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The Development, Implementation And Assessment Of An Engineering Research Experience For Physics Teachers

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2007 Annual Conference & Exposition


Honolulu, Hawaii

Publication Date

June 24, 2007

Start Date

June 24, 2007

End Date

June 27, 2007



Conference Session

Engineering Professional Development for K-12 Teachers – I

Tagged Division

K-12 & Pre-College Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

12.1407.1 - 12.1407.19



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Paper Authors


Leyla Conrad Georgia Institute of Technology

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Leyla Conrad is the Director of Outreach in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) at the Georgia Institute of Technology. She has been developing and leading programs for high school students and teachers, as well as ECE female students that supports the ECE’s undergraduate recruitment and retention efforts. Before her current appointment, she was the Education Director of the Microsystems Packaging Research Center (a NSF Engineering Research Center) where she created and implemented a highly integrated and comprehensive educational program at all levels to meet the educational needs of pre-college, undergraduate, graduate students, and industry engineers. Dr. Conrad received her Ph.D. degree in Physics from the University of Missouri – Columbia.

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Edward Conrad Georgia Institute of Technology

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Edward Conrad is the Associate Chair of Undergraduate Programs in the School of Physics at the Georgia Institute of Technology. Professor Conrad joined the physics faculty at Georgia Tech in 1991 where he maintains an active research program in 2D condensed matter systems including quantum size effect films and graphene based electronics. He currently runs the STEP-UP high school teacher modern physics education course at Georgia Tech. He received his Ph.D. degree in Physics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1983.

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Jill Auerbach Georgia Institute of Technology

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Jill Auerbach is a Senior Academic Professional in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Georgia Institute of Technology. As the Coordinator of Assessment and Student Retention and Recruitment in the School, she is responsible for accreditation and program review requirements and assessment of several special academic programs. In addition, Jill directs programs that promote student retention and success, especially among underrepresented, female and transfer student cohort groups. Her educational background is in the fields of Policy Analysis and Public Administration, with emphasis on research methodology.

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

The Development, Implementation and Assessment of an Engineering Research Experience for Physics Teachers


The Summer Teacher Experience in Packaging- Utilizing Physics (STEP-UP) program at the Georgia Institute of Technology provides a comprehensive research experience for up to ten high school physics teachers per summer. Its objective is to train metro Atlanta high school physics teachers in both modern physics concepts and their applications to engineering as well as their relevance to today’s technology. The program runs successfully through collaboration with the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering, microelectronics Packaging Research Center (PRC) (an NSF Engineering Research Center) and the School of Physics. The program has three components: (1) to enables teachers to fully take advantage of their subsequent research experience, a two -week course on modern physics, with a laboratory component is given; (2) a three day module course on applications of modern physics concepts to microelectronics; and (3) a five and a half week summer research experience. Workshops are also held during the teachers stay at Georgia Tech to help them with the development of lesson plans and classroom material derived from their research experience.

Currently in its third year, the program has had 25 participants. Participating teachers have commented on how they have gained confidence in teaching physics and connecting physics to engineering applications and thus have been able to better instill an interest in engineering careers in their students. In order to assess the program’s outcomes, a mixed method approach was used that involved both quantitative and qualitative evaluations. From the assessment results and suggestions offered, new program facets have been added each year. This paper discusses in detail the structure and implementation of the program, and how it impacts the teachers and their students.


A major national educational problem is the lack of interest and low enrollment in science classes, particularly physics, among high school students. There is a vast amount of statistical data on the scope of this problem1,2 indicating two root problems that must be corrected. First, only a fraction of the nation’s physics teachers (~33%) have a degree in physics or physics education3. Other sharp contrasts emerge along geographical lines and racial composition of high schools. In the south, only 24% of physics teachers have a degree in their field4. Contrasting this statistic with the well known result that a thorough knowledge of course material taught in high school physics is essential to good teaching in math and science5,6 underlines a disturbing situation in high school science education in the south. The second problem faced by science education is the ability to motivate students’ interest in these fields. To do this, the relevance of the course material to every day life must be demonstrated. This cannot happen if teachers are unfamiliar with basic concepts in physics, let alone modern applications derived from these principles. It is extremely difficult to encourage curiosity or give a clear understanding of science concepts to students when the teachers themselves are not familiar with basic principles. It is therefore not surprising that physics enrollment is a national problem. This

Conrad, L., & Conrad, E., & Auerbach, J. (2007, June), The Development, Implementation And Assessment Of An Engineering Research Experience For Physics Teachers Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. 10.18260/1-2--2453

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