STEM PBL News Archives


Co-PI Judy Donnelly Publishes a PBL article in Photonics Spectra.

March 2013

You can view the article, Problem Based Learning in Photonics Education, here!


NEBHE Receives Third Grant in Problem Based Learning: Launching Advanced Manufacturing PBL

September 2012

The New England Board of Higher Education (NEBHE) was awarded a three-year $900,000 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) for a New England-wide project titled Problem Based Learning (PBL) in Advanced Manufacturing: Transforming 21st Century Technician Education. Funding is provided through the NSF’s Advanced Technological Education (ATE) program to improve science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education.To address the shortage of skilled workers in New England, the NEBHE project will develop a series of authentic multimedia case studies in advanced manufacturing in collaboration with regional industry partners. These instructional materials will focus on sustainable practices in advanced manufacturing in fields such as aerospace, optics, precision measurement, medical devices and nanotechnology, and will provide professional development activities for high school and college in-service educators.


STEM PBL Capstone Workshop Held at the Denver HI-TEC Conference in Colorado

July 2012

The STEM PBL PI team hosted a pre-conference Capstone Workshop at the annual High Impact Technology Exchange Conference (HI-TEC), held this year in Denver, CO. Participation in the Capstone Workshop was offered to any STEM PBL instructor who field-tested a STEM PBL or PHOTON PBL Challenge in its entirety. The following STEM PBL participants were able to join the PI Team for the Capstone Workshop in Denver: Vincent DiTaranto of Quinsigamond Community College in MA, Debie Lesko of South River High School in MD, Alexander Pancic of the English High School in MA, Christine Roberson of the Columbia Area Career Center in MO, and Nathan Usrey of Taft Union High School in CA. Two Central Connecticut State University (CCSU) students, Joseph Amarante and Elizabeth Chatis, also attended the conference, having participated in a pre-service PBL course at CCSU developed by the project. Joe and Liz have developed a PBL Challenge in collaboration with students in the in-service PBL course at CCSU, which they presented at the pre-conference Capstone Workshop and at the general conference.Participants in the Capstone Workshop presented their work on the STEM PBL project to the PI Team and their peers in a pre-conference workshop held on July 24, 2012. STEM PBL instructors also had an opportunity to present their experiences implementing the STEM PBL and PHOTON PBL Challenges in their classrooms during a panel presentation at the general conference, moderated by STEM PBL PI Fenna Hanes, on July 25, 2012. The panel session was attended by over 50 HI-TEC participants.The following day co-PIs Judy Donnelly and Nick Massa demonstrated the RSL Fiber Systems Challenge during a general conference session. CCSU undergraduate students Joseph Amarante and Elizabeth Chatis presented the Challenge they developed at CCSU, which focused on redesigning a congested highway in Connecticut in collaboration with Connecticut Department of Transportation, during the same session.

STEM PBL participants during a panel presentation moderated by PI Fenna Hanes at the High Impact Technology Exchange Conference (HI-TEC) in Denver, CO.

From Left to Right: STEM PBL Participants Christine Roberson, Alexander Pancic, Nathan Usrey, Deborah Lesko, Vincent DiTaranto and STEM PBL PI Fenna Hanes.


STEM PBL Annual Advisory Committee Meeting Held at NEBHE

May 2012

This year’s annual meeting, held on May 11, 2012, culminated three years of Advisory Committee member support of the STEM PBL project. Many of the committee members, in addition to representatives from our participating schools, were in attendance this year. Participant Steve Martin of Ponaganseet High School in R.I. joined us to discuss his work in problem based learning in a wood working technology class, which included the building of a solar shed for his school. Participating professor Vincent DiTaranto of Quinsigamond Community College in Mass. and undergraduate student Matthew Popelka shared their work at the community college level, while participating professor Susan Mooney of Stonehill College in Mass., along with undergraduate students Gabriella Gobiel and Andrew Norkiewitz, detailed their field experience with problem based learning at the 4-year college level, which included a class trip to the Everglades in order to explore and solve real-world problems in South Florida.In addition to learning about what these participating instructors and their corresponding students have been doing with the STEM PBL materials over the last few years, we also met Elizabeth Chatis and Joseph Amarante, technology and engineering education undergraduate students at Central Connecticut State University, who participated in a PBL undergraduate course developed by the project. In collaboration with students enrolled in the STEM PBL in-service graduate course at CCSU, Joe and Liz produced a PBL Challenge of their own focused on the Department of Transportation in Connecticut.We would like to thank all of our Advisory Committee members for their dedication to the project over the last three years. To learn more about the STEM PBL Advisory Committee members, please visit the STEM PBL project page.


STEM PBL Co-PI Judith Donnelly Receives OSA Esther Hoffman Beller Medal for Excellence in Optical Science and Engineering Education

April, 2012

The STEM PBL team is pleased to announce that the Optical Society of America (OSA) has selected Co-PI Judith Donnelly, professor of physics/laser and fiber optics at Three Rivers Community College in Connecticut, as the winner of the 2012 Esther Hoffman Beller Award. Donnelly is the first community college instructor to receive the award, presented for outstanding dedication to engaging middle, high school and college students in optical science and engineering education.


NEBHE Hosts EPA Green Roundtable Event

March, 2012

On March 21, 2012 forty regional professionals working in education, green jobs, and sustainability gathered at NEBHE to participate in roundtable discussion with EPA Regional Administrator Curt Spalding, hosted by The White House, the Environmental Protection Agency and the New England Board of Higher Education (NEBHE). During the EPA Green Roundtabl event participants discussed energy, the economy, and the environment, and how these areas intersect with green jobs and education.


STEM PBL Featured in Central Connecticut State University’s (CCSU) Newsletter

December, 2011
The CCSU Courier featured STEM PBL collaborators James DeLaura, professor and department chair of the Technology and Engineering Education (TEE) department at CCSU, and Michele Dischino, associate professor, TEE, for their work in problem based learning. As part of the STEM PBL project DeLaura and Dischino have developed and piloted two courses (a pre- and in-service course) in problem based learning education at the University. Teaching Technology and Engineering Education, a pre-service course for undergraduate students, is now a required course for students enrolled in TEE degree programs.For more information about CCSU’s involvement in the STEM PBL project, click here!


STEM PBL Advisory Committee Chair Elected to SPIE Senior Membership

July, 2011

Congratulations to PHOTON PBL Advisor and STEM PBL Advisory Committee Chair, Barbara Darnell, who was elected to SPIE Senior Membership in July! Click here to read her profile, published last month in SPIE Professional.


STEM PBL Co-PI Dr. Nicholas Massa Interviewed on RETN, Vt.

July 6, 2011
Dr. Massa, a STEM PBL Co-PI and professor of laser electro-optics technology at Springfield Technical Community College, was interviewed in Burlington, Vermont on July 6, 2011 on the Regional Educational Technology Network (RETN). Massa presented effective instructional alternatives in STEM education that engage students, introducing the STEM PBL FloDesign Challenge as an example of a problem based learning activity in practice. Doug Webster, State Coordinator of Career & Technical Education for the Vermont Department of Education, President of the National Association for Workforce Improvement (NAWI), and a STEM PBL Advisory Committee Member, interviewed Massa. The 27-minute show can be found on both the RETN network website, as well as the Vermont Department of Education’s website.


Windham Works: STEM PBL Co-PI and Challenge Partner Discuss Optics and Photonics Industry on Charter TV and WILI, Conn.

June 22, 2011

Windham State Representative Susan Johnson invited Judy Donnelly, STEM PBL Co-PI at Three Rivers Community College (center), Nathan White, an engineer with RSL Fiber Systems, a STEM PBL Challenge Partner (right), and Todd Farrell, an electronics teacher at Windham Technical High School (left), to discuss the CTOPA (Connecticut Optics & Photonics Association) and the optics/photonics industry in Connecticut. Check out the video from Charter Community Access TV. The two were also interviewed on WILI in February 2011. “Let’s Talk About It,” a public broadcasting radio show hosted by Connecticut state representative Susan Johnson and her husband Dennis O’Brien, also aired on public television. The show covered the optics and photonics industry in Connecticut, as well as the RSL program at Three Rivers Community College, where Donnelly teaches.


Participating South River High School Stands Out with STEM Magnet Program, Md.
June 20, 2011

Deborah Lesko, a participating STEM PBL instructor who teaches science and problem based learning at South River High School in Maryland, has implemented several of the STEM PBL Challenges in her problem based learning class, a part of the STEM Magnet Program featured in the Crofton Patch.


STEM PBL Instructor’s Students Win Real World Design Challenge, Vt.
May 19, 2011
Students from South Burlington High School, led by participating STEM PBL instructor Stephen Barner, took the top three places in the Real World Design Challenge Governor’s Cup competition in Vermont. The students were tasked with designing a wing for a business jet aircraft.Barner, whose students have taken the top prize in the state Challenge over each of the last three years, was awarded “Technology Educator of the Year” at the 2011 Vermont Design Technology Education Association’s annual meeting.


EPA Awards TTF Watershed Partnership with Environmental Achievement, Pa.
April 13, 2011

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) honored the Tookany/Tacony-Frankford (TTF) Watershed Partnership, a STEM PBL Challenge partner, with a prestigious Mid-Atlantic Region Environmental Achievement Award. TTF, a local environmental organization serving parts of Philadelphia and Montgomery Counties, was one of six nonprofit and volunteer organizations from the region recognized by the EPA with this annual award at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia on April 13,2011. The TTF Watershed Challenge has been field-tested in high schools and colleges across the country.

Tookany/Tacony-Frankford Watershed Partnership staff and Board President accept award from the U.S. EPA.
From left to right: Shawn Garvin, EPA Regional Administrator; Ashley Schmid, TTF Outreach Coordinator; Sarah RobbGrieco, TTF Executive Director; Katie Donnelly, TTF Associate Director; Lesley Saliga, TTF Model Neighborhood Liaison; Gerald Kaufman, TTF Board President.


STEM PBL Instructor Honored with Japan-US Fulbright Scholarship for Sustainable Development, Calif.
February 2011
Nathan Usrey, an integrated science teacher at Taft Union High School in California was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship in the Japan-U.S. Teacher Exchange Program for Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) in part for his involvement in the STEM PBL project. Usrey has field-tested several STEM PBL Challenges in his classroom since the project’s inception and is not only dedicated to integrating PBL into his own classes, but into the Taft Union High School class environment as a whole. The mission of the Japan-US ESD program is to is to raise awareness around ESD-related school programs, enhance ESD-related curricula in both countries, and deepen the global connection and cooperation between teachers in the U.S. and Japan. The program invited its awardees to participate in a Joint Conference in San Francisco, May 1-4, 2011, as well as a corresponding program in Japan in June 21-July 5, 2011, including a Joint Conference in Tokyo.


STEM PBL Partner RSL Fiber Systems Receives Technology Innovation Award, Conn.
January 27, 2011
RSL Fiber Systems, a STEM PBL Challenge partner, was awarded the prestigious North American Technology Leader of the Year award in 2010 by global research leader Frost & Sullivan. RSL was presented with the award in February 2011 at the annual Excellence in Best Practices Awards Banquet in New Orleans, LA. The “Best Practices” awards recognize both global and regional companies for demonstrating outstanding achievement and superior performance in their industry. Based on extensive analysis, RSL’s remote source lighting technology was chosen for the award based on uniqueness, innovation, and it’s impact on new products and applications, functionality, and customer value. The RSL Fiber Systems Challenge has been field-tested in high schools and colleges across the country. New Green College Majors Added to NEBHE’s Tuition Break Program!We have an extended list of Green college majors offered through the NEBHE Tuition Break program for New England residents. This program was described in our Fall 2010 STEM PBL News publication. Women in STEMThe website of the National Institute for Women in Trades, Technology and Science has a number of resources for educators who want to increase their recruitment and retention rate for female students in the STEM disciplines. It includes both general proven practices and information about several successful projects.

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