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Nurturing tomorrows scientists

Local elementary, middle, and high school students are getting a boost in science and math skills thanks to a $1.2 million grant Lehigh has received from the National Science Foundation.

The goal of the "Lehigh Valley Partnership Project in STEM Education" is to foster greater interest in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) among females and minorities, who are typically underrepresented in these fields. Ultimately, the hope is that students involved in the program will pursue STEM fields in the future. Lehigh is one of only three universities in Pennsylvania to receive such an award.

To help achieve this goal, the NSF grant will pay for Lehigh graduate and advanced undergraduate students to spend about 10 hours a week in the Allentown and Bethlehem school districts helping grade 4-12 teachers introduce new teaching tools and technologies into their classrooms. For example, they may have students build model airplanes to demonstrate the concept of tug and drag, or they might have students use new computer software to build and test bridges.

Overall, the goal is to show students that STEM subjects are appealing career possibilities.

In addition, local STEM industries—Agere Systems Inc., Air Products and Chemicals, Inc., Binney & Smith, and Suntex International Inc.—will help the Lehigh graduate and undergraduate students develop curriculums.

"Through this partnership, we're helping to shape the future leaders of this country, specifically in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics," says Henry Odi, Lehigh’s executive director of academic outreach and special projects and co-director of the project.

Mohamed S. El-Aasser, dean of the P.C. Rossin College of Engineering and Applied Science, adds: "The STEM program will give Lehigh's science and engineering students the opportunity to share their enthusiasm for their subjects with students from local elementary, middle, and high schools. In doing so, we're strengthening the relationship between Lehigh and the local community as well as society in general."

William Pottenger, who is the P.C. Rossin Assistant Professor of Computer Science and Engineering and co-director of the program, says the teaching fellows from Lehigh will benefit as well, gaining valuable skills.

"We want to instill life-long awareness and appreciation for educational issues in the teaching fellows," he says.

--Elizabeth Shimer
elsc@lehigh.edu

Posted on Friday, October 17, 2003

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