August 24, 2017

NYSUT celebrates 10 years of hosting high-tech professional development

Author: Leslie Duncan Fottrell
Source: NYSUT Communications
semi high tech u
Caption: Aaron Sorensen of Morris Teachers Association and Stacey Thomas of the UFT work on a classroom project on conductivity and electricity at NYSUT headquarters. Photo by Lori DiVeglia.

NYSUT Executive Vice President Jolene T. DiBrango welcomed educators to the 2017 SEMI High Tech U summer immersion program this week at union headquarters by extolling the importance of professional development and the virtues of the unique partnership between NYSUT and the SEMI Foundation.

Professional development opportunities, DiBrango said, “based on the needs of our teachers and students is an important step in ensuring our students have the skills necessary to pursue high-tech careers and are prepared to meet the demands of our rapidly changing workforce.”

NYSUT members — mostly teachers in science, technology, engineering and math — spent two days learning about the high-tech industry in New York’s Capital District and how educators can best prepare their students for the opportunities available to them. This marks the 10-year anniversary of NYSUT hosting the program, which has seen more than 600 New York State educators participating.

Taught by high-tech industry leaders, the program’s hands-on activities have direct applications to the high-tech industry, allowing educators to learn about topics such as quality control, semi-conductor production, solar energy and more.

For example, Scratch is a computing program that helps students visually understand computer programming, what an algorithm — a set of rules for a computer to follow — is and how it works. Once students understand how algorithms, work they can learn to code in any computer language.

Christine Tylock and Deborah Anderson are middle school math teachers and members of the Niskayuna Teachers Association. They worked together on the “Creative Computing: Coding with Scratch 2.0” module to animate a cartoon cat.

“We’re trying to get him to walk back to us now,” said Tylock, her eyes sweeping between the cat on one side of the computer screen and the blocks of code on the other.

“Wouldn’t it be fun to use this to show translation in the classroom?” Anderson asked Tylock as both continued to parse the code blocks on the screen. Tylock nodded. In mathematics, a translation refers to moving a geometric shape, while maintaining its size and shape.

Shawn MacNish and Chandar Prasad Palamadai Subramanian, both application engineers at KLA-Tencor Corporation, presented the quality control module where participants work with a catapult launching hacky sac balls across the room.

“Rarely do you get a chance to take a physical thing and relate it to the semi industry,” said MacNish. “If you can give anecdotes to teachers, they can bring it back to the classrooms and show students why it matters.”

Jeff Barnum is senior director of technical programs at KLA-Tencor. He’s been involved with SEMI High Tech U for about seven years. “My strength is to develop as many smart people as I can,” he said, adding that his own involvement with the program, as well as that of the team that accompanies him, “is not a lot of time, and the potential rewards are enormous.”

If even a few teachers take these lessons back to their classrooms, the number of students who can gain an understanding of the high-tech industry is impressive, Barnum said.

The program culminated with a special celebration as NYSUT and the SEMI Foundation honored Barnum for his team work and Vincent Villaumé, applications manager at Applied Materials Inc., as volunteer of the year. Villaumé has taught the semiconductor module for all 10 years of the NYSUT-SEMI Foundation partnership.

NYSUT staffer Terry McSweeney was also honored. “The SEMI Foundation is proud to acknowledge and award Terry for her long-term support and commitment to the success of the SEMI High Tech U Teacher Edition. We consider Terry to be the ‘secret sauce’ of our success here,” said Leslie Tugman, executive director of the SEMI Foundation.

In remarks at the celebration, Assemblymember Phil Steck (D-Colonie) reminded guests of a previous technological feat in New York State — the “building of the Erie Canal, which was high tech for its day,” said Steck, “sparked the economy of New York State for 100 years after that.” The high-tech industry can similarly help build the economy of our communities.

“It’s important to have strong labor unions like NYSUT,” added Steck, “to make sure that the pay for teachers is appropriate so that people will be encouraged to be in the teaching profession. NYSUT is fighting against some of the burdensome requirements that we’ve had trying to be imposed on public school teachers. We appreciate everything that teachers do.”

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