What’s New Archives

Past events from the Advanced Manufacturing (AM) PBL Project will be stored here. To see recent past and upcoming events please visit our What’s New page.

July 13-14th The PBL Projects team held a showcase of the PBL implementation work done by participants of last year’s Advanced Manufacturing Summer Professional Development Institute. Industry representatives, students, educators, administrators and AM PBL Advisory Committee members attended this event. During both Monday evening and Tuesday morning poster sessions, Showcase presenters spoke about their implementation of the AM PBL Challenges. Don Bossi, President of FIRST Robotics, delivered a keynote address on Monday evening describing the work of FIRST to engage students in exploratory learning and robotics. Bossi was followed by four members of the Westborough High School FIRST Robotics team 4048 (nicknamed RedShift), who demonstrated their crate-stacking robot earlier in the evening. On Tuesday, after a morning talk on engineering and PBL from Alexander Pancic of Brighton High School, an industry and an educator panel discussed both the benefits of PBL and the importance of critical thinking and problem solving among future (and current) students and employees. Participants in Tuesday’s breakout session discussed means of furthering the work of the PBL Projects team. We look forward to continuing our partnerships with many AM PBL participants and the Advisory Committee as we continue to disseminate PBL through professional development.

June 29-July 2, 2015 The international conference on Education and Training in Optics and Photonics (ETOP), a biennial conference supported by the Optical Society of America (OSA), SPIE, the International Commission for Optics (IOP) and IEEE Photonics, is unique in that is specifically designed for educators who teach optics/photonics. ETOP 2015 was held at the Institute d’Optique at the University of Bordeaux, France from June 29-July 2 and featured over 120 papers, plus a half dozen workshops and hands-on demonstrations. Co PIs Judy Donnelly and Nicholas Massa presented an invited keynote talk on problem based learning (PBL), varying the usual lecture presentation format somewhat by walking the audience through a PBL Challenge and inviting members to chat with their neighbors about the problem of the Challenge.  Donnelly and Massa also offered a 2-hour PBL workshop attended by 10 enthusiastic teachers, some of whom were already using the method in their classrooms. On a very hot afternoon, Donnelly presented a workshop on “Dumpster Optics”, standards-based and field tested lessons aimed at the fifth grade level that can be done with inexpensive and commonly found materials. Donnelly was assisted by Kathleen Robinson, Manager, Education Services at SPIE, who came up with the name Dumpster Optics for lessons that in many cases started out as Optics Explorations during the NEBHE PHOTON Projects. Field-testing of one of the lessons, Reflection, was highlighted in a paper delivered by Donnelly and Nancy Magnani of EASTCONN, a Connecticut Regional Educational Service Center.

June 3-5, 2015  The PBL Projects team facilitated a follow-up workshop, co-hosted by the Department of Labor, with YouthBuild educators and administrators from Hartford, Newark and Providence. Educators and administrators spent the 2 and 1/2 day workshop, held in Boston, Massachusetts, adapting the PBL Projects materials (e.g. the Whiteboards), and creating their own concept maps to best fit their institution’s needs and serve their students’ learning styles. Participants were able to collaborate with one another and with the PBL Project team to further their PBL implementation and student-centered learning. To see images from the event, visit our gallery page!

May 20, 2015 Co-PIs Nicholas Massa and Michele Dischino presented “PBL and Beyond-Taking Problem-Based Learning to the Next Level” at the National Alliance for Workforce Improvement’s (NAWI) 2015 Annual Conference in Saratoga Springs, New York, aimed at creating pathways for educating qualified maker professionals.

May 13, 2015  NEBHE hosted an Advanced Manufacturing Problem-Based Learning (AM PBL) Workshop and Society of Manufacturing Engineering’s (SME) Bright Minds Program at EASTEC (Eastern States Exposition Center). The PBL workshop was part of SME’s Bright Minds program, a forum for engagement and collaboration among educators, industry representatives, administrators, guidance counselors and students to support the future of the advanced manufacturing workforce. Participants in the workshop arrived from institutions across the Northeast region. To see images from the event, visit our gallery page!

May 11, 2015  Project Coordinator Becky Eidelman attended The Future is Now: Building a STEAM Infrastructure in Rhode Island at Rhode Island College, organized by Carol Giuriceo, Director of the Rhode Island STEM Center and organizer of the STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art & Design, and Mathematics) Now Coalition. The Coalition’s goal is to create a non-partisan State level STEAM Council, one that reports to the Governor of Rhode Island, comprised of representatives from education, business and government that will develop a statewide STEAM plan. The conference included working sessions to discuss the organizational framework for the coalition, ways to increase outreach and secure government buy-in, and important questions for business and education professionals who work directly with future STEM students and entrepreneurs in design and science. The STEAM Coalition and Council will work together to promote STEAM readiness among Rhode Island’s students.

May 8, 2015 Project Coordinator Becky Eidelman attended the Global STEM Classroom Symposium at Blackstone Valley Regional Vocational Technical High School in Upton, Massachusetts. STEM Educators from across the region were in attendance to learn about models of Global STEM Education. Students from BVT spoke about their experience collaborating with a classroom in Arkhangelsk, Northern Arctic Circle, Russia. Instructors from both schools focused on the skills needed for global collaboration and international teamwork by using a joint STEM curriculum on electrical, plumbing, and culinary projects for NASA’s International Space Station. Speakers JD Chesloff of the Massachusetts Business Roundtable and Alan November of November Learning stressed the importance of connecting business and educational leadership to ensure that students were leaving school with relevant skills and experience to prepare them for an increasingly global workforce. Teacher effectiveness is the primary concern of the Mass. Business Roundtable, with a focus on critical thinking and hands-on experiential learning.

April 20, 2015 STEM PBL Participant Alexander Pancic was highlighted by Edutopia’s blog for his use of his own problem-solving skills and PBL Projects resources to improve his students’ learning experiences at Brighton High School in Boston, Massachusetts. Pancic first learned about PBL Projects by attending a workshop in the Boston area. The timing was fortuitous — he was just developing a new engineering elective for Brighton High. For the full story, read the post here.

April 9/10, 2015 Co-PI Nicholas Massa traveled to Trident Technical College in Charleston, South Carolina to conduct a PBL workshop for local community college engineering technology faculty, and high school STEM teachers. During the 1 and 1/2-day workshop, teachers and faculty completed two PBL challenges and collaboratively worked on creating their own PBL challenge that would integrate math, physics and manufacturing engineering. Their concept involved working with a local craft brewery to develop a strategy for automating the loading and unloading of delivery trucks to speed up delivery and reduce cost and waste. The title of the challenge was dubbed “Beer Run.” When completed, the challenge will be added to PBL Project’s Teacher Developed Challenge Library, which is currently under development.

April 9/10, 2015 Project Coordinator Becky Eidelman attended the Northeast Campus Sustainability Consortium’s (NECSC) 2015 Conference, Strengthening Ties for Collective Impact: Campus Sustainability in the Northeast Region, hosted at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.  NEBHE is proud to support NECSC’s annual conference and created publicity for the consortium before the event. The conference focused on concrete actions to support campus sustainability across New England, including efforts to support local agriculture on SUNY campuses, increase added-value foods for local farms in Franklin County, Mass., source renewable energy for campus power at Cornell, and many more initiatives that are ongoing throughout the region. Keynote speaker Mitchell Thomashaw, President Emeritus of Unity College and Senior Fellow at Second Nature, spoke of the challenges and opportunities facing college campuses across the country and the unique position that colleges are in to advance their own ecologically conscious agendas. NEBHE looks forward to continued collaboration with NECSC.

March 26/27, 2015 Co-PI Nicholas Massa returned to Kennebec Valley Community College to consult with Culinary Arts and Sustainable Agriculture faculty to review PBL implementation activities and help the faculty develop strategies to continue to develop their own Challenges in collaboration with local industry partners. This visit was a continuation of a workshop held in November 2014 as part of the PBL Projects’ partnership with the Center for Farm to Table Innovation that is funded through a TAACCT-2 (Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training) grant from the Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration.

March 7, 2015 PBL Project Assistant Sara Putnam acted as a judge in the Boston Public School Citywide Science Fair held at Northeastern University. Approximately 350 student participants attended the Science Fair from grades 6-12 from both public and pilot schools throughout Boston. Students were selected after competing in their local school science fairs and 30 winners in both the middle and senior high school divisions were invited to compete in the Massachusetts State Science Fair. Many of the Science Fair Projects tied students’ interests of music or sports creatively into lab experiments. Judges were asked to formally critique the projects, but also to act as role models and encourage students to pursue careers in STEM.

January 14/15, 2015 Administrators and Educators from YouthBuild grantee programs in Hartford, Newark, and Providence participated in an Introduction to PBL workshop. YouthBuild, which prepares low-income young people for the GED while training them in workforce readiness skills, sought to increase engagement and student learning through PBL. The PBL team and YouthBuild participants were hosted by the Department of Labor Employment and Training Administration (DOL ETA). Brighton High School teacher and former STEM PBL participant Alex Pancic discussed his own use of PBL Challenges in the classroom. He spoke about his own methods for preparing students to embark on a PBL Challenge, and how PBL gives students a context for applying the STEM content they learn in the classroom. Co-Principal Investigators Nick Massa and Judy Donnelly led YouthBuild participants in a STEM PBL Challenge during Day One of the workshop. Participants then learned about various teacher resources that are available to them when implementing Challenges developed by the PBL Projects team. PBL YouthBuild participants developed their own ideas for PBL Challenges during the workshop, and will work to finish designing and implementing these Challenges under mentorship from Co-PIs Nick Massa, Judy Donnelly, and Jim DeLaura, and Mike Gentry. A follow up workshop will take place in June in partnership with DOL/ETA and the YouthBuild grantee programs.

December 16, 2014 Karen Supan, an Assistant Professor of Engineering at Norwich University in Northfield, VT, was highlighted by her university for attending the Summer 2014 Professional Development Institute. After attending the Institute, Karen went on to field-test a PBL Challenge with her alliance partner, Sharron Prairie of Williamstown High School, and Karen also plans to implement another Challenge in the Spring Semester. The full story can be found here.

December 10, 2014 PI Fenna Hanes and Project Coordinator Becky Eidelman visited the MassBay Community College STEM Expo, where students exhibited poster boards describing their term projects in a variety of engineering disciplines. One group of students worked with AM PBL Project participant Marina Bograd, Professor of Engineering Design and Electronics Technology, to solve the IBM Challenge over a period of several weeks. The students enjoyed this unique learning experience, and when asked about the benefits of Problem Based Learning, they mentioned how having problem solving and teamwork skills will help them when working in the field. Along with an emphasis on teamwork, strategic planning, and persistent research, students cited hands-on learning as part of the “real-life” strategies they will use when working with technology. One student mentioned, “Your brain works in a different way” when approaching a problem that requires many days of research. Another student thought that the classroom was a safe environment in which to prepare to tackle a difficult Challenge similar to the problems she may encounter when working in industry. Students also remarked that it was helpful to work in teams, adding that it could be challenging to collaborate but that teams were ultimately very effective at brainstorming. NEBHE will continue its partnership with MassBay’s Engineering Department in 2015.

November 14, 2014 Co PIs Judy Donnelly and Nicholas Massa conducted a workshop on PBL in the classroom for the Sustainable Agriculture and Culinary Arts program at Kennebec Valley Community College (KVCC) in Maine. The morning session was attended by members of the program’s Industry Advisory Committee as well as five program faculty. Participants experienced the PBL instructional method through a hands-on workshop, taking the role of students as they solved the TTF Watershed Partnership and Cape Cod Cranberry Growers’ Association Challenges.

November 4, 2014 PI Fenna Hanes and Co-PI Judy Donnelly, along with Three Rivers Community College manufacturing faculty and AM-PBL participant Michael Gentry and Kelli Vallieres, AM-PBL Advisory Board Chair and President/CEO of Sound Manufacturing, co-hosted a professional development workshop for middle and high school teachers at Three Rivers Community College in Norwich, Connecticut. During the workshop, 24 STEM teachers from eastern Connecticut were introduced to problem-based learning by taking the role of students and completing the FloDesign Challenge to develop a novel method for extracting energy from a wind turbines. In addition, they were able to hear from industry speakers from the Eastern Advanced Manufacturing Alliance (EAMA) to learn more about the skills and training Connecticut’s manufacturing employers are looking for in their students. Each teacher received either a wind turbine or an electrical generator kit, and Gentry explained how these could be used to augment the Challenge in math, science and technology classes. Teachers will receive ongoing support throughout the winter months to assist them in implementing PBL in the classroom. A second workshop will be held in March. The workshops are a pilot project supported by NEBHE, EAMA, and the Eastern Workforce Investment Board (EWIB).

October 22-24, 2014 NEBHE hosted both a breakfast roundtable and workshop session on the topic“Developing Industry Driven Curricula Through Problem Based Learning” at the NSF ATE Principal Investigators Conference in Washington DC. AM PBL Principal Investigator Fenna Hanes and Co-Principal Investigator Nick Massa presented the work of the PBL Projects to breakfast roundtable and workshop session attendees. Plumbing instructor Bradley Harding of the NSF-ATE Energy Services and Technology (EST) project, an NSF ATE project at Kennebec Valley Community College in Maine, described his experience receiving training in developing problem based learning Challenges (case studies) from the PBL Projects team. Harding and Massa discussed how they worked with industry partners to address local workforce development needs in each of their locales by identifying specific real-world problems appropriate for their classrooms, and shared how their ATE projects collaborated to develop a new industry-driven PBL program at KVCC. Breakfast roundtable and workshop session participants engaged in discussions focused on resources, strategies, barriers and solutions to implementing PBL in their classrooms. Ten STEM educators attended the breakfast roundtable session and 25 attended the PBL workshop.

October 20, 2014 NEBHE congratulates PBL Projects trained instructor Bradley Harding of Kennebec Valley Community College (KVCC) in Maine for receiving the 2014 Plumbing Instructor of the Year Award!  This award is given to those who dedicate their careers to enriching the lives of students. Harding is the sole plumbing and HVAC instructor in the Energy Services and Technology Program at KVCC and uses problem-based learning (PBL) as well as real-world situations developed with industry partners in his classroom. Harding and his colleagues received professional development from the PBL Projects team in the use of the PBL Challenges (case studies), and in the development of their own PBL Challenges with local industry partners. Read the full story here.

October 10, 2014Co-PI Judy Donnelly and AM PBL Participant Matt Budge presented implementation of problem based learning in the classroom and NEBHE’s Challenges by leading nineteen middle school teachers from Sharon Center School in Sharon, Connecticut through two Challenges. Participants were able to experience the process that they would be using in the classroom and gain a clear understanding of PBL and group collaboration through the hands on approach.

August 19, 2014 Co-PI Judy Donnelly was invited to conduct a PBL workshop as part of the education program of SPIE’s International Optics and Photonics Conference in San Diego, CA. Donnelly lectured on engaging students in STEM and introduced instructors to the PBL Projects with group work on NEBHE’s PHOTON PBL PhotoMachining Challenge.

July 28, 2014 NEBHE’s New England Journal of Higher Education published The Next Generation of Makers by PBL Projects Coordinator Nicole Schepker. To subscribe to the Journal click here.

July 27-August 1, 2014 The PBL Projects team hosted an Advanced Manufacturing Problem Based Learning Summer Institute at the Boston University Photonics Center. The Institute was attended by 26 select educators from middle school, high school, two-year and four year institutions as well as 5 select STEM teacher educators.

July 24, 2014 Problem Based Learning (PBL) Co-PI’s Nicholas Massa and James DeLaura delivered a presentation titled “Transforming 21st-Century Technician Education” at the High Impact Technology Exchange  Conference (HI-TEC) in Chicago IL. The presentation focused on NEBHE’s development of the classroom-ready Advanced Manufacturing PBL Challenges  with collaboration by industrial partners.

May 22, 2014 Problem Based Learning (PBL) Co-PI Nicholas Massa and Project Coordinator Nicole Schepker presented the AM PBL Challenges to a group of secondary and post secondary instructors and industry representatives at the 49th Annual National Association for Workforce Improvement (NAWI) in Gresham, Ore.

May 12, 2014 NEBHE’s PBL Projects’ Initiative was invited to present at the STEM Smart conference held at Olin Conference in Needham, Mass.

April 9, 2014 Photonics Spectra features NEBHE’s PBL Projects and laser safety curriculum in the articleProblem Based Learning Boosts Laser Safety Training, written by Ken Barat of Laser Safety Solutions and Judy Donnelly, AM PBL Co-PI.

March 31, 2014 Kelli Vallieres, CEO of Sound Manufacturing, and Co-PI’s Judy Donnelly and James DeLaura, facilitated a PBL workshop with about 20 eastern Connecticut technical education high school teachers and middle school instructors at Three Rivers Community College in Norwich, CT.

March 28, 2014 AM PBL Challenge partner FastCAP Systems, an innovative energy company, posted videos from the Challenge recording session on their website. The videos feature the team members who solved the FastCAP Systems Challenge problem, and the Director of Operations Jamie Beard describing why FastCAP leadership sees working with NEBHE and the AM PBL project as critical to workforce preparation in the Untied States. CLICK HERE to read more.

March 26, 2014 AM PBL Challenge partner CIRTEC Medical Systems posted a video from the Challenge recording visit of Senior Director of Special Programs Heather Dunn describing contract manufacturing and the reason CIRTEC wanted to participate in the AM PBL project on CIRTEC’s Contract Medical Device Manufacturing blog.

March 15, 2014 Co-PI Judy Donnelly and Project Coordinator Nicole Schepker delivered a “learn by doing” PBL workshop to 10 physics high school and college educators at Salem State University in Salem, MA.

March 13, 2014 PI Fenna Hanes and Co-PI James DeLaura introduced about 12 Trinity College faculty members to NEBHE’s PBL methodology, multimedia PBL Challenges, teacher resources and student resources in Hartford, CT.

March 2014 Kelli-Marie Vallieres, CEO of Sound Manufacturing and Monster Power Equipment, an AM PBL Challenge partner, was featured in the UCONN Neag School of Education’s newsletter, Spotlight. Vallieres, a long time collaborator of NEBHE’s PBL Projects, describes how her PhD in adult learning has transformed her company. To access the full article please click HERE!

February 2014 Announcing the NEBHE PBL Projects Youtube Channel for all things PBL!

January 27, 2014 ATE@20 covers NEBHE’s consulting project with Kennebec Valley Community College (KVCC), which assists KVCC faculty members incorporate problem based learning into its Energy Services Technology (EST) program. Access the full article, KVCC’s Energy Services Tech Program Prepares Students for 8 Industry Exams, to learn more.

January 2014 Attend the National Association for Workforce Improvement (NAWI) conference in Portland, OR, May 21-22, 2014! Connect with national stakeholders and practitioners on this year’s theme CTE and STEM: Engaging Minds, Embracing Technology, Emphasizing Career, College and Innovation Readiness. Registration ends Monday May 19, 2014. Click here to learn more!

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