"Wood to Wheels" - Research Experience for High School Teachers in Sustainable Transportation Technologies


Sustainable Futures Institute
1400 Townsend Drive
Houghton, Michigan 49931

Phone: 906.487.3612
Fax: 906.487.2943
e-mail: sfi@mtu.edu

Robbins Professor David Shonnard with 2012 RET high school teachers, professor mentors, and graduate students at RET poster session.

Jenn Coury (right) at the RET poster session.















Wood to Wheels RET Site

Year 2 2012 Summary: In 2012, we hosted the second cohort of seven teachers from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, the Lower Peninsula of Michigan, and from Wisconsin.  In addition, this session we admitted teachers from middle schools in addition to high schools participants.  Drs. Shekhar Joshi (School of Forest Resources and Environmental Science), Dr. Jeffrey Naber (Mechanical Engineering), and Brad Baltensperger (Cognitive and Learning Science) were co-investigators on this project.  In addition, other participants included Dr. Kedmun Hungwe (Cognitive and Learning Science) on project assessment, Christine Anderson (Diversity Office), and Shawn Oppliger (outreach to K-12).

Each teacher was in the laboratory of their assigned faculty mentor for six weeks beginning July 9, 2012.  These teachers learned how to plan and safely conduct research on 1. molecular biology of poplar trees (Dr. Joshi’s lab), 2. the conversion of woody resources into ethanol (Dr. Shonnard’s lab), and 3. fundamental combustion studies and advanced engine operations (Dr. Naber’s lab).  The teachers developed laboratory exercises and protocols to take back to their chemistry and natural resources course laboratories and created teaching units in sustainability and renewable fuels.  Teachers were assisted in the laboratories by Ph.D. and MS graduate students and a postdoc, including Jiqing Fan (China-PhD candidate) in Dr. Shonnard’s lab, Haley Rupp (MS) in Dr. Joshi’s lab, and Jaclyn Nesbitt-Johnson (postdoc) in Dr. Naber’s lab.  Teachers were provided an orientation into this RET program by David Shonnard (PI) on the overall goals and deliverables, on teaching standards and practices with the aid of Shawn Oppliger, the director of the Upper Peninsula Center for Science, Mathematics and Environmental Education, and on teaching in diverse classrooms by Dr. Brad Baltlensperger (co-PI).  The six-week W2W RET research experiences included laboratory activities that progressed from i. fundamental science / engineering concepts, through ii. applications of those concepts in the laboratory, and concluded with iii. integration of the concepts to gain a deeper understanding of an engineered system. During this process, each teacher, in collaboration with the faculty mentors and their peers, created lesson/unit plans that incorporated research, content knowledge, and their enhanced understanding of engineering. 

From experiences gained in year 1 of this project, in year 2, an alumni from the prior cohort was invited to to mentor the current cohort and laboratory kits were provided to the alumni of the RET program to implement over the next 5 years. 

Further information, along with photos and videos of the RET poster presentations, can be found on the MTU College of Engineering Blog.

2012 Teacher Cohort:
Sheri Kopka: Mercer School District
Susan Stoll: Pine River Middle School
Robbie Olsen: Hesperia High School, Biology
Lloyd Hilger: Hanover-Horton Middle School
Clint Heikkila: Lake Linden-Hubbel High School
JoEllen Hadel: North Star Academy
Jenn Coury: Lake Orion High School, Biology, Environmental Science, Scientific Inquiry
Joel Hockin (returning teacher mentor): Romulus High School, Biology, Physics, ACT Prep

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