The ARRL Teachers Institute Wraps Up Successful Summer Sessions


In 2004, the ARRL held its first Teachers Institute on Wireless Technology. That summer, nine teachers came from across the country to learn how to bring this exciting technology back to their classrooms. Six years later, 93 teachers from 29 states attended eight sessions of the ARRL Teachers Institute. "The ARRL Teachers Institute continues to be a resounding success," said ARRL Education Program Coordinator Mark Spencer, WA8SME. "These teachers, upon returning to their classrooms, will reach out to approximately 3000 students, using new approaches to instructing the science of radio through the many hands-on activities that they learned about during the Teachers Institute."

The eight sessions of the Teachers Institute were held at various venues in Arizona, California, Florida, Michigan, New Mexico and Ohio, with the last session taking place at ARRL Headquarters in Connecticut. "By holding the Teachers Institute sessions at various locations in the country, it gives them a national flavor," Spencer said. "This increased tempo of offerings was made possible with the addition of Miguel Enriquez, KD7RPP, and Nathan McCray, K9CPO, who joined me on the Teachers Institute instructor team."

Spencer said that a typical Teachers Institute session includes about 12 participants, with about half of those licensed amateurs. "The final section at Newington this year was unusual in that eight of the 11 participants were hams before the session," Spencer recounted, "but the three non-ham teachers studied for and passed their Technician licenses exams during the session, rounding out the roster with 100 percent hams!" The ARRL VEC expedited their applications so that these three new hams received their call signs that day. "These teachers had the unique experience of making their first ham radio contacts with the headquarters station W1AW, with the appropriate pomp and circumstance for such a momentous experience in a ham's career," Spencer said.

The ARRL Teachers Institutes provide a four-day, intensive in-service training opportunity for classroom teachers in basic electronics, the science of radio, bringing space technology into the classroom, microcontroller programming and basic robotics. For the first time, an advanced session of the Teachers Institute was added this summer to the program. This session, made available to a few Teachers Institute graduates, included an expanded space in the classroom unit. This inaugural session, dubbed TI-II, focused on assembling and integrating the equipment and software required to setup a satellite Earth ground station, how to operate the ground stations to communicate with other hams via ham radio satellites, and finally how to intercept, copy, decode, interpret and use satellite telemetry in the classroom.

The Teachers Institute program is one component of the grant offerings within the Education and Technology Program (ETP) portfolio of resources made available to schools and school teachers to advance the integration of wireless technology literacy and ham radio into school curricula. The ETP is possible only because of the generous donations from those who share in the passion of ham radio. The Dayton, Ohio session of the Teachers Institute was supported by the Dayton Amateur Radio Association (DARA). The cost of the equipment provided to the teachers during the TI-II was offset by the generous support of Yaesu.

The success of the Teachers Institute is best told by the participants themselves:

"I highly recommend this inspiring and practical course -- it covered everything from basic electronics to satellite operations to robotics in ways that are directly applicable to many grade levels and subject areas. What a fantastic way to integrate knowledge and get students inspired to learn!"

"It made me realize that if we can get students interested in radio and electronics technology, there are no limits to what they can achieve and develop. The TI was an eye opener, even for a long time teacher like me. It made me excited to learn again."

"This program is perfect for a teacher who wants to learn basic electronics and wireless technology. This is a great workshop to put on your resume and a great investment in you and your students."

"I thought that I knew the Parallax BOE-BOT before the TI, but I learned more than I previously knew during the TI. Before the session, I would not have gotten my Technician class license; I did so only because of the encouragement of the instructor and my fellow TI participants."

"This was a great program and very productive use of time. The pace was good for varying levels. I found exciting new ideas for use in the classroom. The most important thing for classrooms: Having Fun!"

"I can't wait to implement the ideas in my classroom that were presented during the TI."

"ARRL: Keep up the good work!"

Information on the 2010 sessions of the ARRL Teachers Institute on Wireless Technology will be available in February.