Grants promote tech teaching

National Center for Supercomputing Applications

The National Science Foundation has awarded about $38 million in three-year

grants for graduate students in science, math, engineering and technology

to work with teachers to improve schools' science and technology curriculums.

This was the second year of the NSF program, which expects to open competition

this fall for another 20 grants averaging $1.5 million each.

"We believe — and we have seen this — that there is a terrific excitement

involved in exposing kids in the classroom to authentic science, particularly

if they are also given the tools for independent query," said Eric Jakobsson,

a senior research scientist at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications

(NCSA) in Champaign, Ill. Jakobsson is also a co-principal investigator

of a project that aims to get K-12 schools the same bioinformatics and computational

chemistry tools that university researchers use.

"When we give kids the ability to participate in real query, it makes

a huge difference in their attitude about school and about life in general,"

Jakobsson said.

The NCSA was one of the recent recipients of an NSF grant, along with

its National Computational Science Alliance partners at the University of

Alabama campuses at Huntsville and Birmingham.

There historically has been little overlap between pre-college education

and the research community, Jakobsson said. The philosophy behind the NSF

program is the potential benefit to be gained by involving researchers in

science education, particularly at a time when K-12 science education is

under so much scrutiny in the United States.

Another benefit is that the graduate students will improve their communication

skills through interaction with students and teachers.

Robinson is a freelance journalist based in Portland, Ore.

About the Author

Brian Robinson is a freelance writer based in Portland, Ore.

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