See You Next Year! 2008 ARRL Teachers Institutes a "Great Experience"
During a record six ARRL Teachers Institutes this summer -- Tampa, Florida; Rocklin, California; Tucson, Arizona; Dayton, Ohio, as well as two sessions at ARRL HQ in Connecticut -- instructors and participants tried new ways of bringing the excitement of wireless technology to classrooms across the country.
The ARRL Teachers Institute is a four day, in-service training opportunity for teachers to learn about wireless technology, including the science of radio, space technology, microcontrollers and basic robotics. It focuses on how to integrate these vital technologies into their regular classrooms. For the first time, the number of Teachers Institutes offered was expanded from four to six sessions that included 77 participants from 29 states. To help out with the expanded course load and number of sessions, two additional instructors were brought on board: Miguel Enriquez, KD7RPP, and Nathan McCray, K9CPO. According to Education and Technology Program Coordinator Mark Spencer, WA8SME, "These new instructors will allow the program to continue to expand in coming years. They also bring new perspectives and talent to the instructional staff."
Enriquez was first licensed as a Novice in 1976 and learned about electronics by building a Heathkit; he upgraded to an Amateur Extra class license in 2002. He teaches mathematics, statistics and psychology at Pueblo High School in Tucson, Arizona, and has 10 years of experience teaching at the community college and university levels. In 2005, Enriquez established an Amateur Radio club at Pueblo High School. Through donations of equipment and support from individuals and the ARRL, the club grew to 26 members and five licensed students exploring satellite communications, ATV, robotics, HF, EchoLink and weather satellite imagery.
McCray, a former sixth grade teacher in Zion, Illinois, starts the 2008 academic year as an assistant principal at West Elementary School in the same town. As a teacher, he integrated Amateur Radio, electronics and robotics into his science and math curriculum. He plans to start an Amateur Radio club in his new school and is looking forward to developing clubs in his district's junior high and high school. McCray's knowledge areas include electronics, computer programming, communications, Amateur Radio, computer systems, leadership and teaching; his background includes instruction at the community college level, as well experience as a senior instructor at a US Navy technical school. McCray has been licensed for 24 years and holds an Amateur Extra class license.
The teachers who participated in this year's Teachers Institutes came from very diverse backgrounds: 63 percent were hams. The gender mix included 64 percent males and 36 percent females. The participants came from schools across the grade levels: 17 percent were elementary, 39 percent middle, 40 percent high school and 4 percent university level instructors. During the institutes, 10 participants studied for and obtained either their first ham license or upgraded their existing ham tickets.
Spencer said that the Teachers Institute curriculum is always being refined and improved: "This year, a new robotics instructor's activity board was added to the robotics unit, and a 24-hour clock kit was added to the Soldering 101 unit. We also added a new, more flexible seismometer that can be used to not only to study earthquakes, but also to control the movements of the robot the participants build during the class. This component was added to connect the Science of Radio unit to the Robotics unit. A radio telescope and sudden ionospheric disturbance (SID) exploration resources were also added, expanding the space technology unit. The 24-hour clock kit was a very popular 'homework' assignment that was completed during the first day of the Institute.
The following are just a few of the comments from the teachers about this year's Teachers Institute experience:
"We are working on robots now in my class and we will be well-entrenched by the end of this school year. Next year promises to be fun and exciting for the students. The TI was a great experience and [Spencer's] personal tutelage was responsible for making it so."
"Wonderful doesn't begin to describe it. I knew the basics of radio communications and transmission through electromagnetic waves, but I now understand it better than I ever have. The robot was very cool -- it reinvigorated my love of programming. I also made many contacts that I will use to help throughout my teaching career!"
"Thanks again for ARRL support in the education gift department - I have new ideas on how to excite the kids as I go through the next school year."
"Thank you to the ARRL for having the vision to facilitate these offerings and support teachers in so many tangible ways."
"The Teachers Institute was a great experience for me. I learned about many new technological applications to use in my classroom. For example, I will be using the weather satellite downloads in my Environmental Science class, enabling my students to compare climate observations with ideas presented by textbook authors so they will be able to have informed opinions."
"I would like to thank the League for the great training [at the Teachers Institute]. I came back not sure how my school administration would take to the idea of starting a robotics, radio and technology club. Our principal encouraged formation of clubs for the first time. I approached him with the idea of a robotics and technology club for our 7th and 8th graders. He amazingly said "That sounds good -- just write it up and send it to me."
"I would like to personally thank you for your dedication and commitment to the Teachers Institute program, teachers and Amateur Radio. The program you have spent many years and countless hours developing circuit boards and tweaking curriculum material(s) has resulted is the best workshop I have attended in my 14 years as an educator."
Funding for the ARRL Teachers Institutes for Wireless Technology and for the ham radio station grants for schools are supported solely by contributions from ARRL members and others in the Amateur Radio community. According to ARRL Chief Development Officer Mary Hobart, K1MMH, in 2008 the educational mission of ARRL has expanded to provide additional support for volunteer instructors and the development of additional online courses, as well as curricula and tools for teachers. "If you are one of the thousands of hams who has helped ARRL expand its education horizons, thank you!" Hobart said. "You may wish to make your contribution to ensure a bright future for the next generation of radio amateurs. Please do so by phone or mail to ARRL Headquarters, or on the Web. Your generosity will make a big difference."
The Teachers Institutes are just one part of the ARRL Education and Technology Program, also known as "The Big Project." For more information on this exciting program, please visit the ETP Web site.