Morehead State University’s College of Science and Technology hosted two weeks of Project to Elevate Aerospace Careers in Kentucky (PEACK) workshops at the Space Science Center.
A gift from Dr. Ernst and Sara Volgenau, an MSU alumnus, to the MSU Foundation Inc. made the event possible.
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Dr. Volgenau founded SRA International in 1978 and serves as chairman of the board. He served as president and CEO from 1978 until 2005. He has experience analyzing, designing and developing large technological systems of all types. During 20 years in the Air Force, he helped develop space boosters and satellites and taught in the field of astronautics. He also served as a team leader in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, conducting large-scale analyses of weapon systems and command structures. Dr. Volgenau later served as director of data automation for the Air Force Logistics Command. From 1976 to 1978, he was director of inspection and enforcement for the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, managing an office of 700 engineers and physicists who inspected all U.S. commercial nuclear power plants under construction and in operation.
“We hosted exceptional teachers from middle schools in Eastern Kentucky in the PEACK workshops. These teachers received training in project-based activities and engineering practices which will help them address the recently released Next Generation Science Standards in their schools. They will return to their classrooms with training and materials that will make a difference in the science and math preparation of middle school students,” said Dr. Roger McNeil, dean of the College of Science and Technology.
“It was exciting to watch teachers building computer controlled rovers and electronic circuits to interface environmental sensors with their micro-computers, and using them to explore an unknown environment.
“We are very grateful for the funding provided by a gift from Dr. Ernst and Sara Volgenau and are committed to continuing this project and supporting science teachers in the region.”
Participating in workshop one were Brian McDowell, Mason County Middle School; Andrea Holbrook, Boyd County Middle School; Kehla Castle, Bath County High School; Tawnya Boyd, Roberston County Middle School; and Melanie Trowell, Carter G. Woodson Academy.
Attending workshop two were Grant Felice, Mason County Middle School; Cindy Combs and Angela McNabb, Fleming County Middle School; Jennifer Yelton and Laura Klemin, Camp Ernst Middle School; and David Powers, Piarist School.
Tamitha Maddox, Ponderosa Elementary School; Brittany Dennis, Lakeside Christian Academy; and Beth Kamradt, Conner Middle School; took part in both workshops as did MSU graduate Jacob Burns.
The workshops evolved out of an idea for a National Science Foundation (NSF) proposal to work with teachers throughout the grades 6-12 to create STEM-related lesson plans that are “classroom ready.” The proposal was unsuccessful, but Dr. Volgenau came forward and provided funds to permit a smaller workshop that would focus on middle-school teachers in science.
During the period, Kentucky adopted the Next Generation Science Standards that have been developed nationally for K-12 instruction. Many of these standards have a different “feel” from previous ones used in schools, focusing more on performance (students will design an experiment to test this principle) than on simple knowledge (students will understand these principles).
Such standards will necessitate a fundamental reworking of curriculum. The basic tenet of PEACK is to provide teachers with classroom activities that provide content knowledge along with the performance requirements of the new standards.
The material presented during week one consisted of activities that addressed standards associated with motion, forces, and energy flow. In addition, information about the solar system, particularly atmospheric comparisons between planets and the effects on climate were presented. It was a lead-in to week two, which was focused on principles involved in creating a programmable “rover” that can send information remotely.
The teachers learned about signal transmission, processing, and interpretation as they built small remotely-controlled vehicles. These vehicles had cameras and sensors and the participants “drove” them remotely from another room, and used the sensors to detect aspects (temperature, humidity, wind, etc.) of the room containing the rover.
All of the materials were sent with the teachers for use in their classrooms.
Additional information is available by contacting Dr. McNeil at 606-783-2158.