Drexel to Launch Research Experience for Teachers in Engineering and Computer Science Program

March 21, 2013 — Drexel Engineering’s Computer Science (CS) department will launch the REThink Project — a new summer program in CS for science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) high school teachers and two-year college faculty in Philadelphia and the Greater Philadelphia metropolitan area. The REThink project will build partnerships with high schools, community colleges and the University and introduce teachers to cutting-edge research in the CS community. The program will also help educators produce learning materials for high school and community college STEM curricula in an effort to encourage students to study STEM and computing curricula in college.

“Despite the amazing advances in computing during the last half-century and its pervasiveness in modern society, it is incredible - unthinkable - that it’s not a standard part of the secondary curriculum. The CS Principles movement is working toward a new AP course that is not a programming course in the usual sense but is instead focused on computational thinking practices and the 'big ideas' of computing,” said Dr. Jeffrey Popyack, principal investigator of the program and associate professor of CS. “These concepts are applicable far beyond the computer science curriculum and they transfer very well to STEM curricula. The expectation is that it will lead not only to greater enrollments in collegiate computer science programs, but a more computationally literate STEM workforce.”

The REThink program, funded by the National Science Foundation, will be held annually for seven weeks and involve 10 to 11 teachers per year. The first week of the program will begin with the teachers being introduced to sources of big data, the techniques of handling and analyzing big data, overviews of project areas and a symposium exposing the big ideas and computational thinking practices of the CS Principles project. After the first week of orientation, teachers will spend the remainder of the summer program performing research in the associated Drexel labs and working on educational models to use when they return to their home institutions.

Currently, Drexel’s CS department offers research programs in information privacy, artificial intelligence, software design and architecture, scientific computing, computer algorithms, computer graphics and medical imaging and computer gaming. Research projects from these areas will share big data and machine learning as a compelling and unifying theme, underlying widespread application areas.

“Big Data refers to the relentless flood of data all around us - it's captured by sensors, generated by social networks, archived in databases and even the sky is not the limit, since it’s arriving from probes deep in space. The answers to many great questions are submerged deep in this data, and there is little hope of finding them without sophisticated algorithms to detect patterns, analyze and learn from their findings,” said Popyack.

After the program concludes, teachers will stay in touch with Drexel through discussion groups and quarterly meetings. The program will also include a showcase event in the spring to present results and materials and posters in which colleagues and students are invited.

For more information or to apply to the REThink program, visit the REThink website. View program updates and news on Twitter and Facebook. Pictures of activities are available on Flickr.