Concepts familiar from grade-school algebra have broad ramifications in computer science.
Kids recently sprung from classrooms for the summer might be tickled to learn that a few of their teachers lost no time in grabbing their vacated seats. A select group of middle school and high school science and math teachers became students themselves, spending an intensive week at MIT and taking in knowledge in the best MIT fashion: "like drinking water from a fire hose."
Fifty-one teachers from 17 states as well as Lebanon and Saudi Arabia attended the Science and Engineering Program for Middle and High School Teachers, an educational program founded 10 years ago by Professor Ronald M. Latanision of materials science and engineering. This year, the program featured lectures by 26 MIT professors and researchers who explained and often demonstrated some of the latest cutting-edge research. The daily dose of eight hours of presentations ran the gamut from basic math, physics and biology to advanced applications such as aircraft engines and genetic engineering.
The goal of the June 21-27 course was to emphasize the connection between the basic science taught in public schools and the way engineers apply that science to advanced technology. Professor Latanision, director of the program, said it was established to provide educators with a different perspective on the subjects they teach.
"We're all part of the same educational continuum," he said. "High school students today are our students tomorrow, and ultimately, they represent the future of the educated population."
Once they complete the week-long MIT program, participants are granted membership in the New England Science Teachers (NEST) organization, the goal of which is to enhance scientific, mathematical and technological literacy. NEST offers follow-up workshops for its members, as well as participation in Scientists-On-Line, providing NEST teachers and their students electronic access to MIT faculty via the Internet.
"The smorgasbord of topics presented in one week at MIT has provided me with a nutshell perspective of current research in science and technology and its potential impact on society," said Beverly Lee, a physics teacher from Leagus City, TX, and a 1996 participant. "Thanks for the brain food."
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on July 15, 1998.