Math, science made more exciting

09/20/2006
By From the Boston Globe

By James Vaznis, Globe Staff  

Nearly 270 of the most accomplished high school students in this region will go to the University of Massachusetts at Lowell this fall for a new math and science academy.

At the Technology, Engineering, and Math-Science Academy -- or TEAMS Academy -- students will answer such questions as ``Can the sun really cook your food?" Students working in small groups will have 90 minutes to design, build, and test their own solar oven.

Students also will discover practical uses for probability and statistics. In one case, they will determine how safe a computer password is from random guesses of a hacker. In another case, they will convince a jury how the results of a DNA test could be wrong.

The goal of the academy is to offer students course work not available at their high schools and to get students excited about those subjects. The courses will encompass such topics as alternative energy, crime scene investigation, and robotics. Participation is open to sophomores at the invitation of their school districts.

``There is a highly publicized shortage of students in the math and science fields," said Donald Pierson, dean of the university's Graduate School of Education. ``This is one approach to generate further interest there."

Students will be coming from 14 cities and towns: Andover, Bedford, Billerica, Chelmsford, Dracut, Haverhill, Lawrence, Littleton, Lowell, Methuen, North Reading, Reading, Tewksbury, and Tyngsborough.

The program was developed by faculty at some of their schools along with those at the university's Graduate School of Education, the College of Engineering, and the College of Arts and Sciences. The university faculty brings cutting-edge research to the program while high school teachers bring the expertise of designing lessons and the knowledge of how to connect with students younger than those on college campuses, Pierson said.

The academy is based on a similar full-time academy at Worcester Polytechnical Institute. Students at the University of Massachusetts, however, will go to the campus for three sessions in October and November. The university and its partner school districts might create a more extensive program next year for high school juniors.

The academy, which has been in the planning stages since last October, is funded through a $150,000 state grant that was secured by state Senator Steven Panagiotakos , a Lowell Democrat.

In a prepared release, Panagiotakos stated, ``We know that we need to grow our talent in the Merrimack Valley to ensure our kids will capture the jobs of the future -- in engineering, nanotechnology, and biotechnology."