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ARRL Teachers Institute: "It Is Elementary, It Is Advanced, It Is Something for Everyone"

07/10/2009

Four sessions of the ARRL's Teachers Institute on Wireless Technology wrapped up in June. These sessions -- in Tucson, Arizona; Rocklin, California; Viera, Florida, and Berrien Springs, Michigan -- saw 52 educators complete the four day course. The California and Arizona sessions were held simultaneously, marking the first time that the ARRL has offered simultaneous sessions of the popular summer program for teachers. According to Education and Technology Program Coordinator Mark Spencer, WA8SME, the addition of two new TI instructors made it possible to hold two sessions at the same time. "With Miguel Enriquez, KD7RPP, and Nathan McCray, K9CPO, on board," Spencer said, "we are able to hold more sessions, and in turn, involve more teachers into learning how to bring wireless technology into their classrooms."

Tucson, Arizona -- June 15-18

At Pueblo Magnet High School in Tucson, Enriquez led a group of 16 local teachers through the four day curriculum that includes basic electronics, the science of radio, space in the classroom, microcontroller programming and basic robotics. The class included nine math teachers from Pueblo, three special education teachers from Pueblo, one 4th grade teacher from a feeder elementary school to Pueblo, two graduate students/teaching assistants in fields involving electronics from University Medical Center (University of Arizona teaching hospital) and one University of Arizona employee commissioned to work with area schools and recruit high school students into space, science and mathematics programs at the University of Arizona.

"The majority of the participants had expressed an interest in learning electronics," Enriquez said. "In the coming year, I plan on following up the introduction they received at the TI by teaching electronics as part of a professional development program."

Enriquez said that each of the teachers will refer students whom they believe will be interested in ham radio to his "Radio, Space and Wireless Technologies" class he will begin teaching this fall: "Several teachers who have that period as their planning period also stated they would drop by to see the students in action and perhaps even help teach!"

Enriquez said that there are 16 "really excited teachers in Tucson right now. I intend to do everything I can to get them all involved in the application of the knowledge and procedures they learned this week. The only way we can really make the Teachers Institutes ultra successful is to coordinate a cadre of teachers who understand and apply the knowledge and tools the Teachers Institutes provides. Teacher collaboration is essential toward this endeavor."

Rocklin, California -- June 15-18

Spencer conducted the Teachers Institute held at the Parallax facility in Rocklin. "This group is more geographically diverse than the Tucson group," he said, "with teachers from nine states from coast to coast."

Since the Tucson and Rocklin sessions were held at the same time, Spencer said "we tried to connect the teachers in the Tucson session with the teachers in the California session via an AO-27 contact; satellites are part of the space in the classroom unit. Unfortunately, this was not successful due to unforeseen complications with accessing the satellite; however, a later attempt to demonstrate ham radio space technology was successful."

Viera, Florida -- June 23-26

Fourteen educators took part in the Teachers Institute in Florida, also led by Spencer. "This group was predominately from the Southeastern US, but a few participants joined the group from Missouri and Virginia," he said. "The class was evenly split between male and female teachers. All grade levels were represented and six participants were either old-time hams or recently licensed in preparation for the Teachers Institute."

Spencer said to make the A027 satellite contact, they used call sign W1AW/4. "The weather even cooperated, and though hot and humid, the fox hunt outdoor activity went off without a hitch -- including a tornado warning that occurred the morning of the outdoor activities," he said.

"Thanks for everything. It was elementary it was advanced, it is something for everyone," one educator told Spencer. "I know I will be incorporating many of your topics into the classroom."

One of the participants summarized the experience simply: "This was the best in-service course that we have ever attended -- and we have attended a lot!"

Berrien Springs, Michigan -- June 29-July 2

McCray led 10 educators through the Teachers Institute at the Berrien Regional Education Service in Michigan. "I had a class that was half men and half women," he said. "Most were from the Midwest, but we did have two from New York state, one from California and one from South Carolina. We had representatives from all walks of the education world: Two elementary teachers, five junior high teachers, two high school teachers and one college professor. Only four were hams and two of them have expired licenses. The electronic knowledge level was low, but they were motivated and proved to be a joy to teach all week."

McCray said that the highlights of the week included a successful AO-27 contact and multiple contacts on 2 meters with local children who were attending a camp. "The work with the VOMs, protoboard and building the boe-bots were also big hits," he said. "We also went quite deep with the 'What's a Microcontroller?' unit."

One of the teachers told McCray that the Teachers Institute has changed the way she will present her curriculum. "I have been inspired to pursue my Technician license and to add more hands-on electronics activities into my 9th grade physical science class." The teacher said. "I would also like to set up a ham station in my school."

Another teacher called the Teachers Institute a "most rewarding experience. There is so much I learned about robotics, weather and ham radio operation. I have so much information to take back to the classroom and share with my students and fellow staff members. Thank you for this opportunity!"



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