Published: Aug. 6, 2009

Grant to expose teachers to research, translate excitement to classroom

EAST LANSING, Mich. — Michigan State University has been awarded a three-year grant by the National Science Foundation to establish a first-of-its-kind Research Experiences for Teachers in Engineering Site program on Bio-Inspired Technology and Systems in Michigan.


The NSF Engineering Research Center for Wireless Integrated Microsystems, or WIMS, will co-host the RET site.


The RET site aims to train a cadre of leaders of middle and high school teachers in the areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics by engaging them in cutting-edge research in diverse areas, such as artificial muscles, robotic fish, biosensors, biomechanics, biofuels, digital evolution and biomolecular engineering.


“This in turn is expected to lead to the development of innovative curricula in biology, physics, chemistry and technology that excites precollege students and livens up classroom learning,” said Xiaobo Tan, assistant professor in MSU’s College of Engineering and lead on the project.


The site will partner with a number of schools in Michigan, including Holt Public Schools, Utica Community Schools and the Detroit Area Pre-College Engineering Program, and will work closely with industry leaders like Motorola, Consumers Energy and TechSmith.


“Working in an international environment actually helps you in the classroom,” said John Thon, a teacher at Holt Junior High School. “It prepares for making connections with kids with different learning styles as the dynamics of the United States change.”

“The $500,000 award is funded under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, which is particularly meaningful considering the current dire economic situation in Michigan,” Tan said.  “By exposing teachers to the cutting-edge research that bears impact on important global issues such as environment, energy, food and health care, and by transitioning such knowledge and excitement to the classroom, we hope young students will see and pursue science and engineering-based learning and career paths leading to a bright future.”


“Working with the teachers is the exciting part to me,” said Drew Kim, assistant to the dean for recruitment, scholarships and K-12 engineering education.  “We want to expose teachers to the cutting-edge research we’re doing and then help them translate that excitement to the students in the classroom.”

An abstract of the project can be accessed at the NSF Web site:



Michigan State University has been advancing knowledge and transforming lives through innovative teaching, research and outreach for more than 150 years. MSU is known internationally as a major public university with global reach and extraordinary impact. Its 17 degree-granting colleges attract scholars worldwide who are interested in combining education with practical problem solving.

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