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ARRL Teachers Institute on Wireless Technology Opens Horizon of Learning Opportunities

08/13/2011

This summer, the ARRL offered five sessions of the Teachers Institute on Wireless Technology (TI). Veteran instructors Miguel Enriquez, KD7RPP, and Nathan McCray, K9CPO -- along with new initiates Tommy Gober, N5DUX, and Matt Severin, N8MS -- led the instruction. A total of 55 educators from 24 states, ranging from elementary teachers to university PhDs, took part in the 2011 TIs.

The first TI session of 2011 was held at Desert Ridge Middle School in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and was hosted by Diane Nihart, KE5UHB, a 2010 TI graduate. Other sessions took place at Parallax, Inc’s corporate office in Rocklin, California (Parallax provides the robotics equipment for each TI session); at Mohawk Valley Community College in Utica, New York -- hosted by Bob Decker, AA2CU; and at ARRL Headquarters. “Nihart and Decker proved themselves superb hosts, preparing their facilities for an unimpeded learning experience for participants,” said ARRL Education Services Manager Debra Johnson, K1DMJ. “Their school principal and college president also showed up to check out the activities with great interest. As always, Parallax rolled out the red carpet and treated participants to a tour of their operation as well as some bonus ‘toys’ for their Boe-Bots, the rolling robot with a BASIC Stamp 2 microcontroller brain that each TI participant builds.”

The Dayton Amateur Radio Association (DARA) hosted the TI-2 seminar, Space in the Classroom. The TI-2 curriculum focuses on the nuts and bolts of setting up and operating a satellite ground station. While TI participants do not need to have an Amateur Radio license to attend a session, TI-2 participants must have at least a Technician class license and have already attended a TI session.

Each TI-2 participant received equipment to configure a satellite communications station. DARA President Jim Simpson, WB8QZZ, took extra steps to facilitate activities this year by arranging for a cable access hole, allowing participants to run their station cables out to the parking lot. “This was most welcome, as temperatures rose to more than 90 degrees during the first two days,” Johnson said. “The cable channel allowed the group to keep the door closed and the air conditioning running. DARA’s financial support, along with generous assistance from HRO, made this advanced workshop on satellite communications possible.”

Some Highlights and “Firsts” at the 2011 TIs

At the TI session in Utica, TI Instructor Nathan McCray, K9CPO reported that one of the second grade teachers was so excited about having her Boe-Bot complete the maze. “She did a summersault and flip to celebrate,” he said. “More importantly, her father programs robots for nuclear power plants, and she was elated that she was able to work with the Boe-Bots. She was also excited that she would be able to bring some of the concepts back to her classroom.”

Also in Utica, host Bob Decker, AA2CU, installed a weather antenna on the roof the classroom building, enabling participants to download images and work with composite weather maps right in the classroom. “Decker also set up an HF radio in the classroom which provided the opportunity for a radio QSO with the Isle of Man,” Johnson explained. “This group of participants included only a few licensed hams, so this was a fine introduction to Amateur Radio for the uninitiated.”

At ARRL headquarters, ARRL Contest Branch Manager Sean Kutzko, KX9X, and ARRL Emergency Preparedness Manager Mike Corey, W5MPC, assisted with the satellite communications demo and thrilled everyone with 13 contacts in one pass.

“Multiple contacts via satellite between the two simultaneous TIs in Utica and Dayton created lots of opportunity for practice,” Johnson noted. “Each participant at the TI-2 made at least one complete QSO via an FM satellite, with most making multiple contacts. Everyone copied satellite telemetry from multiple satellites.”

What Did the TI Participants Think of the Program?

In their post-TI evaluations, participants reported significant achievement in their personal confidence in understanding and teaching the topics addressed in the TI curriculum. Participants shared the following comments in their TI evaluations:

  • “I have been an educator for 10 years and I have attended many workshops, symposiums and training classes. This has been the most dynamic, enthusiastic hands-on and most applicable to career technical education for me!”
  • “…the program truly provides a horizon of endless learning opportunities for students in the hands-on application of wireless technology building blocks, satellite communications and robotic wireless control technology.”
  • “ …the agenda was jam-packed with ideas and technical information to assist teachers in engaging students in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) curriculum. The entire week was very stimulating as we participated in numerous hands-on activities, including live contacts via amateur satellites and the building and programming of model robots.”
  • “[The TI] enhanced the knowledge I had about technology and now I have new -- and better -- ways to teach my students in many areas.”
  • “This workshop was worth every second. Out of hundreds of workshops, this was the first workshop that held 100 percent of my attention 100 percent of the time. It was one of the few workshops that I have attended that will dramatically impact my classroom. Thank you so much!”
  • “A very large amount of information presented in a very short amount of time in a manner that was understandable and usable.”
  • “The TI-2 was one of the best educational and personal-growth experiences I have had. I am so excited about bringing the equipment and information back to my classroom. I am confident my students will be excited about the math and science related to satellite communications. I have never been exposed to so many great ideas and resources in such a short time.”

On top of those glowing words, here’s an early outcome: After attending the summer TI session in Albuquerque, Bob Sterner, KN0BOB, teamed up with 2010 TI participant Bryon ‘Paul’ Veal, N0AH, to teach two weeks of wireless technology classes for gifted and talented youth in Aurora, Colorado. The local paper ran this story after hearing about the class. “We now have at least 16 students actively working on getting licensed,’ Sterner told the ARRL. “We will have a Technician class in September for those who need more formal instruction. One of our students even made a CW contact with Belgium after only two days in class.”

Johnson invites everyone to visit the Classroom Activities portion of the ARRL website to read more reports and stories she has received from schools and teachers who get support from the Education & Technology Program and training from the Teachers Institute. The Teachers Institute is funded by donations to the ARRL Education & Technology Program. You can help us provide Teachers Institutes in 2012 by contributing your financial support.



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