ECE Faculty Bring New STEM Education Experiences to Brooklyn

On a recent trip to her hometown of Brooklyn, N.Y., Dr. Rosalind Wynne, Assistant Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, met the concerned parent of a middle school student at Immaculate Heart of Mary School (IHM) who worried that her child’s disinterest in math and science could be limiting in the future.

STEM education has recently taken center stage nationally, thanks in part to the Obama administration’s “Educate to Innovate” campaign. “Private Catholic schools like IHM are in a unique position because they often don’t qualify for federal funding to enrich science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, known as STEM subjects,” says Dr. Wynne.

A career-long advocate of service learning opportunities, Dr. Wynne tapped her colleagues in the ECE Department to support IHM’s inaugural Health Education and Enrichment in Arithmetic, Technology, and Science (HE2ARTS ) program. “The College of Engineering was the perfect partner because of the value placed on service outreach,” says Dr. Wynne.

To kick off IHM’s pilot HE2ARTS program in February, Dr. Wynne and Frank Mercede, Assistant Professor in ECE, created a range of hands-on experiments in electronic devices and fiber optics for approximately 100 students in grades 4 through 8. For example, after discussing how fiber optics are used in digital communications, students constructed fiber optic communication links to transmit messages. In another activity, students developed sound boards, complete with circuits and amplifiers. In addition, James Peyton-Jones, Director of the College’s Center for Nonlinear Dynamics and Control, conducted teacher training workshops on integrating educational software, such as LEGOTM Mindstorm, into the school’s curriculum.

Additional support came from the College’s Steven Brady and Anthony Lazowski in Information Technologies, who provided laptops; Dr. Stephen Jones, Associate Dean of Student and Strategic Programs, and Linda Coleman, Associate Director for Multicultural Affairs, who sponsored the LEGO Mindstorm software and optical communications kits; Rebeka Karrant, lab technician, and Clayton Bannan, computer systems engineer, who helped prepare program materials; and Gayle Doyle, Administrator of Student Support Programs, who provided student prizes.

The HE2ARTS program also includes math education with the Medgar Evers College Math Circle, health seminars sponsored by local health care institutions, guest speakers, and faculty development workshops.

With a successful six-week pilot program complete, marked by positive feedback from IHM students, faculty, and administration, Dr. Wynne is currently helping the school identify potential funding sources to extend the program throughout the school year. Pending funding, she also hopes to involve other members of the Villanova community and integrate work with IHM into her own curriculum. In April, Dr. Wynne hosted the students for a daylong visit with the College of Engineering, where they toured the Center for Engineering Education and Research, met engineering faculty, participated in engineering demonstrations, and a caught a glimpse into college life.

 

Students in the HE2ARTS program at IHM
Students in the HE2ARTS program at IHM conducted experiments in electrical devices and fiber optic communications.
Dr. Rosalind Wynne
Dr. Rosalind Wynne gathered colleagues and resources from the College of Engineering to help kick of the HE2ARTS program at IHM.