July 21, 2015

Learning from 'Scratch' at SEMI High Tech U

Author: Leslie Duncan Fottrell
Source: NYSUT Communications
semi high tech u
Caption: (L-R) Anand Arunakumar, Presenter (KLA-Tencor); Beth Montrello, Niskayuna TA; Tanner Muro, Burnt Hills Student Ambassador; Kristen Barringer, Amsterdam TA. Photo by El-Wise Noisette.

When Sandra Knapp picked up her 2015-16 teaching assignment, she learned she would not be a teaching fourth grade at Worcester Central Schools as she had in the past, but had instead been tapped to teach elementary STEM (science, technology, engineering and math). Knapp accepted the assignment with the stipulation that she has a classroom with a sink to adequately teach the science component for K-6 students. She got one.

"I need to create a curriculum for seven grades this summer," said Knapp, a member of the Worcester Teachers Association, during a break from the 2015 SEMI High Tech U Teacher Edition held recently at NYSUT headquarters in Albany. "I'm here to get ideas."

Knapp was one of 37 educators, with a combined 538 years of teaching experience, who participated in the two-day summer intensive program to learn what the high tech industry has to offer their students and how to tap into student interest. The SEMI High Tech U program is open to K-12 teachers and guidance counselors.
In the workshops, teachers who will begin their education careers in September sit alongside veteran educators with as many as 30 years of experience, and share a common goal — to delve into high tech and STEM learning and discover how to incorporate these into their classrooms. Educators learn about nanotechnology, microchips and semiconductors, logic and more.

"NYSUT is a proud sponsor of the SEMI High Tech U," said NYSUT Vice President Catalina Fortino. "Our teachers and school counselors immerse themselves in this two-day STEM career exploration program and come away with the tools they need to bring it back into their classrooms and to their students."

An important component of SEMI High Tech U is the education and career pathways module, where teachers learn just how many jobs are in the high tech industry. The overarching theme is that there are many jobs of the future that haven't even been invented yet. Educators also learned the skills students need to succeed in the high tech industry.

Kelly Fahrenkopf of the Mohonasen Teachers Association said she likes the opportunities for her special education students to train for job that are above minimum wage. "I want to get my students into the entry level jobs so they can be productive in a job that has potential for growth."

New this year was "creative computing coding with Scratch 2.0," which shows participants the fundamentals of programming. Scratch is a free coding program, developed at MIT. Participants learned how to drag and drop computer code to create animations. This type of coding might spark an interest in students to pursue learning traditional coding languages such as Java, Python or C++. Learn more about Scratch and how to create animations and stories, and then share them online at scratch.mit.edu.

Industry leaders donated their time. "Our inherent goal is to inspire kids and teachers about science and technology," said Sumanth Kini, an applications manager at KLA-Tencor Corp., a process control and yield management solutions provider. They are, after all, searching for the high tech industries' future employees.

Knapp said she was already formulating some ideas for her new role as K-6 STEM teacher. "I can see using the solar panel activities with my fifth- and sixth-graders in an expanded project. Breaking things down in the nanotechnology unit was also good."

SEMI High Tech U Teacher Edition was sponsored by NYSUT, SEMI, the College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering, National Grid, Schenectady County Community College, Hudson Valley Community College and TEC-SMART, Applied Materials, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and the Center for Economic Growth.