VICKSBURG, Miss. – Eleven STEM instructors from across the country are adding new tools to their skill sets during an annual summer research program for teachers at the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC).
The Research Experience for STEM Educators and Teachers (RESET) program began earlier this summer. The RESET program, a portion of the Army Educational Outreach Program, is designed to provide high-school and middle-school educators with high-quality professional development and an authentic summer research experience at participating Army research laboratories and centers.
Dr. Regina O’Leary, a professional development coordinator for the Vicksburg Warren School District, has participated in RESET for four years. The program encompasses O’Leary’s scientific experience while furthering her technological insight and prowess, allowing her to apply her newfound knowledge to future lesson plans.
“I have enjoyed my learning experience with the labs remotely and in person,” said O’Leary. “The great thing about being on-site is translating the research to action learning. It also brings me back to my research roots as a student and research technician in the lab. I enjoy the opportunity to engage in the evolving technology that allows us to learn and access results at a faster pace. I use these learning experiences to work with teachers as they are building engaging lessons for our students.”
Like O’Leary, imparting knowledge to her students is one of Tiska Rodgers’ goals for entering the program. Rodgers, a teacher at Clarkton High School in Missouri, hopes to apply what she’s learned at ERDC to encourage her students to pursue careers in STEM.
“I enjoy working with researchers at ERDC,” said Rodgers. “I like contributing to something bigger than my normal environment. I love becoming energized through my experience and taking this energy back into my classroom. This program helps me to bring real-world applications such as developing stronger building materials and reducing microcystin toxins in harmful algal blooms into the classroom. My goal is to encourage more of my students to obtain a career in a STEM field.”
The program introduces teachers to innovative experiments and equipment, exposing them to various technological resources. Debbie Brenner, a science teacher at New Century Technology High School in Huntsville, Alabama, expressed her fascination with all that ERDC’s labs and researchers offer.
“I get to see the sophisticated machines used to measure accurately and precisely,” said Brenner. “I get to see how scientists work with volatile substances and understand the importance of the safety practices the students are learning in my classroom. I get to help set up and run some of the lab's experiments, which makes me think about how I could do a simpler but similar investigation with my students.”
Working alongside ERDC researchers gives the teachers a chance to be students again. Krystal Cole, who serves as the Architecture, Construction, Mechatronics, and Engineering Academy principal at Vicksburg High School, plans on using her experience as an example to encourage her students and other professionals to continue learning.
“This opportunity to work alongside career-level researchers has been an amazing experience that I plan to share with other educators and students to inspire them to become lifelong learners,” said Cole.
Tracy Gordon, a retired teacher who serves as the integration and STEM outreach coordinator at ERDC, applauds the program for promoting development among instructors and equipping them to educate future STEM professionals.
“The program is an incredible professional development opportunity for STEM educators,” said Gordon. “It increases educator awareness of STEM careers available at ERDC and across the Department of Defense. Teachers then relay their knowledge to their students. The RESET program is a great way to train the trainers and inspire our next generation of scientists and engineers.”
Participating teachers are learning more than the latest research methods; they're also getting a glimpse of what STEM careers lie ahead. Mark Burgos, an eighth-grade robotics teacher at Vicksburg's Academy of Innovation, appreciates ERDC for providing information that would be helpful to their students' futures.
“This is amazing because many teachers will get an idea of what possibilities could lie ahead for students,” said Burgos. “That way, they could tailor their lesson plans to teach their students lessons that will matter to them when they begin looking for jobs.”
Researchers understand the integral role the program plays in bringing attention to ERDC. Luke Gurtowski, a research chemical engineer at ERDC, believes the RESET program is ideal for recruiting and broadening ERDC’s reach.
“The RESET program is valuable to ERDC for providing immediate support to research and long-term recruitment capabilities through investment in STEM,” said Gurtowski.
Visit the RESET website for more information about the program and how to participate.