UMass STEM Ed Institute Presents:


Fall  2013 STEM Tuesday Seminars


STEM seminars are held at 4PM on the first and third Tuesdays of each month during the academic year in Hasbrouck 138. Everyone is welcome; no reservations are needed, and there is no charge. Parking is available in the Campus Center Garage.


September 17


Rick Adrion

Professor Emeritus of Computer Science, University of Massachusetts Amherst


“Reforming K20 Computer Science Education in Massachusetts: Issues, Options, and Challenges”



Technology pervades all aspects of our lives. Massachusetts’ economy is largely technology driven, yet the number of computing job openings exceeds the number of available skilled workers—and these jobs are expected to increase by double digits through 2020. Yet how can Massachusetts’ students be prepared for these opportunities when few schools offer standards-based computing curricula? Learn about the status of K20 computing education in Massachusetts and the growing Massachusetts and national movements to reform it so that all students have the opportunity to learn computer science before college. Rick Adrion, professor emeritus of the UMass Amherst School of Computer Science and leader of the Commonwealth Alliance for Information Technology Education (CAITE) and the Expanding Computing Education Pathways (ECEP) Alliance, will lay out the issues, challenges, and options being considered by these organizations as well as the new Massachusetts Computing Attainment Network (MassCAN). This talk will be of interest to K20 educators, parents, business and industry, students, and policymakers who’ve been following the buzz around computing education in Massachusetts (e.g. Boston Globe 6/11-12 and 7/3) and beyond.


October 1


Don Blair

Graduate Student, Physics, Umass


Citizen Science/Easy Lab activities”


"A short introduction to the vast array of inexpensive, easy-to-use 'open source hardware' and open source software that can be employed in K-12 education, academic research labs, and in environmental monitoring.  Examples will include simple ways of measuring temperature, pressure, and humidity using the Arduino and Raspberry Pi electronics platforms.  Also: an overview of the work of Public Laboratory ( and the use of kite and balloon aerial imagery, DIY spectroscopy, and near-infrared photography in citizen science."


October 15

Dave Hart, Center for Educational Software Development,Umass;  Florence Sullivan, Department of Teacher Education and Curriculum Studies, School of Education, UMass,


"Cross-referencing to co-construct knowledge about global heat transfer in an online learning environment: Learning with multiple visualizations."


This presentation will report the results of a NSF-funded demonstration study focusing on the development of a virtual learning environment for earth and space science at the middle school level. The project, a collaboration between UMass/Amherst and MIT, investigated student learning of physics principles related to the phenomena of global heat transfer through the use of an electronic integrated book called the OWLBook that featured video, animations and a virtual experiment. We sought, through the design and development of a primarily visual and visually interactive online environment, to examine how students make sense of the physics principles underlying global heat transfer. Forty-nine, primarily Latino/a, eighth grade students took part in the study. Pre-post tests of content knowledge revealed a statistically significant gain related to convection and rotation t(42)= -7.101, p=.000. Preliminary analysis of videotaped, collaborative student interactions reveals how students use the various representations to reason about the phenomenon.



November 5


Joyce Plotkin

Vice Chair of the Executive Committee of the Governor's

STEM Advisory Council, and Founder & CEO of The DIGITS Project


“STEM in Massachusetts:  A Decade of Progress”


This talk will provide a brief history of STEM in Massachusetts, discuss the progress

that was been made, highlight major accomplishments, and talk about the challenges ahead.  She will also discuss her own STEM education project, DIGITS, which increases student interest in STEM subjects and careers. Last year, the program, endorsed by the state as an @Scale project, reached 22% of all the sixth graders in the state.  Joyce will discuss the plan to  grow the program in Pioneer Valley.  In her prior role as President of the Massachusetts Technology Leadership Council, Joyce was the recipient of a  distinguished Outreach Partnership Award from UMass, Amherst.


November 19


Kathy Aidala

Physics Professor, Department Chair, Mount Holyoke College


“Why Aren't More Women in Science?”


We will examine the differences among the sciences and the assumptions people often make to answer this broad and complex question.   Does society actively or passively discourage women from pursuing careers in science?  Can bias and discrimination explain the difference?  Are there biological differences in ability, personality, or career preferences?  Anecdotal explanations abound, but I will present some of the more compelling evidence that supports or refutes the various arguments you have likely heard, and discuss what we do at Mount Holyoke to encourage the participation of women in the physical sciences.


December 3


Stephen Schneider

Professor, Department Head, Astronomy, UMass


“S2TLC: Supporting STEM Teaching and Learning through Communities”


S2TLC responds to the critical need for middle and high school science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) teachers through a collaboration of UMass Amherst educators and researchers, mathematics and science administrators from Springfield, Holyoke and Greenfield public schools and Mahar Regional school district, and the Hitchcock Center for the Environment, a non-profit organization focused on the professional development of teachers and the education of youth in the sciences.