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Riverton Teacher Receives Hands-On Experience in UW-Led Technology Program

August 16, 2016
woman standing, wearing virtual reality headset and holding controllers
Riverton High School teacher Ceira Lee tests virtual reality equipment in a University of Wyoming engineering lab. Lee took part in a UW-led program that is designed to help students become interested in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. (UW Photo)

Riverton High School physics instructor Ceira Lee says an intensive summer workshop at the University of Wyoming will help her teach students about STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subjects.

Lee was among 30 instructors -- mainly from various Wyoming school districts -- on the UW campus this summer for a 10-day schedule that included various STEM-related workshops.

In its first year, RAMPED (robotics, applied mathematics, physics and engineering design) is planned as a three-year, federally funded Wyoming Department of Education Math and Science Partnership grant program, says Andrea Burrows, UW College of Education secondary education science assistant professor, who led the program.

The program was originally developed when Natrona County School District (NCSD) leaders and teachers created a strategic plan to boost graduation rates. They worked with UW instructors in developing the RAMPED program.

Burrows says the focus of the program is to support teachers on student achievement in STEM fields. RAMPED is a professional development program in which at least 25 teachers each year experience a 10-day, on-campus summer institute and six days of intensive follow-up training in Casper.

“RAMPED provides teachers professional development to enable six active-learning projects revolving around robotics, applied mathematics, physics and engineering design,” Burrows says.

Teacher participants worked directly with physicists, astronomers, mathematicians, computer scientists and computer engineers in advanced laboratories, using cutting-edge computer facilities on the UW campus.

Lee says the RAMPED program gave her better understanding of how to apply what she learned that will benefit students in today’s STEM fields.

“These tools will allow me to give more applications to my students for them to better understand the material,” Lee says. “Plus, having more hands-on activities will give them a better idea of what a professional in that field does.”

At UW, first-week workshops include the use of raspberry pi, or a computer on a card that is similar to an Intel processor; arduino, a computer that has inputs and outputs; and working with Baxter, a robot. The second-week workshops of RAMPED focus on space (and using data from the Sloan Digital Space Survey), virtual reality and NetLogo, and a workshop titled “Naturally Inspired.”

The six follow-up sessions, to be held in Casper later in the academic year, feature the same content with ideas for teachers to use as classroom extensions and elaborations, Burrows says.

Even though the program targeted the NCSD needs, Burrows says RAMPED’s ideals also can be used in other school districts.

“RAMPED provides the same mathematics, physics and engineering content, and instruction so that any teacher can ask and answer questions -- using research and inquiry -- and then incorporate this same technique and content into their classroom structure,” she adds.

Lee says she is excited to take back to her students what she learned during the UW session.

“Most of the instructors that I encountered had all their files for us very organized,” Lee says. “This made the sessions go more smoothly and easy for me to go back to see what I could do in my classroom.”

Burrows led the RAMPED program along with UW’s Bob Kubichek, electrical and computer engineering associate professor, and session leader for arduinos; Adam Myers, physics and astronomy associate professor, and session leader for space; Suresh Muknahallipatna, electrical and computer engineering professor, and raspberry pi session leader; and Mance Hurley, NCSD Academy coach in the Pathways Innovation Center.

Other RAMPED personnel were Mike Borowczak, session leader for a “Naturally Inspired” workshop, Erebus Labs; Amy Banic, UW assistant professor of computer science, and session leader for a virtual reality workshop; UW graduate student Debbie Kretzschmar, session leader for the Baxter the robot workshop; and Tonia Dousay, UW assistant professor of professional studies.

The teachers’ work, including created lesson plans and posters, as well as session materials, is available at www.uwpd.org/RAMPED.

For more information about RAMPED, contact Burrows at (307) 766-6735 or aburrow1@uwyo.edu.


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Chad Baldwin

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