Novel research program helps MPS teachers ignite an interest in STEM

Beginning this summer, two UWM faculty members will build and support a network of MPS personnel and local industry representatives who will work together to transform the city’s STEM education in high schools.

With funding from the National Science Foundation, Ilya Avdeev, associate professor of mechanical engineering, and Craig Berg, professor of education, will train 30 MPS teachers on new methods for igniting interest in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math in their classrooms.

The eventual goal is a scalable, sustainable framework that can affect thousands of MPS students and reverse the dwindling numbers of them, particularly girls and those from under-represented groups, pursuing STEM careers.

Craig Berg (left), professor of education at UWM, and Ilya Avdeev, associate professor of engineering, are on a quest to attract more young people into STEM careers. (Contributed photo)

During the next three summers, UWM professors will guide participating MPS teachers in college-level research on the topic of the water-energy nexus. The research projects will inform new curricular development with a hands-on approach.

The high school teachers also will present their research at an annual conference, learn how to use avatars in the classroom, and complete a “Design-Thinking Boot Camp,” where they will apply problem-solving techniques and develop new approaches to connect research with students.

Funding comes from the NSF’s Research Experience for Teachers (RET) program.

 “One of the lessons learned from past RET programs was that the lab research experience alone was not enough to exercise the ‘dreaming’ and ‘creativity’ muscle of the teachers,” said Avdeev.

The program’s final piece is inclusion of high school principals and administrators so that they can support the training and learn how to form industrial partnerships that can enhance the curriculum and help grow it.