Research shows that providing hands-on approaches to real-life processes engages students in active and purposeful learning. This is the model that the Texas Regional Collaboratives (TRC) provided to 55 South Texas teachers, facilitators, coaches, and administrators at the annual Hispanic Engineering Science and Technology Education Conference (HESTEC) at The University of Texas Pan American, September 24-28, 2012.
Monday, September 24, was Educator Day. Two different sessions, Careers in Engineering were led by Marsha Willis and Sara Flusche, facilitators of the Shell/TRC Partnership. Three topics in STEM-related fields in energy and careers were presented. Working in various groups, teachers became engineers by building working water wheels, paper made transmission towers, and wind turbines. Teachers took on a competitive role as they completed their projects to be the quickest, tallest, and most efficient. Throughout the session discussions included: energy careers, tools of the trade, important science concepts, and the student engagement that was bound to occur.
Tuesday, September 25, was Student Leadership Day. The Shell/TRC Partnership among many others presented two sessions. Let’s Build a Derrick of Distinction was the main engineering task during the first session. Eighth grade students used the engineering process, designed and built a derrick made of linguini, spaghetti, and marshmallows. They then tested the structure by placing weights on its top to see how much mass it could support.
The second class made transmission towers of newspaper. Once again they used the engineering process and made a tower of two sheets of newspaper. The tower had to be free standing and support the transmitter (a golf ball) for at least 30 seconds. All groups were successful and walked away confident of their accomplishments.
The TRC is proud to be a partner with Shell and to participate in this excellent conference. We hope to continue providing Texas science and mathematics teachers with support systems of scientifically researched, sustained, and high intensity professional development for years to come!