Summer Lab Program

Summer Lab Program Aims to Improve K-12 STEM Education

WPI will launch a summer program in 2022 with the goal of improving high school science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education in high need Worcester-area schools by immersing current and prospective teachers in research at WPI laboratories.

A $599,980 grant from the National Science Foundation will fund the three-year project, which will begin recruiting both “pre-service” and “in-service” teachers in early 2022 from schools in Worcester and Leominster, Mass. Established teachers will be paired with WPI students who are preparing to become teachers, and together they will work with WPI faculty members to research solutions to sustainable development goals identified by the United Nations.

Erin Solovey, an assistant professor in the Department of Computer Science who is affiliated with the Learning Sciences and Technologies program, is principal investigator (PI) on the project; co-PI is Katherine Chen, executive director of WPI’s STEM Education Center.

“It’s difficult for teachers to obtain the authentic STEM research experiences that can be integrated with curriculum in classrooms,” said Solovey, whose research focuses on human-computer interaction. “This program will provide those experiences, which will enable current and future teachers to better prepare diverse students for further education and careers in STEM, while also demonstrating to students how engineering can solve global challenges.”

Five teachers and five WPI students per year will participate in the six-week sessions, for a total of 15 teachers and 15 students over three years.

Participants will work with WPI faculty members whose research addresses United Nations goals such as ending hunger, ensuring education for all, increasing access to renewable energy, promoting infrastructure, and working toward sustainable production and consumption of goods. Teachers and students will have opportunities to research food safety sensors, brain activity during learning, conversion of food waste to energy, underwater adhesives, and other engineering advances in WPI laboratories.

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