Research Experiences for Teachers Projects
Eight middle and high school STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) teachers from Mobile and Baldwin County public schools just finished an inaugural six-week Research Experiences for Teachers summer program this July at the University of South Alabama. The Research Experiences for Teachers program is funded by the National Science Foundation. Two more groups of educators will be invited to participate in 2022 and 2023.
In the mornings, teachers were divided into four cohorts, with each cohort working under the supervision of a faculty mentor from South and participating in discovery-based research projects in the area of biologically-inspired computing systems to support machine learning applications. The research projects spanned from advanced hyperspectral imaging techniques for early cancer detection to designing biologically-inspired computing chips/systems.
Amber Simpson from Ben C. Rain High School and Michael Fletcher from Davidson High School worked with Dr. Silas Leavesley and his research team from the Departments of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, Pharmacology, and the Center for Lung Biology. They worked on an advanced hyperspectral imaging technique to measure live-cell signaling and whole-tissue physiology for cancer detection.
Shila Gilbert from LeFlore High School and Victoria Wilson from Murphy High School worked with Dr. Jingshan Huang and his research team from the Department of Computer Science in the School of Computing. They developed an effective Spiking Neural Networks algorithm for decision making.
Ashton Irvin from Davidson High School and Charlene Lockett from Blount High School worked with Dr. Na Gong and her research team from the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering in the College of Engineering. They designed power-efficient synaptic memory chips to store a large number of synaptic weights of the spiking neural networks algorithm.
Anthony Bondora from Davidson High School and Randa Smith from Central Baldwin Middle School worked with Dr. Jinhui Wang and his research team from the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering in the College of Engineering. They implemented memristor-based biologically-inspired computing systems to support machine learning algorithms.
In the afternoons, teachers shared their research progress, participated in pedagogy and learning technology workshops, explored the integration of artificial intelligence into their classroom teaching, and developed their lesson plans. Drs. Katie Guffey and Christopher Parrish of the College of Education and Professional Studies offered workshops on innovative instructional strategies and technology. Dr. Shenghua Zha, assistant professor of counseling and instructional sciences in the College of Education and Professional Studies, led the curriculum development process and conducted educational research on the effectiveness of the summer research program.
In the following fall and spring semesters, teachers will work with the project team members and develop and implement computing-infused lessons in their classrooms.