National conference featured architectural engineering department with virtual tour


By Ashley J. WennersHerron

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The Penn State Department of Architectural Engineering (AE) hosted a virtual tour during the Partners in Science Conference on Jan. 16. The annual conference, organized by the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust, brings together middle and high school teachers and researchers from across the country to collaborate on science and engineering research projects, as well as science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) classroom implementation approaches and strategies.

The Partners in Science Program, which culminates in one national and one regional conference every year, invites teachers who have engaged in science and engineering research to share how the experiences have deepened their educational offerings to precollege students. Kathy Hill, associate professor of education and director of the Center for Science and the Schools (CSATS) in the College of Education, works with faculty across Penn State’s STEM colleges and institutes to offer summer research experiences for middle and high school teachers. The 2020 class, the first to participate virtually, consisted of 11 teachers, eight of which were paired with AE researchers. Every participant is immersed in a lab and pursues a research project from beginning to end. In addition, the CSATS team supports teachers as they develop learning experiences for their students that approach their technical research projects.

“The teachers get to engage in the practices and ways of thinking that are used by engineers, while also working with us at CSATS to translate their summer research project into curriculum for their precollege students,” Hill said. “Many Penn State faculty see this as an opportunity to start building their impact agenda through working with teachers and establishing connections to K-12 education.”

During the virtual tour, Hill said, teachers from all over the country had the opportunity to see what AE has to offer and how it could be applied in such courses as physics, environmental science, technology and, of course, engineering.

Moses Ling, teaching professor of architectural engineering and AE undergraduate programs officer, and Anand Swaminathan, AE research technologist, spoke to the group from the department’s laboratories in Engineering Unit A.

Ling specifically noted that people spend 87% of their lives indoors, and architectural engineers spend 100% of their careers working to improve that experience. Significant problems exist in the field that architectural engineers are working to rectify, according to Ling, such as more sustainable building practices.

“The building sector consumes more than 50% of the world’s energy and is responsible for more than 50% of the world’s carbon emissions,” Ling said. “We can design and construct new, sustainable buildings, but how do we fix already existing buildings in a cost-effective way?”

Swaminathan spoke to the immediate challenge of researching and implementing better and safer air quality control during the pandemic, as well as structural engineering research in earthquake simulations, windborne debris testing and materials science.

“Our intention was to expose the teachers to an even broader realm of science and engineering,” Swaminathan said. “I think we succeeded.”

To learn more, including how to become involved in the CSATS summer Research Experiences for STEM Teachers program, please visit the CSATS website.


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College of Engineering Media Relations


To learn more, including how to become involved in the Center for Science and the Schools Research Experiences for STEM Teachers program, please visit the CSATS website.