CEAS Alumni Bolster Challenge-Based Learning in CEEMS

By: Shannon Frohme
Date: February 2, 2016

As CEEMS approaches its fifth year of the program, the Cincinnati Engineering Enhanced Mathematics and Science Partnership program continues to make great strides towards elevating STEM-related education in the tri-state region.

This past summer, several CEAS alumni dedicated their time to educate local middle school and high school teachers and students in engineering challenge-based learning systems.

Funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), the CEEMS program has addressed and met the growing demand for engineering-educated middle school and high school teachers. CEEMS equips teachers with the skills needed to provide students with opportunities to reach and surpass Ohio Learning Standards for Science, Common Core Math Standards and Next Generation Science Standards, while providing students with a universal critical thinking skill set.

Professor Vinciguerra working with Oak Hills High School students

Professor Vinciguerra working with Oak Hills High School students

The CEEMS Summer Institute for Teachers (SIT), a two-summer long program, allows CEEMS teachers to complete seven weeks of engineering courses and professional development. Teachers who participate in the program can earn a certificate in engineering education.

This past summer, CEAS alumni Tom Vinciguerra and Dan Boles went above and beyond, and shared their professional experiences with the CEEMS-SIT. Vinciguerra graduated from CEAS with his BS in chemical engineering in 1976, and currently serves as an engineering consultant member of the CEEMS resource team. He says, “As a member of this team, I provide my engineering and management expertise towards developing and implementing the CEEMS Summer Institute for Teachers (SIT) and more importantly aiding the implementation of their CEEMS units in the classroom which I personally enjoy.”

The summer institute educates CEEMS teachers on the following three (3) elements to ensure their success in the classroom the following school year:

  1. A comprehensive understanding of challenge-based learning (CBL)
  2. The engineering design process
  3. The development of CBL units for use in the classroom

Challenge-Based Learning Systems

CEEMS Oak Hills High School teacher (right) with Boles (left) with in a chair designed in SIT

CEEMS Oak Hills High School teacher (right) with Professor Boles (left) sitting in a chair designed in SIT

According to The New Media Consortium’s Challenge-Based Learning, an Approach for Our Time report, CBL redefines the role of the teacher, encouraging students with “a meaningful challenge, letting them choose their own path to understanding within a clearly global issue like sustainability, climate change, or famine and ultimately allowing them in a team based approach to come up with both questions and answers as they direct the course of their own learning by developing their solution to the challenge.”

Vinciguerra is very optimistic that the development of CBL in tri-state schools will bolster student interest in the STEM-related fields, but more specifically women and minority interest in engineering fields of study and career paths.

Dan Boles earned his BS in chemical engineering from CEAS in 2003, masters in secondary education from CECH in 2006, and currently teaches engineering at Oak Hills High School. He also believes CBL is a necessary and invaluable asset towards increasing student enthusiasm for STEM-related fields. He elaborates, “Students get to deeply interact with the lessons, collaborate with each other and then assess their progress. CBL doesn’t replace the teaching content, but it offers students a vehicle to immerse themselves and participate in the content in a truly authentic and rigorous learning experience.”

Engineering Foundations Equip CEEMS Teachers

Boles co-teaches a special version of the Engineering Foundations course in SIT that is specifically designed for the middle school and high school teachers in CEEMS with Michelle Shafer, who has a degree in biomedical engineering and currently serves as a science and engineering teacher at Mount Notre Dame High School.

Boles breaks down the overarching goals of the CEEMS-SIT Engineering Foundations course:

  1. To introduce teachers to the various fields of engineering and technology. 
  2. To demonstrate to teachers they ways in which they can weave professional skills such as ethics, teamwork, problem-solving, communication, and knowledge synthesis into core science and mathematics courses.
  3. To model how teachers can cultivate good problem-solving skills by applying problem-solving strategies to a variety of engineering problems.
  4. To model how teachers can cultivate effective team-work and communication skills through lab work and oral presentations.

Since Boles first joined CEEMS in the early grant-writing process, he has helped encourage eight (8) Oak Hills High School teachers enroll in CEEMS. He concludes, “Oak Hills High School’s partnership with CEAS, specifically Eugene Rutz, has been more than instrumental in crafting extremely beneficial experiences for our students.”