Math and Science Partnership online.
Nominate an Educator for PEOPLE Teacher of the Year
PEOPLE magazine is looking to highlight outstanding teachers through its first Teacher of the Year Award. Nominations of teachers are being accepted through July 2. Five K-12 educators will be selected by PEOPLE’s editors and an independent panel of education professionals to win $5,000 each from sponsor, Kellogg’s Frosted Mini-Wheats cereal. The panel includes Kimberly Oliver Burnim, a prize-winning Maryland teacher; John Deasy, superintendent of L.A. Unified School District; Lily Eskelsen of the National Education Association; Wendy Kopp, founder and CEO of Teach for America; and Grammy-winning musician and philanthropist John Legend. Winners will be announced in the October 22, 2012 issue of PEOPLE magazine. To nominate a teacher, download the application.