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NDSU project to support rural STEM teachers

Two NDSU faculty members have received a National Science Foundation grant to help rural instructors better teach the STEM subjects of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. 

The $587,500 grant will fund the project titled "Research Experience for Teachers: Engineering in Precision Agriculture for Rural STEM Educators.” Alan Kallmeyer, professor and chair of mechanical engineering, and Bradley Bowen, assistant professor with a dual appointment in the School of Education and construction management and engineering, are the co-principal investigators.

The project will bring STEM teachers from small, rural middle and high schools to NDSU each summer for a six-week, intensive research experience. They will work on research projects with faculty and graduate students in mechanical engineering to gain a better understanding of research methods in STEM fields. The program will run for three years.

Five practicing science or math teachers and five student teachers who are interested in STEM fields will come to the NDSU campus each summer. The teachers also will take part in professional development days during the academic year.

"The hope is that teachers will bring their experience back to the classroom to enhance their classes, and promote interest in STEM fields among their students," Kallmeyer said. "Rural STEM teachers often lack the network that can be found in larger schools, so we hope to help provide support and education in this program. Our research projects will focus on agricultural issues such as precision agriculture and biobased materials, as that is a common interest in rural areas."

Bowen said the project's goal is to give teachers an opportunity to explore their knowledge about engineering, and provide experiences and resources for increasing their use of the design process in technology, math and the sciences. "The funds provided by this grant will allow us to offer specialized professional development as well as creating a community of rural educators that will have significant impact on teaching practices and the ability to more actively engage students in the classroom," Bowen said.

The project will target STEM teachers in rural 
North Dakota and western Minnesota who often are the only science, mathematics or technology teacher in their school.

"We view this as not only an exciting research project for NDSU, but also a great service to the state by providing educational opportunities for rural STEM teachers," Kallmeyer said.

The project is set to begin in spring 2016. The funding is from NSF Research Experiences for Teachers (RET) in Engineering and Computer Science awarded through the Directorate for Engineering – Engineering Education and Centers. The grant number is 1542370.

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