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Local students, teachers team up for summer discovery at Louisiana Tech

Rather than fishing, biking, or engaging in other more traditional summer activities, ten students from Simsboro High School, West Ouachita High School, and Ouachita Junior High School spent a week on the Louisiana Tech campus recently to learn about energy generation, storage, and conversion.

The students were selected and invited by their teachers who were participating in a six week Research Experiences for Teachers (RET) program.  Each teacher partnered with a faculty researcher in a research project using state-of-the-art computational and experimental methods.  During the final week of the program, the teachers invited their students to join them and learn more about scientific research and careers in science fields.

STEM Student Experience students and RET teachers visit a computational modeling lab at Louisiana Tech University

The programs are sponsored by the Louisiana Alliance for Simulation-Guided Materials Applications (LA-SiGMA).  The Alliance includes Louisiana Tech, LSU, Tulane University, University of New Orleans, Southern University, Xavier University and Grambling State University, and is funded by a $20 million grant from the National Science Foundation.  

“The RET teachers have been such a valuable bridge between the teaching world and the research world,” says Alicia Boudreaux, the North Louisiana Education and Outreach Coordinator for the LA-SiGMA project.  “Not only can they do the research, they also have a passion for taking each concept to a level that connects with their students.”

Chris Campbell, an RET science teacher from Simsboro Junior High, said he loves the RET program because it allows teachers to be the students again.

“We learn to work through frustrations and setbacks and how that fuels the research and design process,” said Campbell.  “What is especially important about LA-SiGMA is that it focuses on computational thinking and modeling which are key components of the new science education frameworks and the upcoming next generation science standards.”

As part of the STEM Student Experience, students toured research labs, engaged in hands-on activities such as building a hydrogen-powered car, investigating the chemistry behind the working of batteries, building and studying properties of molecules on computers, and participated in community building activities across the Louisiana Tech campus.

“The [STEM Student Experience] program helped me to better understand how DNA works and how to think,” said Katie Trichell, who will be a freshman at West Ouachita High School this fall.  “It’s actually inspired me to want to go to Tech.”

Another student stated that the program convinced him to be a scientist.  The feedback received at the end of the program from the students overwhelmingly indicated that one week was too short.

Written by Catherine Fraser – cfraser@latech.edu