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Teachers head back to the classroom to keep engineering interest strong

Technology teachers from around the state are going back to school this summer to ponder one of education's intriguing questions:

How do you get more kids interested in engineering?

Buffalo State College was awarded a state grant to organize three two-week training programs -- "Engineers of the Future" -- to help teach middle and high school teachers how to spark more student interest in the field of engineering and related career paths.

"That's the trick," said Matt Drastal, a technology teacher at Auburn East Middle School in Central New York. "You need to come up with a fun and exciting way to present this. That's the challenge."

The first session came to a close last week, with more than 120 teachers, including Drastal, honing their teaching techniques in various aspects of engineering, design and technology.

There's growing concern that the United States has lost its edge in science, technology, math and engineering and is falling behind other countries in the numbers graduating from college in these fields, explained Clark Greene, coordinator of technology education at Buffalo State.

The summer workshops not only try to help teachers broaden their curriculums and better engage students but also bring more innovation to their classrooms, Greene said.

"The one thing we do a terrible job at in education is unlocking the creativity of students," said Ron Todd, a professor at the College of New Jersey, who helped Green organize the summer training sessions. "What this project is about is to free that potential."

Green brought in colleagues from as far away as Great Britain to help teach the courses, which were hands-on and had teachers designing everything from robots to irrigation systems.

"For me, this helps to come up with more ideas and activities in the classroom," said Leif Johnson, a technology education teacher at Lancaster Middle School. "I don't think students aren't interested, but it's got to be something that's interesting to them."

Besides being offered on the Buffalo State campus, workshops are held in several locations throughout the state so more teachers could attend, Greene said.

More than 350 middle and high school teachers will have taken the training workshops by the time the sessions conclude in August.
e-mail: jrey@buffnews.com1

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