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Design a Modeling STEM Outreach Project to Promote High-School Students' Interest in Math-Related Research

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Middle Atlantic ASEE Section Spring 2021 Conference



Publication Date

April 9, 2021

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April 9, 2021

End Date

April 10, 2021

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Zuyi Huang Villanova University

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Zuyi (Jacky) Huang is an Associate Professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering at Villanova University. He teaches Chemical Process Control (for senior students) and Systems Biology (for graduate students) at Villanova. He is enthusiastic in applying innovative teaching methods in class to educate students with modeling and control skills. His research is focused on developing advanced modeling and systems analysis techniques to manipulate microbial biological systems for generating biofuels from wastewater and for combating biofilm-associated pathogens. His BESEL group developed the first model for microbial desalination cells and the first metabolic modeling approach for quantifying the biofilm formation of pathogens.

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While the US remains the most economically powerful country in the world, the mean score in Math in 2015 Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) for U.S. high-school students was below the OECD average. Research indicates that in the US, math instruction is not integrated with other disciplines, such that real-world applicability is lacking. At the same time, engineering fields, especially math-related applications, lack sufficient interest and sustained participation from first-generation engineering students, women, and underrepresented minorities. While K-12 engineering education is gaining momentum and recognition within the US, engineering education is typically not provided in formal K-12 classrooms. Summer camps and workshops conducted after school or during weekends and breaks are the most common ways of engaging high-school students in engineering education, but most of them were not often designed to motivate students to apply math skills toward solving engineering problems. In this work, we introduce a project that has been developed since Summer 2014 for high-school students to simulate and design bioreactors like microbial fuel cells in computers. MATLAB Simulink is the major platform used in this project, as it allows students to build ordinary different equation (ODE) models like playing Lego. Since a microbial fuel cell converts organic compounds in the waste-water into electricity, it offers a sustainable approach for converting wastes into energy. This may inspire high-school students’ awareness of environment sustainability. Four historical versions of the modeling project will be introduced in this work, along with the outcome of the students who participated in each version of the project. In particular, the project was offered to high-school students on size in Summer 2014 (one students). It was converted to a purely on-line version in Summer 2016 (four students). The project was then introduced in a book along with recording-lectures in 2019 (ten students). The last time for implementing this project was in Winter 2020 (eleven students). A self-paced study club was built in Winter 2020 to offer high-school students a chance to do STEM research during the COVID-19 pandemic. The students’ work has been thoroughly evaluated and feedback from students for each version of project has been collected. It seems that the self-paced study club, partnering with help sections, is the most positively received.

Huang, Z. (2021, April), Design a Modeling STEM Outreach Project to Promote High-School Students' Interest in Math-Related Research Paper presented at Middle Atlantic ASEE Section Spring 2021 Conference, Virtual . 10.18260/1-2--36293

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