Milwaukee Water-Energy Nexus Education Initiative

NSF I-Corps Milwaukee site Director and UW-Milwaukee Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering, Dr. Ilya Avdeev, was recently awarded $600,000 from the National Science Foundation for his Milwaukee Water-Energy Nexus Education Initiative.

The objective of the proposed RET Site renewal is to build and support a sustainable scalable RET network of schools, principals, teachers, and industrial partners working together to transform STEM education in Milwaukee, connecting students’ passions and aspirations with exciting opportunities to make a difference through research, engineering, and manufacturing innovation. It is expected that new curricula and school-wide transformations will have an impact on 5,000-10,000 students from high-need urban public high schools in the city of Milwaukee.

The aim is to catalyze a sustainable RET network that empowers teachers to experiment and make STEM learning exciting, grants principals and administration license to support these experiments (and experiment themselves), and, through the industrial element of the program, build the kind of partnerships that would make learning more contextual and help support program growth.

This RET Site offers an intensive seven-week summer experience for 10 teachers per year beginning in late June and ending in early August. The teachers participate in highly structured, team-oriented research projects focused on the water-energy nexus research theme and academic-year curricular development activities. To provide support beyond the classroom, the program will also engage school principals. The teachers’ professional development will include a Design Thinking boot camp, curriculum design mentoring, and avatar classroom training. Two RET network conferences will be held annually in which the teachers present their research projects and develop academic-year curriculum. During the first semester of the academic year, the teachers will implement the in-depth six- to eight-week curricular modules that they developed during the summer. The RET site and its activities directly align with the Milwaukee Public Schools District’s Comprehensive Math and Science Plan. It will be evaluated in quantitatively terms of participation, impact on students’ knowledge and interest in engineering careers, and their mastery of core science concepts that are targeted by the Design Based Learning (DBL) units. By focusing on the water-energy nexus, a topic of broad social impact that is attractive to high school students, it is hoped that the serious economic issues in Milwaukee related to the continuous decline in the number of K-12 students (particularly females and under-represented minorities) who pursue STEM careers will be addressed.