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Engineering School Sponsors Teacher Workshop
(Released: 07/23/01)

By Janice Palmer, Office of University Communications

STORRS, Conn. -- Ask a seventh grader what an engineer is and the answer would probably involve a train. But engineers have also designed the tallest buildings in the world, created medical devices to save lives and put men on the moon.

From Aug. 5 to 10, the University of Connecticut's School of Engineering is sponsoring the da Vinci Project, a summer program for secondary school educators who are learning how to integrate basic engineering concepts into math and science classes.

"They leave here better equipped to teach and advise their students about the role of engineering in contemporary life," says Marty Wood, the School's assistant dean for undergraduate education. "By exposing students to the fundamentals before they reach college age, we hope to increase the number and diversity of people pursuing engineering careers. This is particularly important to the School of Engineering, as we work to address the shortage of skilled engineers in Connecticut and throughout the country."

Twenty-three teachers from Connecticut and Massachusetts will spend the first part of their day learning core concepts in engineering, but the majority of their time at UConn will be spent conducting hands-on experiments. The projects will include fuel cell construction, energy transfer, wastewater treatment, conductive properties of materials, design and construction of a sensing circuit, and construction of a logic circuit.

"A heightened understanding of engineering concepts is a start, but it is just as important they leave here with course modules and experiments that easily can be infused into their school's curricula," says Robert Vieth, program director.

This is particularly relevant to Massachusetts educators, because that state is modifying its curriculum to include engineering and technology.

This is the second year the da Vinci Project has been presented. The UConn School of Engineering offers participants free room and board for the week, a stipend, and the opportunity to earn continuing education or master's credits.

On Thursday, Aug. 9, during the farewell banquet at 6 p.m., Richard Cole, executive director of the Connecticut Academy of Education in Math, Science and Technology, will address the teachers.

The program is named to honor Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519), who was not only one of the greatest painters of the Italian Renaissance but also an inventor whose ideas have influenced scientists, scholars and artists for hundreds of years. By combining his understanding of machinery and his illustration skills, Leonardo created blueprints for prototypes of dozens of inventions, including a helicopter, a battle tank and a machine gun.

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