STEM

Water-Energy Education for the Next Generation, a Colorado School of Mines Research Experience for Teachers sponsored by the National Science Foundation, kicked off its first summer training with nine teachers from Colorado public schools. The six-week summer program focused on impacting K-12 STEM curricula by infusing standards-based, active-learning lessons with current research in the water-energy nexus.

                                 

Left to Right: Stephanie Spiris, Melissa McVey, Professor Timothy Strathmann, Renee Adams-Lee, Associate Professor Chris Higgins, Jill-Maria Kuzava, Assistant Professor Chris Bellona, Patricia Brandenburger, Professor Terri Hogue, WE²ST Education & Outreach Specialist Amy Martin, Shannon Garvin, Associate Professor Josh Sharp, Research Assistant Professor Andrea Blaine, Research Associate Cassandra Glenn, Liz Hudd, Julie McLean, Professor Tzahi Cath, and Amy Dehne

Participants shared what they learned and how they would apply it in their classrooms in culminating presentations July 22. Melissa McVey, a sixth-grade science teacher at Bell Middle School in Golden, credited the faculty and graduate students she worked with for new ideas on how to incorporate lessons on biomagnification and contaminants. She plans to have her students study how plants can improve water quality, and ultimately design and create their own mini-wetland.

                                       
Melissa McVey shares insights gathered during her summer research experience at Mines.

Patricia Brandenburger, an eighth-grade STEM teacher at Deer Creek Middle School in Littleton, was similarly enthusiastic about the program, saying, “I learned a lot about hydrology, geology and geochemistry, which has made me rethink the way I want to teach our energy transformation unit.”

WE²NG is an outreach component of the ConocoPhillips Center for a Sustainable WE²ST, led by Civil and Environmental Engineering Professor Terri Hogue and Research Assistant Professor Andrea Blaine. The program included technical, professional and pedagogical training, as well as weekly field trips to connect teachers with industry contacts. WE²NG will continue collaborative relationships with the teacher participants throughout the academic year.

Blaine hopes to see the program evolve and include even more local teachers next summer. “This first cohort of teachers has set the bar high,” said Blaine.  She also expressed her hope that the collaboration between K-12 teachers, Mines faculty and industry leaders will change the way STEM education is delivered. Blaine added, “I believe that a systemic, sustained method of bringing real and exciting science problems into the classroom could revolutionize the way the next generation of scientists addresses critical issues.”

 

Contact:

Deirdre Keating, Communications Manager, College of Engineering & Computational Sciences | 303-384-2358 | dkeating@mines.edu
Mark Ramirez, Communications Manager, College of Applied Science & Engineering | 303-383-2622 | ramirez@mines.edu

Colorado School of Mines and Lockheed Martin hosted 150 students from five local high schools on campus Feb. 23 to celebrate National Engineers Week. Students spent the day touring research centers including the Center for Space Resources, Mines Geology Museum, Advanced Water Technology Center, ConocoPhillips Center for a Sustainable WE2ST, the Colorado Fuel Cell Center and the Critical Materials Institute (CMI).

“The beauty of being able to lead a tour through the Geology Museum while discussing Critical Materials, is that you are able to impress upon visitors a better understanding of the complex network of global mineral resources, their susceptibility to supply chain disruption, the importance of minerals in our future, and the dire need for continued advancement of technologies through research,” said geology graduate student Mandi Hutchinson. “It is really great to see in the future workforce a cognitive recognition of these concepts.  That’s what I saw in the gazes of many of our high school visitors.”

Twenty-five Lockheed Martin engineers and Mines alumni participated in a luncheon roundtable mentoring session focused on career mentorship where they shared advice on discipline, teamwork, study skills and work/life balance.

“Engineering is a building block of society, and at Lockheed Martin we’re engineering a better tomorrow by developing new solutions for our customers toughest challenges,” said Mark Pasquale, vice president of Engineering and Technology at Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company. “This week we’re celebrating our brilliant engineers who are solving some of the world’s most difficult challenges, and we are committed to inspiring future generations to pursue STEM careers for missions to Mars and beyond.”

National Engineers Week is Feb. 21-27. The event aims to celebrate how engineers make a difference in our world, increase public dialogue about the need for engineers and bring engineering to life for kids, educators, and parents.

 

Contact:
Kathleen Morton, Digital Media and Communications Manager, Colorado School of Mines / 303-273-3088 / kmorton@mines.edu
Karen Gilbert, Director of Public Relations, Colorado School of Mines / 303-273-3541 / kgilbert@mines.edu

Jeanette Alberg, Manager, Community Relations, Lockheed Martin / 303-977-5841 / jeanette.a.alberg@lmco.com
Gary Napier, Communications Manager, Lockheed Martin / 303-971-4012 / gary.p.napier@lmco.com

Consider the top 30 innovations in the last 30 years, and Tracy Camp will tell you that none of them would have happened without computer science. “Think of what computer science has done for our world,” says Camp, a computer science professor at Mines. “Online shopping, medical applications, robotic surgeries, DNA mapping—all that stuff has been created or vastly improved because of computer science.”

Camp came to Mines in 1998; since then she has moved up in her role from assistant to full professor. She currently teaches the introduction to programming course, Programming Concepts in C++. In her class, students develop a final project related to a topic they’re passionate about, such as a game or data storage utility.

Looking at Camp’s resume (25 pages of grants, awards, and publications), you might assume she knew at an early age that she wanted to be a teacher, but that wasn’t the case. Although she loved logic and math as a child, she didn’t have any interest in teaching. It wasn’t until she was ready to graduate from Michigan State University with her master’s degree in computer science that her parents encouraged her to pursue a PhD.

After receiving a PhD in computer science from the College of William and Mary, Camp began working at the University of Alabama. A few years later, she and her husband decided to move west, and Camp wanted to work at a smaller school. So, they pulled out a map of the United States, and Camp applied to four schools. Although she received three interview offers, she only accepted one of them: Mines.

When she’s not teaching, Camp is focused on three areas: technical research, educational research, and women in computing. In total, her research projects have received more than $20 million in external funding. She has been awarded more than 20 grants from the National Science Foundation (NSF), including a prestigious NSF CAREER award.

Camp is an Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) Fellow, and recently, she also became an Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Fellow for her contributions to wireless networking. “Within my research area, there are only eight women that are both ACM and IEEE fellows,” Camp said. “I am the first ACM fellow at Mines and the first IEEE female fellow at Mines. We need more!”

The lack of women in Camp’s field is something she works on here at Mines. “Research shows that a diverse team creates a better product, so we need diverse teams. And to accomplish that, we need more women at the table,” she said.

To that end, Camp works with the CRA-W (Computing Research Association—Women). She also serves as the faculty advisor for the ACM women’s student chapter at Mines, through which she founded “Discovering Technology,” an after-school STEM program for elementary school girls that includes computer science education. Approximately 300 girls in grades 3-6 visit Mines each semester to learn about a different science and engineering topic. The program has been so successful that Camp is expanding it to include a separate day for girls in grades 7-8.

“We’re currently at about 13 percent female computer science undergraduate students at Mines, which is a bit less than the roughly 15 percent national average,” Camp said. “My goal is to move Mines to 25 percent women in both the computer science major and the computer science minor by 2020.”

 

Contact:

Kathleen Morton, Digital Media & Communications Manager / 303-273-3088 / kmorton@mines.edu
Karen Gilbert, Director of Public Relations / 303-273-3541 / kgilbert@mines.edu

Travis Ramos, an environmental engineering student, was selected along with 21 undergraduates from diverse institutions to spend a fall semester as part of the study abroad program, Sea Education Association (SEA). Ramos spent six weeks onshore in the oceanographic research community of Woods Hole, Massachusetts, before spending another six weeks on a 135-foot tall vessel studying the sea creatures below him and traveling between the islands of New Zealand.

We asked Ramos about his experience at SEA, what he learned and what he has planned for his remaining time at Mines.

Why did you apply for Sea Education Association Semester?

I chose to apply for Sea Education Association (SEA) because I wanted a travel experience on top of an academic adventure. SEA offered a domestic component in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, a premier scientific research community, and an international component sailing on a 135-foot tall ship. That combination, paired with the ability to earn academic credit, made SEA hard to ignore.

Why did you choose this particular program?

This particular program, The Global Ocean, tied together science, history, and leadership in a very attractive way that fit well into my environmental engineering track at Mines. Having the shore component first and then the sea component second also made sense to me from a learning progression standpoint. The opportunity to visit different parts of New Zealand through various port stops was also a factor.

What did you learn in Massachusetts?

In Woods Hole, Massachusetts we completed the shore component of the program. During the shore component we did our initial work for our research projects at sea. My project was based on ocean currents, seawater chemistry, and the bathymetry of the northeast waters of New Zealand. Throughout our classes, we focused on the Ocean Health Index (OHI)—a tool developed by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute (WHOI) to access the health of the world’s oceans annually, and prepared work to take with us to sea to gather data for the OHI. We also learned about ocean navigation, oceanography and sailing techniques. For all of the five classes we took onshore, we developed drafts of our papers and had to perform all our initial research, as there was no Internet access on the ship.

What was it like doing lab work on a research vessel?

Lab work on the research vessel was very demanding. The lab room was constantly swaying with equipment shifting and your balance was a challenge to maintain. But being able to process samples directly from the ocean next to you and see creatures under a microscope that you scooped out of the water literally minutes ago was thrilling. We would deploy meter, Neuston nets and the Hydrocast (big piece of equipment that would measure seawater chemistry parameters) during the day and in the middle of the night. The ocean was our lab and our ship was just a means to process anything we gathered. It was a blast having the opportunity to collect data in a way much different than I’ve ever done before.

What was it like studying with students from different schools?

In my program I was the only engineering student with everyone else majoring in fields ranging from environmental science to communications. I was able to bring an entirely different perspective to the group because of my academic background. At Mines, I’m used to constantly studying and doing schoolwork, which prepared me well for what was demanded of us at SEA. Most others were accustomed to different workloads, but they taught me to relax a little in my studies and enjoy the experience. It was great to have different backgrounds mix together to learn about different approaches to not only enjoying the SEA life, but also appreciating other opportunities of the academic experience.  

What kind of food did you eat on the ship?

The kitchen of the ship was known as the “galley,” which had a stewardess that did the cooking for the entire crew. Each student got the turn to be assistant steward for an entire day, helping the stewardess prepare all the food. When my turn came around, we made burritos for breakfast, Buffalo wings for lunch, and steak with mashed potatoes and salad for dinner. The typical meal schedule would consist of breakfast based on your “watch,” snack around 10 a.m., lunch based on your “watch,” snack around 3 p.m., dinner based on your “watch,” and then midnight snack prepared for each “watch.” We ate all sorts of things—from tuna poke to shakshuka (a dish of eggs poached in a sauce of tomatoes, chili peppers and onions)—it was always a surprise at mealtime. For Thanksgiving, we had a huge feast, with everyone contributing their favorite recipes as well as three whole turkeys for the crew and guests. I can say with certainty we did not go hungry on the ship.

What were some of the rewarding parts of the trip?

The most rewarding parts of the trip came with the small victories in integrating into the ship’s company. We had to learn how to tie knots useful for sailing, the locations of lines, names of sails, conduct boat checks, prepare weather and navigation reports for the ship, and perform oceanographic research all while attempting not to let seasickness get the best of us, balancing with the swaying seas, and managing our time with our demanding watch schedules. Being able to do these things not only individually, but also with others was definitely a challenge, but something that we all felt a reward in accomplishing. It was also rewarding to arrive at a port stop after working hard at sea and to take in the sights and get some well-deserved rest.

What challenges did you encounter?

By far the most difficult thing to get accustomed to on the ship were the watch schedules. Our ship’s crew was divided into three “watches”—A, B, and C—in which we took turns operating the ship through steering the helm, being on bow lookout, running boat and engine room checks, navigating, preforming lab research, and helping man the engine room. The watches would rotate through the shifts, each getting different times when their turn would come around. I always thought that “night watch” (1700-2100) was the most taxing, because then your next turn would be “morning watch” (0700-1200) and you would only realistically be operating at a maximum of six hours of sleep. Finding time to rest up was the real challenge, and I was constantly finding ways to sneak naps in throughout the day.

Other challenges included balancing our academic workload with the ship life and growing our “sea legs” (the ability to walk steadily on the deck of a boat or ship) during the first week onboard.

What did you learn in your research on the vessel?

Through the research we did onboard I realized how abundant our oceans really are. In our net tows we captured so many zooplankton that it gave a generous indication of the diversity and quantity of life in that region of the global ocean. We were also able to observe how water chemistry parameters were associated with productivity and abundance parameters—for example how water temperature was linked to chlorophyll-a concentrations.

My particular research project looked at how variations of water chemistry, bathymetry, water masses, and ocean currents were connected in the northeast Pacific Ocean region of New Zealand. My partner and I were able to use depth sensing programs and other interesting equipment onboard to collect and relate all the data. It was definitely a big learning curve but we were able to understand it all by the end with the help of the chief and assistant scientists.

What was your favorite place to travel and why?

My favorite port stop along the trip was at Bay of Islands in Russell, New Zealand. It was our first port stop of the trip, but it was nice to get on land for a little bit and stretch out our legs. The area has such a rich whaling and traditional Maori history and it was very apparent throughout both towns with museums, sculptures and community identity.

What wildlife did you see?

At sea we saw all sorts of mega fauna and zooplankton. There were birds such as shearwaters and albatrosses; fish such as Mola mola, pilot whales and tuna (which we caught a few of to eat); and zooplankton such as salps, crab larvae and jellyfish.

It was also breathtaking when we would have dolphins swim along with our ship and jump out of the water. But the thing I was most fascinated with was the bioluminescence of the plankton in the oceans at night. When the conditions were right at night, our ship would hit swells in the oceans and light up the water along with organisms that would be floating along. It was almost surreal to be out in the vast open ocean and yet be surrounded by so much life.

Do you think this experience will change your studies or experiences at Mines? 

This experience has certainly made me think about plenty of new things—from graduate school options in ocean engineering and oceanography to my passion for sailing. It was an adventure but also an academic challenge that pushed me to rely not only on myself, but my shipmates as well. I’m not sure if I would have gotten the same experience in such a dynamic environment anywhere else. It will give me an outlook at Mines to take everything in that I can, to not be afraid to rely on others, and to keep my head up through the hard times.

What do you have planned for this semester at Mines?

At Mines I plan to continue pursuing my environmental engineering degree. New experiences and this trip have also made me strongly consider double-majoring in civil engineering, so that is something I might soon turn my sights to as well. I also plan on continuing to be involved with Blue Key, the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE), the Harvey Scholars Program, and the Phillips 66 Shield Scholars Program—as well as exploring other clubs and organizations that interest me.

 

Contact:

Kathleen Morton, Digital Media & Communications Manager / 303-273-3088 / kmorton@mines.edu
Karen Gilbert, Director of Public Relations / 303-273-3541 / kgilbert@mines.edu

GOLDEN, Colo., Jan. 19, 2016 – What would you design and build with $2,000? How about $30,000? Colorado School of Mines and Newmont Mining Corporation want to see what products students can develop that will make the mine of the future safer, more sustainable, energy efficient and environmentally sound. On Jan.

Geology graduate student Rania Eldam started brainstorming the idea for a children’s book two years ago at an Association for Women Geoscientists meeting.

“We don’t see many children’s book series where little girls are the main characters and aren’t pretty princesses or fairies,” Eldam said. “It’s always been so important to me to merge those two ideas. I was the girl that wore princess dresses, but my mom would get furious with me because I’d also be in the dirt scrounging around for plants or rocks.”

Eldam created two main characters: MD (a little girl) and her best friend Finn the fox. Together, they go on adventures and learn how to solve daily problems. Through their experiences, they discover how machines work, how to read maps and what creates solar energy. In each of her books, there will be a different STEM focus and the characters will represent diverse races, ages, and disabilities.

“Rania’s aiming to do something different than other children's books in that she focuses on real-world scenarios and gives children ideas about how to approach something like baking a cake or building a treehouse, while sneaking in technical skills like measuring and matching shapes,” said Geological and Geology Associate Professor Kamini Singha. “She's really pushing something innovative by providing a wide-range of role models looking at applicable problems; I hope it will encourage a more diverse group of kids to think about STEM careers in their futures."

When Eldam is looking for an outlet to deal with the stresses of graduate school, she starts writing.

“I put my head into a 7-year-old girl’s head,” Eldam said. “I want to show girls that no matter what they’re interested in—whether it’s playing outside in the dirt or reading books—they don’t necessarily have to get English degrees.”

Eldam can relate to that. She grew up as the youngest of three children and the only girl. She knew she loved reading and writing, but didn’t know what to do with it. She decided to attend New York University and later, University of Texas at Austin (UT) for screenwriting.

“I had all of these people telling me to find a career and that I could always write on the side. I was trying to find something that morphed it together,” Eldam said.

After taking several classes at UT to figure out what she wanted to major in, she took a geology class and fell in love with the story of how the Earth was formed. In fall 2014, Eldam started graduate school at Mines.

Eldam soon became interested in the fields of fluid-rock interactions, metasomatism and deformation in subduction zones as related to geochemical cycling, stable isotope geochemistry and high-T petrology. In March, she will defend her thesis involving elemental cycling and depth-dependent geochemical variations within the Gordon Gulch watershed in the Boulder Creek Critical Zone Observatory.

After graduate school, Eldam aims to set an example for young girls outside of her books by pursuing a career in science.

Eldam finished writing the first book in her series: MD and Finn Go Camping in December and plans to publish a hardcover and paperback version of the book in the spring. Her Kickstarter ends Jan. 8. Ten percent of the proceeds of book sales will benefit Rocky Mountain National Park’s Rocky Mountain Conservancy. To order a book and receive updates on her project, visit Eldam’s personal website.

 

Contact:
Kathleen Morton, Digital Media and Communications Manager, Colorado School of Mines | 303-273-3088 | kmorton@mines.edu
Karen Gilbert, Director of Public Relations, Colorado School of Mines | 303-273-3541 | kgilbert@mines.edu

Imagining cookie crumbs as dirt and gummy worms as organic matter, Colorado School of Mines students introduced elementary school students to the concept of oil and gas formation in one of several science demonstrations held during the 6th Annual Math & Science Night at Shelton Elementary on Nov. 4.

Mines students had a large presence at the math and science expo: The Water-Energy, Science and Technology (WE²ST) Center ran nine stations and several other Mines student organizations also participated. Shelton’s Math & Science Night provides parents and students a fun, engaging and hands-on learning environment with the goal to get students excited about math and science.

Karen Brown, principal of Shelton, attributed the success of the program to the participation of Mines students. “We are so thrilled to have built a partnership with Mines and its students,” said Brown.

“Since its inception, Shelton’s Math and Science Night has always been well attended because of the expertise and fun the Mines students, as well as other presenters, bring to the table,” Brown continued. “They are also great role models for our students.”

According to Andrea Blaine, assistant director of WE²ST, “one of the strongest aspects of WE²ST’s participation was our ability to establish a meaningful connection between Mines and the larger community. Our presence at the event allowed us to educate children and adults on important current environmental topics, such as water and energy, in a non-threatening, fun atmosphere.”

In addition to the edible “fossil fuels” demonstration, students used a four-foot square model to see the paths of water within a watershed and community at the EnviroScape station and received hands-on experience learning about osmosis, the properties of gasses, aquifer sand tanks, and water use in the U.S. compared to other countries.

“It really is fantastic and wonderful that Shelton offers this type of thing,” said Alison Bodor, a Shelton Elementary School parent, who complimented WE²ST in particular on their organization.

Mines Blasterbotica Team, dressed like cowboys for the event’s Wild West theme, also had a large number of participants. They demonstrated how robots could be used for mining in space exploration.

Mines’ Nao robot, “Gold,” was a star attraction for the children. Mechanical Engineering Professor John Steele encouraged his student Steven Emerson to participate and showcase the robot.

“She was a big hit. The kids seemed a little awestruck when she did her choreographed demo,” Emerson said. He also noted that teaming up with the Mines Society of Asian Scientists and Engineers (SASE) chapter helped, as they provided other demos that allowed the robot time to cool off between groups of children.

Mines Society of Geophysicists, Society of Physics Students, Society of Women Engineers, the Integrated GroundWater Modeling Center at Mines, and the Re-Inventing the Nation’s Urban Water Infrastructure (ReNUWIt) Research Center also set up hands-on learning demonstrations for the students of Shelton Elementary School.

 

Contact:
Deirdre Keating, Information Specialist, College of Engineering & Computational Sciences | 303-384-2358 | dkeating@mines.edu
Karen Gilbert, Director of Public Relations, Colorado School of Mines | 303-273-3541 | kgilbert@mines.edu

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