NSF grant funds new Research Experience for Teachers site

November 26, 2019
A person wearing reflective goggles looks at a blast furnace simulation

Purdue University Northwest (PNW) has been awarded a $592,681 grant by the National Science Foundation (NSF) to establish the first Research Experience for Teachers (RET) site in Northwest Indiana.

The RET site will be established at PNW’s Center for Innovation through Visualization and Simulation (CIVS) and Steel Manufacturing Simulation and Visualization Consortium (SMSVC)  through the support of the three-year grant.

The RET site will focus on simulation and visualization technologies for innovative industrial solutions. It will address critical issues of workforce development and the skills gap in industry, which have direct impact on the nation’s prosperity.

High school and community college teachers in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) disciplines will gain research experiences and development opportunities to enhance their STEM understanding and teaching effectiveness.

Bringing research knowledge back to the classroom

Through daily activities, teachers will participate in ongoing systems engineering and smart manufacturing research using cutting-edge simulation and visualization technologies in collaboration with CIVS staff, PNW engineering faculty and industry partners. Their research will concentrate on real-world issues to increase energy efficiency, optimize production, predict mechanical failures, and improve product quality and safety in industrial workplace settings.

Participants will take research knowledge gained at the RET site and then create and implement virtual learning modules into their own classrooms during the academic year. Through these modules, students will be empowered and encouraged to pursue advanced STEM education and career goals.

“We truly appreciate the NSF support and are very excited about this great opportunity to engage both secondary and community college teachers and industries to promote STEM research and education,” said Chenn Zhou, CIVS and SMSVC director and professor of Mechanical Engineering, who serves as Principal Investigator (PI) of the grant. “This RET site also provides excellent opportunities for PNW’s CIVS and School of Engineering to showcase faculty members’ and students’ real-world research projects, as well as to build a pathway for high school and community college students to pursue engineering degrees at PNW.”

Chien-Chung Chen, associate professor of Civil Engineering, and Donald Gray, associate professor of Electrical Engineering, serve as co-Principal Investigators of the grant.

Summer Research Program

High school and community college STEM teachers are eligible to apply for a free six-week summer program at the Research Experience for Teachers site. The program will run from June 8 through July 17, 2020 at the PNW Hammond Campus. Each participant will receive a stipend for completing the summer program and activities for the full academic year. For more information on the RET summer program and to apply, visit the RET website.

The School of Engineering at Purdue University Northwest

The PNW School of Engineering is recognized for its expertise in mechanical, civil, computer, and electrical engineering. For 2020, U.S. News has ranked the school No. 52 among the Best Engineering Programs in the U.S., of engineering schools whose highest degree is a bachelor’s or master’s degree.