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Nov. 6, 2006

Also Contact:  Jennifer Hanson, 978-934-3108 or

LOWELL -- UMass Lowell’s Asst. Prof. Fred Martin, a resident of Concord, MA, was recently awarded a $600,000, five-year CAREER grant from the National Science Foundation.  CAREER grants are awarded to promising pre-tenure faculty researchers to support their early work.  The funds will help Martin bring a new perspective on science education to middle schools.

“Traditionally, the scientific method is taught in middle schools as something orderly, and experiments are done simply as confirmation of known answers,” says Martin, assistant professor of computer science. “Science is rigorous, but not orderly.”

As part of his work, Martin conducts teacher courses and workshops in which he encourages the educators to ask questions they are interested in, without a known answer.  He then challenges them to find the answers.  Examples of lessons include the use of a Cricket processor (a device he co-invented at MIT) to build light and temperature sensors which can help solve questions such as “does coffee with milk cool more slowly than black?” and “does ceiling insulation make a difference in heat loss?”.

In addition, Martin is developing embedded Web technology for programming and documentation of projects, so that teachers can leverage each other’s work.

The award will support two graduate students to work on extending the technology and investigate educational research. Projects are being integrated into three education courses at the UMass Lowell Graduate School of Education (GSE), one of them online. Teachers participating in workshops will receive stipends and materials for classroom use.

Martin has been piloting his ideas with the GSE, particularly with science educator Prof. Anita Greenwood. The GSE will continue as a partner on the grant.  

UMass Lowell, a comprehensive university with a national reputation in science, engineering and technology, is committed to educating students for lifelong success in a diverse world and conducting research and outreach activities that sustain the economic, environmental and social health of the region. UML offers its 11,000 students more than 120 degree choices, internships, five-year combined bachelor’s to master’s programs and doctoral studies in the colleges of Arts and Sciences, Engineering and Management, the School of Health and Environment, and the Graduate School of Education.
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For more information, contact or 978-934-3224