The University of Texas at Austin’s Cockrell School of Engineering, College of Natural Sciences and College of Education have been awarded $12.5 million by the National Science Foundation (NSF) to prepare educators to teach engineering to Texas high-school students.
“With this grant, the NSF is building on the university’s successful UTeach program to create a model for preparing high school engineering educators, that we call ‘UTeachEngineering,'” says David Allen, a chemical engineering professor and the principal investigator for the newly developed program. “Texas is one of just a few states aggressively pursuing year-long high school engineering courses, and the effort here will help define how other states approach engineering education in high school.”
The Austin Independent School District will partner with the university in developing and evaluating UTeachEngineering, which will commence summer 2009.
“Collaboration with Engineering is an important step forward for UTeach that will not only help address the shortage of engineering teachers, but also the shortage in the critical areas of physics and chemistry,” says Michael Marder, co-director of UTeach Natural Sciences and associate dean for Mathematics and Science Education.
The UTeachEngineering program targets future and current teachers, providing multiple avenues to prepare them to teach high school engineering. University faculty will use half of the five-year grant funding for course development, lab development and salaries. The other half of the grant will provide stipends, scholarships and fellowships to students and teachers working toward engineering teaching certification.
Current teachers will benefit from two curricula developed through the grant: a six-week Engineering Summer Institute for Teachers and a UTeach Master of Arts in Science and Engineering Education, which takes place over three summers. The curriculum for prospective teachers will target undergraduate students in engineering and the natural sciences, and lead to a bachelor’s degree in a scientific or engineering field as well as dual teaching certification in science and engineering. Addressing the need for trained engineering teachers is especially crucial in Texas because of a new law that requires high school graduates starting in 2011 to complete four years of science. One year can be a course in engineering.
“Engineering is about design, using science and mathematics to build what we imagine,” says Allen, who holds the Gertz Regents Chair in Chemical Engineering and is the director of the university’s Center for Energy and Environmental Resources. “In teaching engineering, we want to teach students how to pull together what they’ve learned in science and math to build their dreams. Teaching design, where there are many correct answers, requires different skills and tools than teaching science and math, where there is often only one correct answer.”
In its first five years, UTeachEngineering will involve 650 teachers. Allen and his team will recruit Hispanic and African American participants, particularly from urban centers and the Texas-Mexico border area. Stipends and fellowships will be awarded to current teachers and scholarships will be awarded to undergraduate students interested in teaching careers.
Associate Professor Anthony Petrosino of the College of Education says the partnership uniquely combines the nationally recognized academic strengths of the College of Education, the College of Natural Sciences and the Cockrell School.
“The grant will allow researchers a real chance to advance our understanding of effective teacher preparation and development, while also making significant advances in addressing critical shortages of highly qualified professionals in science, technology, engineering and mathematics-related K-12 education,” says Petrosino, a co-principal investigator.
Key to the UTeachEngineering program are four new courses focusing on engineering content and pedagogy: Fundamentals in Engineering and Design, Knowing and Learning in Engineering, Engineering Energy Systems and Design of Machines and Systems. In addition to the four new courses, the UTeachEngineering program will leverage existing curricula from the original UTeach, which began in 1997 as a way to prepare a new generation of secondary math, science and computer science instructors. It has become a national model and is being replicated at a dozen universities nationwide.
The other co-principal investigators include: Richard Crawford, mechanical engineering professor and the Temple Foundation Endowed Faculty Fellow No. 3, and Michael Houser, assistant superintendent for human resources development and information systems for the Austin Independent School District.