Rowan Engineering expands outreach to K-12 through a Virtual Hub for Promoting Engineering

Teaching the simple to complex concepts of engineering to college students is a given in the Rowan University College of Engineering.

Teaching the simple to complex concepts of engineering to college students is a given in the Rowan University College of Engineering.

Teaching the fundamentals of the subject to third graders and high school seniors—and their teachers—well, that’s a given, too.

This fall, the College is unveiling its newest outreach project: a Virtual Hub for Promoting Engineering (or VHUB), made possible by a $300,000 grant from Lawrenceville-based Edison Ventures, which has funded earlier engineering programs at Rowan.

The College has initiated numerous hands-on outreach projects both on campus and at area schools during its short history, with a goal of introducing K-12 students to—and interesting them in—engineering and technology in general, starting them on a path to in-demand careers, keeping them current in a global marketplace and contributing to building the United States’ strength in those fields.

With the United States lagging behind many other countries in science, technology, math and engineering, Rowan faculty developed VHUB as a means to address the need for a new vision for educating engineers to push the country to the forefront of technology.

The brainchild of Dr. Kauser Jahan, a professor of civil and environmental engineering, VHUB is a virtual site that will provide resources for materials that use technological products. Those resources will include worksheets, video clips, hands-on activities, lab experiments and apps that will address the New Jersey Core Curriculum Content Standards for Science at all threshold levels.

“Currently there are very few workshops that train teachers on using contemporary technology and multimedia as resources for enhancing and promoting science and engineering education in the South Jersey area,” according to Jahan. “VHUB aims to develop and offer opportunities for K-12 educators to enhance their technological skills for promoting science and engineering education.”

VHUB is an offshoot of Rowan’s Engineering Clinics for Teachers program, which is modeled after Rowan engineering clinics and allows middle and high school teachers to work with University faculty on engineering design projects and to develop the teaching methodologies to transfer engineering ideas into their K-12 classrooms.  Edison Ventures also funded that initiative, as well as Rowan’s Engineers on Wheels. Engineers on Wheels brings hands-on experiments directly to K-12 classrooms, where students can tackle fundamentals of engineering in a van equipped with modules or work on experiments in their own classrooms.

“VHUB activities will be selected for effectiveness in addressing key concepts and will reduce the need for teachers to hunt for relevant exercises while allowing them to use their time to focus on other aspects of teaching,” said Jahan, who is working on the initiative with Dr. Smitesh Bakrania, assistant professor of mechanical engineering, and Dr. Krishan Bhatia, associate professor of mechanical engineering at Rowan University.

VHUB will focus primarily on energy, materials and sustainability and will include work with computers, iPhones and iPads, among other technology tools.

VHUB coordinators will host orientation on the Rowan campus that will highlight key features and demonstrate projects while introducing teachers to activity sheets and more.           

Rowan Engineering will select 20 South Jersey middle school teachers each summer for three years to test VHUB. The teachers will represent those with very little technology knowledge, those with some knowledge and those who are technologically advanced. Teachers will be able to rate and provide feedback on activities and upload innovative materials they develop.

“We see VHUB as the next step of Kauser’s work with Engineering Clinics for Teachers, where she was able to develop expertise in bringing engineering into the classroom,” said John Martinson Jr., investment manager, of Edison Ventures. “We see the VHUB as a way to offer the program to teachers across the state and also expand from middle and high school students to students as young as second grade. VHUB will reach all levels of students and give them a sense of whether engineering is a career path they’d like to follow.”

Martinson added, “Kauser and her team are really cutting edge, pushing engineering into the curriculum and infusing hands-on activities that make engineering come alive to the students.”