October 2010 Issue
September 28, 2010

Semi High Tech U turns teachers into students

Author: Leslie Duncan Fottrell
Source: NYSUT United
Caption: From left, Tom Snyder, Chenango Valley Teachers Association; Ken Schultz, Rochester TA; and Lance Rudiger, Potsdam TA, launch a Koosh ball from a "statapult" during a Semi High Tech U activity that explored issues of quality control. Photo by Andrew Watson.

The best way for educators to understand how to prepare New York's students for high-tech careers is to experience the hands-on learning themselves.

That union-led tenet was embraced by 25 middle-level and high school educators and counselors this summer during two days of hands-on learning that integrates the New York state learning standards for math, science and technology.

The SEMI High Tech U Teacher Edition, hosted annually by NYSUT, is just one of the union-led programs dedicated to advancing excellence in the classroom. Another is NYSUT's sponsorship of the first STEM Institute, held in August at SUNY Oswego, that brought together practitioners in both K-12 and higher education and high-tech industry leaders to share lesson plans and best practices.

The union for the first time also sponsored the SEMI High Tech U for students, a four-day summer camp that exposes students to the high- tech industries.

"Giving our students the tools they need to succeed in today's high-tech marketplace begins with our educators," said NYSUT Vice President Maria Neira.

"NYSUT is pleased to collaborate with the SEMI Foundation to provide our members this important hands-on training that they can take back to their classrooms," she said.

Other sponsors of the SEMI High Tech U programs include Tech Valley industry partners and higher education institutions that are invested in preparing students for future careers as nanotechnology and other tech industries expand in the Capital District and across the state.

Each module in the program featured do-it-yourself projects and learning experiences teachers can transfer to the classroom.

For example, participants used a "statapult" to launch small balls under a variety of conditions and then studied the outcomes.

"It is one way of demonstrating quality control in the semiconductor industry," said Mark Kaercher, a session facilitator and member of the North Colonie Teachers Association, led by Bob Bedell.

In quality control, he explained, a company gathers data about the way individual variables in a manufacturing atmosphere impact the quality of a product.

Another module, called "education and career pathways," showed the connection between student personality style, subject interest and possible corresponding careers associated with high-tech fields.

While physics and chemistry students would expect to find work in the high-tech field, so could an English or sociology major. And those with mechanical aptitude also can find a role.

Participants also explored microchips and solar chips, electronics, logic, nanotechnology and critical thinking, and toured the nearby Hudson Valley Community College TEC–SMART facility.

The international SEMI High Tech U program was created by the SEMI Foundation, which supports education and career awareness in high technology fields.