Research Experiences for Teachers Program
Posted on October 27, 2022 by Amber Day
In summer 2022, the Research Experiences for Teachers program at the University of South Alabama welcomed its second cohort as part of a more than $600,000 National Science Foundation grant. Leading the program are Dr. Shenghua Zha, assistant professor of counseling and instructional sciences, and Dr. Na Gong, Warren Nicholson Endowed professor of electrical and computer engineering.
Twelve teachers from Mobile and Baldwin counties participated in the six-week program in summer 2022, which included discovery-based research with faculty and pedagogical workshops. Eight teachers started the program in summer 2021.
The second cohort of teachers will work with the team at South in fall 2022 and spring 2023 to develop ways of using artificial intelligence in their middle- or high-school STEM classes. A third group of science, technology, engineering and math educators will go through the same training in summer 2023.
Summer lab work and lectures are just the beginning of the project. Teachers receive a stipend for participation and a budget to purchase equipment for their classrooms.
The goals of the program include helping South scientists and engineers build relationships with teachers and administrators at local schools. It also offers the University an opportunity to improve teacher experiences and recruit engineering and computing students.
“We are excited to see the development of collegiality and collaboration among the participating teachers and the South team members,” Zha said. “This year, our instructional focus is helping teachers develop AI-integrated curricula in their STEM courses.”
Teachers in the research program are organized into four groups, each focusing on a facet of biologically inspired computing systems. The focus areas are advanced hyperspectral imaging techniques for early cancer detection, design of biologically inspired computing chips/systems, advanced power-efficient computer memory chips and support software.
Mentors leading the groups are Gong; Dr. Silas Leavesley, professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering; Dr. Jinhui Wang, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering; and Dr. Jingshan Huang, professor of computer science. Drs. Katie Guffey McCorrison and Christopher Parrish from the College of Education and Professional Studies have taught workshops and will continue to offer consultation and conduct collaborative research. Dr. James Van Haneghan, interim chair of counseling and instructional sciences, leads formative and summative evaluations for the project.
Teachers from the first cohort are Amber Simpson (Ben C. Rain High School), Anthony Bondora (Davidson High School), Ashton Irvin (Davidson High School), Charlene Lockett (Blount High School), Michael Fletcher (Davidson High School), Randa Smith (Central Baldwin Middle School), Shila Gilbert (John L. LeFlore Magnet High School) and Victoria Wilson (Murphy High School).
Teachers from the second cohort are Amber Simpson (Ben C. Rain High School), Angie Irvin (UMS-Wright Preparatory School), Ashton Irvin (Mobile County Public Schools), Kenneth Holmes (Ben C. Rain High School), Marcy Bragdon (Saraland High School), Myeshea Holmes (Ben C. Rain High School), Matthew Davenport (Alabama School of Mathematics and Science), Michael Fletcher (Davidson High School), Mykel Williams (Fairhope Middle School), Shaundrie Jones (John L. Leflore Magnet High School), Stacey Thomas (Ben C. Rain High School) and Tchanavia Rabb (Scarborough Model Middle School).