August 25, 2010

Educators immersed in high-tech learning at NYSUT HQ

Author: Leslie Duncan Fottrell
Source: NYSUT Newswire


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NYSUT members were immersed in the high-tech industry when NYSUT hosted and served as primary sponsor of the SEMI High Tech U Teacher Edition at NYSUT headquarters Aug. 23 and 24.

"NYSUT has long recognized the importance of preparing students to meet the demands of today's high-tech work force, and we are proud to once again host this important professional development program from which teachers and students will significantly benefit," said NYSUT Vice President Maria Neira.

Twenty-five teachers and counselors divided their time between, lecture, hands-on experiments and curriculum integration review. They received a birds-eye view of a semiconductor chip wafer, simulated the complicated production process used in microelectronics and solar electronics, and found out what makes the chemical element silicon so special.

"Usually things are either conductors or insulators," said presenter Vincent Villaumé, site operations manager at AMAT. Silicon, he explained, is a semiconductor. "Depending on the conditions you put silicon in, it can be either an insulator or a conductor." According to Villaumé, it is this fundamental characteristic of a semiconductor, that allows one material to perform two normally distinct functions and act as a switch that has enabled the digital age.

Debra Eckler, a sixth-grade math and science teacher at Canajoharie Central Middle School, enjoyed the hands-on experiments. She worked carefully to create the layering for the integrated circuits. "I'm always looking for new things to bring into my classroom," said Eckler. "The hands on experiments make information more memorable to students."

Mark Kaercher, a math teacher at Shaker High School in Latham, is a SEMI High Tech U 2008 graduate and is back this year to facilitate the teacher edition and also facilitated the recent SEMI High Tech U Camp four-day summer camp for local high school students. Kaercher presented the curriculum integration overview sessions so that the teachers will be able to use these hands-on experiments in their lesson plans, while integrating the New York state learning standards for math, science and technology appropriately.

Both teacher and student editions of the program were created by the SEMI Foundation, which supports education and career awareness in high technology fields, according to foundation Vice President Lisa Anderson.

Asked what jobs would be available to students in the microchip and solar chip field, Villaumé ticked off a wide variety, "We need electrical engineers, plasma physics specialists, chemists, lab technicians, software managers and lead operators for machinery."

Other topics covered were electronics, quality control, logic and a regional update. On Tuesday participants learned about nanotechnology, critical thinking and toured the Hudson Valley Community College TEC –SMART facility in Malta. Other sponsors of this event were Tech Valley industry partners and higher educational institutions.

Visit the SEMI Foundation website for more information about the program.