I2STEMe Engages Students

Georgia Southern University’s Institute for Interdisciplinary STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) Education (i2STEMe), continues to make a broad impact on the lives of students in the region. STEM education at the University has grown to include the involvement of seven colleges at Georgia Southern and according to director Robert Mayes, a fellow from each college serves as a conduit for opportunities. “Each fellow is working on grants, and each of those grants involves faculty from all areas of the University,” he said, describing the growing interdisciplinary focus of the Institute and its influence in the education of students for generations to come.

“The STEM Institute has three missions: research and scholarly activity, teaching and outreach. We are actively developing projects in each of these areas,” he said.

“Our role with the Institute is to engage students and inform them about STEM. This summer we are partnering with three school districts. Five STEM teachers from each district will spend one week on campus with our professors, who will discuss nanotechnology and the scientific advances in the field. We will work with the teachers to develop classroom modules for their students,” he said.

During the past year, the i2STEMe has successfully received funding for several grants, including a Department of Education grant focused on innovative teaching in engineering. College of Education professor John Hilpert is exploring how engineering is taught at Georgia Southern and the impact this is having on students’ beliefs and attitudes about engineering. According to Mayes, Hilpert is using a hands-on based approach to studying engineering.

The Race to the Top Grant includes four school districts that are involved in creating and implementing an interdisciplinary STEM academic pathway. “Students in learning communities are exploring problems in their region and interacting with Georgia Southern faculty,” said Mayes. For example, one such study involves the blueberry industry. These plants are known to get a fungus and a lot of money has been spent to treat the blueberries. The students were looking for an economical solution, so they began having conversations with industrial farmers to see how this problem could be dealt with efficiently. The students are developing a drone that will scan the plants to detect where the actual fungus is located. This way, the farmers would only have to spray the plants that are actually infected,” said Mayes. He said that in other Georgia counties, students are focusing on environmental issues. “At Statesboro High School, students are studying water quality in the Ogeechee River. In Camden County, they are studying water quality and pollution in the St. Marys River and its impact on wildlife,” he added.

Mayes added that the Institute continues to support scholarships and outreach efforts, most recently through the STEM Fest held at Georgia Southern, which focused on the types of research being conducted at the University, while also featuring hands-on experiments to introduce STEM learning to students in the community. Moving forward, Mayes said that the i2STEMe is planning an interdisciplinary STEM summit this summer, that will include national experts discussing topics selected by fellows as well as a panel of Georgia Southern researchers.

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