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High school students, teachers explore STEM subjects at ASU

June 18, 2009

Arizona State University professors Mark Henderson and Brad Rogers ask “villagers” in their Wind Turbine Village to calculate the effort in pounds of force needed to raise a wind turbine tower. Henderson hints, “it’s huge.” The villagers are actually made up of high school students, who just completed their sophomore year, and mathematics and science secondary school teachers from 15 school districts in Arizona.

Together they are exploring new science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) ideas, and applying those to develop solutions to challenging problems as part of a two-week summer program. The program, which began on June 8, is part of the “Prime the Pipeline Project: Putting Knowledge to Work,” a three-year project funded by the National Science Foundation.

“The project is focused on increasing high school students’ interest and achievement in science, mathematics and technology, and to updating mathematics and science teachers’ knowledge of those subjects,” says Carole Greenes, ASU associate vice provost for STEM education and mathematics professor.

“The project also incorporates expertise from ASU faculty, who are assisted by engineers and scientists from business and industry, as well as undergraduate students,” says Greenes, who is the grant manager.

In addition to the Wind Turbine Village, villagers are also experiencing options in computer gaming, movie production and 3D modeling. ASU computing studies professor Timothy Lindquist’s High Tech Computer Village is leading his villagers to develop advanced computer games. In Emmy award winning filmmaker Chris Lamont’s Post Production Video Village, the villagers are learning to use computer software to edit original films. And in the 3D Virtual Modeling Village, Robert Pahle, researcher in the Decision Theater at ASU, challenges his villagers to construct computer models of buildings to aid police and fire departments in emergencies.

In total 54 high school students and 31 teachers participate in the morning sessions, then in the afternoon, teachers remain for a Connection Course that considers strategies for implementing project-based learning in their classrooms, and ways to mentor students to consider college programs in the STEM subjects.

The summer program is an extension of the spring Pipeline project, which began in March. Villagers came to the Polytechnic campus after school, once a week for eight weeks to explore the inner workings of cell phones, film development, and clean rooms for use in medicine and nanotechnology.

At the end of the eight weeks, villagers described and demonstrated their work during the first showcase for the community, with more than 100 visitors in attendance.

In the fall of 2009, villagers will explore a new set of challenges when they return to the campus for nine weeks of after-school sessions. The after-school and summer programs will continue until students graduate from high school.

Openings for students and teachers will be available beginning in fall 2009. Scholarships cover all student costs for the Polytechnic program. Teachers receive stipends for their participation. For more information, contact Greenes at, (480) 727-0902, or project director Deb Toolson at, (480) 727-0908.

Summer program students will share their projects with family and friends at the Showcase Open House June 19.

Chris Lambrakis,
(480) 727-1173
Public Affairs at ASU Polytechnic campus