July 25, 2019

Educators head to STEM summer school

Author: Liza Frenette
Source:  NYSUT Communications
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Semi High-Tech U

“Artificial intelligence is the next big wave,” said Vincent Villaume of Applied Materials, speaking to a room of rapt teachers at the 2019 Semi High Tech U Teacher Edition Program. “It will revolutionize how we live our lives … We are approaching the size of the atom.”

Finding pathways to prepare students for the high tech industry was one of many sessions explored by educators in this annual professional development program. By 2026, there will likely be job growth of 12 million jobs, mostly in health care, services and advanced manufacturing — which is one of many reasons why teachers attended this week’s program.

“There are job opportunities for all of our students,” said NYSUT’s Terry McSweeney, who has been leading the summer tech program for teachers since its start 11 years ago. The free event offers K–12 teachers and school counselors a turn as both student and educator while gaining valuable skills and career information they can take back to their own students.

Through hands-on exercises, teachers were shown how to educate students about learning the tenets of collaboration, critical thinking and problem-solving in order to succeed in future careers in high tech. Learning a trade, honing math and English skills, and taking advantage of electives and clubs in arts or robotics will build knowledge and skills.  Learning about other cultures and global issues will better prepare students. Sessions included making curriculum connections among math, science and technology; assessing products, structures and results; quality control; and creative computer coding.

These chips have layers

Integrated circuits are a part of everyday life — from the identification chip implanted in your dog to the thousands of systems in your car, to the workings of your computer, said Villaume. Silicone chips are at the heart of the industry. Silicone is extracted from sand, purified, and heated into ingots. It is then sliced into wafers, which are cut into microchips and solar cells. Villaume passed around a large wafer, explaining how it is prepared with layering, patterning, heat treatment, water testing and then packaging and assembly. Teachers then used a glass wafer to simulate lining up different patterns on top of it with precision, a project that can be done with students.

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“I love this hands-on approach,” said teacher Michael Shannon as he measured the distance a ball went after it was catapulted from a wooden base with a rubber band. A member of United Federation of Teachers who teaches coding to fourth, fifth and sixth graders in Queens, he was learning how medieval technology relates to modern day chip making in a math and statistics exercise.

The repeated trials and multiple variables – such as the amount of tension on the rubber band -- achieved different results. Likewise in nanotechnology, changing the variables affects outcome and yield.

“I will absolutely use this,” Shannon said. “This is a different aspect to engage my students. I never want them bored!”

According to data from the Regional Educational Laboratory, 70 percent of the expected 12 million future jobs will require education beyond high school. That path, however, does not always require a traditional four-year college degree. It can be a technical degree; an “earn while you learn” program where an employer will pay for continuing education; a community college; or a stop and start education with time spent working, then enrollment in classes, and then work again.

The high tech industry needs engineers as well as plumbers, accountants, technicians, clerical staff, and health and safety specialists. It is a field where many students can find their future employment. Through its partnership with the SEMI Foundation and persistence in fighting for the funding schools deserve, NYSUT is doing its part to make sure members are prepared to help set students on the right path.

“The next generation is all about STEM,” said NYSUT President Andy Pallotta. “We have to keep up with the latest and give the next generation opportunities so they don’t miss anything.”

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