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Engineering professors teaching teachers how to interest kids

The School of Engineering is reaching out to middle and high school teachers in an effort to give Connecticut's children an earlier, more interesting look at the science.

The program will bring 30 Connecticut high school and middle school teachers to 10 engineering workshops, from October 1 through December 10, in weekly, two-hour sessions. Ramesh Malla, an associate professor of civil engineering and coordinator of the program, hopes the teachers, representing schools from across the state, will return to their classrooms with an understanding of the engineering process and its use in ordinary problem-solving. Malla says he hopes the program will show "what teachers can do with engineering for the good of society."

The workshops also stress the integration of engineering into school curriculums, and will teach the teachers how to prepare classroom activities that may interest children in the field.

"Our goal is to make students very aware of engineering from the very beginnings of their academic careers," says Malla. "By being exposed to engineering early on, students can make informed decisions when it comes time for them to go to college.

"We'd like to attract more qualified students to our engineering areas," he adds, "and to produce the teachers of the future."

UConn professors from six engineering disciplines - civil and environmental, chemical, electrical and systems engineering, computer science and engineering, and metallurgy and materials science - will discuss their areas of expertise with the teachers, dispensing materials they can use that may give younger students a more welcoming view of what engineers do. The workshops also include a career forum with engineering professionals and visits to the University's engineering laboratories and to private engineering laboratories, including the United Technologies Research Center and Pratt & Whitney Aircraft.

Most participants are math or science teachers. Several guidance counselors and a social worker will also participate.

The program is run in cooperation with several organizations, including the Connecticut Department of Transportation, the Connecticut Society of Civil Engineers, the Connecticut Society of Professional Engineers, the Connecticut section of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, the Connecticut Pre-Engineering Program, the Hartford Section of the American Society of Mechanical Engineering, United Technologies, Pratt & Whitney, and the United Technologies Research Center.

Richard Veilleux