June 14, 2015
June 14, 2015
June 17, 2015
Energy Conversion and Conservation
26.282.1 - 26.282.17
BIOENERGY ACADEMY FOR TEACHERS (BEAT) PROMOTES TRANSDISCIPLINARY CONTENT IN STEM EDUCATIONBy providing today's educators with a deeper understanding that the bio-energy and bio-productsindustries are complex systems requiring a wide range of skills, more of today's students(tomorrow's workforce) will develop a systems perspective of these exciting fields. Throughdirected training and programs, the educators and their students can develop a systems approachin problem solving, increasing the likelihood of long-range improvements in the multitude ofaspects encompassed in the "sustainability" issue. Although the emphasis of various programsfor STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) educators provide generalenrichment activities, there are a very few that are focused on the topics of bio-energy and bio-products. By training educators (grades K-16), it is anticipated that the students at elementary,middle and high schools, and four-year colleges will not only be reached, but will also becomemore aware of the greenhouse gas emissions, climate change, and the deleterious effects arisingdue to dependence on foreign oil. During the one-week summer institute on Bioenergy andBioproducts, held at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, educators ranging from middle-school through high school teachers, and university faculty across STEAM (Science,Technology, Engineering, Agriculture, and Mathematics) disciplines, participated. The BEATprogram is geared towards helping reform educational infrastructure by promotingmultidisciplinary activities and content in the areas of sustainability, bioenergy, andbioproducts. The two objectives of the program are: 1) to provide a systems-perspective inrenewable energy with a particular focus on bioenergy and bioproducts education to STEMeducators and researchers; and 2) to develop and provide curricular materials and a set ofteaching tools for educators for enhancing instruction in the areas of sustainable bioenergy andbioproducts. The academy focuses on lessons and activities pertaining to sustainability, systemsthinking, bioenergy, bioproducts, and environment and policies related to energy issues. Theparticipants got the opportunity to acquire concrete experiences involving teamwork, timemanagement, and project execution skills; reflected on their learning experiences throughpresentations at the end of the institute; developed concepts related to organic chemistry,physics, engineering design, instrumentation, mathematics, biological, and environmentalsciences, and actively experimented with feedstocks to generate biodiesel and environmentally-friendly soaps using the glycerin produced from the biodiesel. In addition, the engineering andphysics faculty, who were participants, also conducted peer-teaching in the areas of Bioheat andBiopower with related hands-on activities such as energy generation using a microbial fuel celland Biolite demonstration, where biomass such as wood fueled a dual cooktop/ phone charger. Amicrobial fuel cell was constructed using electrogenic bacteria that were already present in mudsediments and appropriate electrodes were chosen to power up a Light-emitting diode (LED)light. The BITES (Buildings, Industry, Transportation, Electricity, Scenarios) simulation tooldeveloped by National Renewable Laboratory( NREL) of the United States Department ofEnergy (DOE) and made freely available over the internet allowed participants to play outscenarios to reduce carbon foot print based on various situations that can be realized throughpolicy decisions leading to building improvements, reduction of industrial pollution, use ofalternative fuels, electric cars, and other design modifications in the transportation sector, andelectricity conservation and cleaner and more efficient conversion technologies for electricitygeneration. A total of forty educators have been trained through this program over a period offour years. The evaluation surveys (pre-and post) reveal that the educators gained substantialknowledge in the fields of sustainability, bioenergy, and bioproducts, and felt comfortable inimplementing the content in their courses and laboratories. Various courses in agriculture,aviation sciences, biological, environmental and marine sciences, chemistry, physics, humanecology, and engineering have been impacted positively through the infusion of componentsrelated to sustainability and renewable energy offered by the BEAT program. This furthersupports the systemic evolution and successful implementation of the “transdisciplinary”approach in the STEM curricula. The key issues on “environmental stewardship” acrossdisciplinary boundaries have broad overlaps with the 21st century’s grand challenges espoused bythe National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering.
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