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Motorola Innovation Grant Awarded to UMass Lowell

Funds Will Help Support High School Physics and Math Curricula

03/04/2009
By For more information, contact media@uml.edu or 978-934-3224

(3/4/09)

A program designed to build a research and learning network between UMass Lowell graduate students in engineering, sciences and education and students and teachers at Lawrence and Lowell high schools is among 92 programs around the nation that recently received a Motorola Foundation Innovation Generation Grant.

The $50,000 grant will support the Vibes and Waves in Action program and develop interactive laboratory and computer experiments in audio and radio communications. The experiments will be implemented in the high schools by the graduate students.

“This grant will allow us to bring sophisticated equipment, such as network and spectrum analyzers and software radios, into high school classrooms and engage students in hands-on experiments while educating them on the future of communications technology,” says Electrical & Computer Engineering Prof. Kavitha Chandra, who directs the project. “At the same time, graduate students become more perceptive on how to communicate their research to a diverse audience and serve as mentors to the young students.”

Five students in master’s and doctoral degree programs in the Center for Advanced Computation and Telecommunications have been working with physics teachers and ninth-grade students at Lowell High School and the Lawrence High School for Math, Science and Technology for more than a year to introduce research topics, tools and experiments that support the schools’ physics and mathematics curricula.

Last fall, the semester’s activity culminated in poster presentations by freshman physics students at Lawrence High School’s annual Science Fair. Using the topic of tsunamis to build understanding of the concepts of waves, momentum and energy transfer, students learned how to use the Internet for research, develop Wiki pages on their projects and work in teams to create the posters.

“We value the work that this program is doing for young people in the Lawrence and Lowell community,” says Eileen Sweeney, Motorola Foundation director. “Motorola and UMass Lowell recognize that young people have an appetite for new technology, though they may not make the connection between the science and math skills that go into creating the cool tech products they use every day. With our Innovation Generation partners, we help students make that critical connection and spark a spirit of discovery that will drive the future of innovation.”

The Vibes and Waves program, two years in development, has forged stronger connections between researchers in the Graduate School of Education and College of Engineering, according to Dr. Judith Boccia, director of UMass Lowell’s Office of School Partnerships and the program’s co-director. 

“High school teachers and students are eager for hands-on science experiments with sophisticated equipment to enhance their curriculum and extend their understanding of complicated topics,” says Boccia. “The graduate students bring these exciting lessons to the classrooms and, at the same time, model what it’s like to be a scientist. Teachers value the extra help in the classroom and the opportunity to learn themselves about cutting-edge research. In the long term, we hope a good number of the high schoolers who’ve had the Vibes and Waves in Action experience will choose to study science or engineering in college, and ideally choose to do so at UMass Lowell.”

The photo above shows, from left, UMass Lowell graduate student Wei-En Hsu; Lawrence ninth-graders Kristopher Farraher, Natashia Maldonado, Mark Gray, Elizabeth Cruz, Jerisson Delacruz and Tiffany Roman; Donna Chevaire, district math principal for Lawrence public schools; UMass Lowell graduate student Ambika Bhatta; and UMass Lowell Engineering Prof. Kavitha Chandra.

- Edwin_Aguirre