New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) today announced more than $5 M in innovative strategies to better prepare urban students to pursue 21st century engineering and science careers. Combining $4.5 M in National Science Foundation grants with NJIT’s own contribution, the university-wide initiative will enrich and strengthen high school curricula in science, mathematics and engineering in Newark and other urban districts including Perth Amboy, Union City and Orange.
“NJIT has been an integral presence in our host city for more than 125 years. Today, we are engaged in the life of Newark and surrounding communities to a degree greater than ever before. This substantial commitment includes teaming with community leaders, teachers and administrators at the secondary level to develop new and better educational strategies that will enable students to achieve their full potential, especially with respect to fostering skills in science and mathematics essential for personal success in the 21st century,” NJIT President Robert A. Altenkirch said.
The effort comes at a time when New Jersey, long a leader in science and technology, needs a highly-skilled workforce to maintain its leadership role—the consensus of the many education leaders on hand for the event. These included: Craig Stanley, chairman, Assembly Higher Education Committee, who spoke of the benefits to the students and to the state’s and nation’s economic competitiveness; Jane Oates, executive director, NJ Commission on Higher Education, who focused on how collaborations advance the Governor’s economic growth strategy in ways that also benefit urban areas; Lucille Davy, commissioner, NJ Department of Education, who commented on the ability of collaborations to address urgent needs to strengthen pre-college education, particularly in urban areas, and to help students prepare for an increasingly global and technologically-driven economy; Dana Egreczky, vice president for Workforce Development, NJ Chamber of Commerce; Felix Rouse, president, Newark Board of Education; and Dana Rone, councilperson, Central Ward, Newark Municipal Council.
The largest grant, $3 M over five years, will support “Computation and Communication: Promoting Research Integration in Science and Mathematics (C2PRISM),” an initiative led by principal investigator (PI) Fadi Deek, professor of information systems, information technology and mathematical sciences and dean of the College of Science and Liberal Arts; with co-PIs Bruce Bukiet, associate professor of mathematics, and Robert Friedman, associate professor of humanities. The program will place NJIT doctoral students who use computational techniques for cutting-edge research in mathematics or the physical sciences into Newark high schools. They will team with teachers to develop curricula in mathematics, physics, chemistry and biology designed to teach students how to formulate significant questions, think analytically, and offer creative solutions. The doctoral students will learn how to simplify discussion of their research and communicate effectively about it while the high school teachers and their students will have the opportunity to learn about computing applications.
“Outside of the scientific community, few people have had the opportunity to learn how computing has transformed research,” points out Deek. “Today, mathematicians are using realistic mathematical and computational models for research that ranges from blood circulation and how small vessels supply tissues with oxygen to ocean acoustics to help the Navy detect submarines. We hope we can inspire others to consider careers in science and technology.”
A separate $1.05 million NSF grant over three years to NJIT’s flagship school, Newark College of Engineering (NCE), in conjunction with NJIT’s Center for Pre-College Programs, will help teachers use medical robotics as a vehicle to enhance and enrich science curricula. “Medibotics: The Merging of Medicine, Robotics and IT” will be led by Associate Professor of Engineering Technology Ronald Rockland, PI; Professor of Chemical Engineering Howard Kimmel and Associate Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering John Carpinelli, co-PIs.
Designed to train and place more effective science and math teachers in urban high schools in high-needs districts such as Newark, the “Teacher Education Collaboration for High-Need Schools” curriculum will receive $496,906 from the NSF’s Robert Noyce Scholarship program over four years. This will support NJIT students who major in math or science provided they earn teacher certification and teach for two years in the Newark Public Schools. NJIT Associate Professor of Mathematics Bruce Bukiet is PI; with co-PIs Arthur Powell, associate professor of urban education at Rutgers-Newark; Ismael Calderon, Newark Museum curator; and Gayle Griffin, Newark Public Schools assistant superintendent.
Since 1978, NJIT through its Center for Pre-College Programs has developed an array of after-school, weekend and summer programs to educate more than 3,000 students and their teachers annually. The programs target urban schools to increase the number of students interested in careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The Center has achieved significant success with more than 70 percent of its students entering higher education, approximately 80 students enrolling as freshmen each year at NJIT, and has contributed to NJIT being one of the nation’s leading producers of minority students receiving baccalaureate degrees in engineering.