OCtech Students Attend NASA Workshop

3/26/2012

Seven students from Orangeburg-Calhoun Technical College (OCtech) attended the 4th Annual NASA Educator Workshop for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) at Cochrane Collegiate Academy in Charlotte, NC last week. The workshop spanned over 3 days and included activities, educational sessions and keynote speakers at the end of each day.

Shaniqua Colter attended the workshop and had a great experience. “The activities really made me think outside of the box,” Colter said. “I also enjoyed the fellowship with other students. That was really beneficial.”

Antione Howell, a former marine, decided to return to school after 20 years. “I was never a fan of science and math because of how it was presented to me in school years ago,” said Howell. “After this workshop, I now have a different opinion on that. NASA did a wonderful job using their new technologies to make STEM interesting.”

These workshops continue to blend STEM disciplines by exploring engineering design challenges, problem-based learning activities, distance learning modules, inquiry-based lessons, and hands-on projects. This workshop was designed to attract and retain students in STEM disciplines through a progression of educational opportunities for students, teachers, and faculty. Using education resources related to past, current, and future missions, NASA provides this opportunity to discover the learning potential in trying new approaches to the seemingly difficult or impossible.

OCtech, along with Claflin University, was recently awarded a grant that made it possible for students to attend the workshop. The Curriculum Improvement Partnership Award for the Integration of Research (CIPAIR) grant into the Undergraduate Curriculum Project was designed to benefit Minority Institutions (MIs), NASA and the Nation by providing grant support to promote curriculum development in aerospace-related disciplines. CIPAIR also provides MIs project management instruction/modules for existing coursework and for developing new courses leading to concentrations, certifications and/or majors in project management. These grants are meant to strengthen and improve the curricula of selected two-year and four-year MIs in academic fields and technical programs directly related to the STEM disciplines. The grant will also help increase and retain the number of underrepresented and underserved students on the pre-collegiate and collegiate levels that study STEM and that choose careers in NASA-related disciplines.

In addition to enabling students to go to workshops, the grant has also helped fund student internship work in the Chemistry Department at Claflin University and at various NASA research centers over the summer. OCtech has also recently been able to incorporate a surveying and mapping component within the Engineering Graphics program. Students are currently working on surveying and mapping the entire campus and its buildings and then importing the information into a 3D graphics program that produces a detailed 3D model of the campus, right down to the last detail of every classroom and office.

With grants like CIPAIR, OCtech is able to improve the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) skills of future educators who will one day encourage students to explore their surroundings here on earth and beyond.

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