RIT Brings State-of-the-Art Science Education to Rural Students




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Two educators have created a unique distance-learning program to address the needs of rural students and serve as a model for future projects. Joseph Pow, associate director of the Chester Carlson Center for Imaging Science at Rochester Institute of Technology, and Chris Bond, science teacher at Dickerson High School in Trumansburg, N.Y., are utilizing the Internet to connect interested students with RIT’s state-of-the-art research facilities and instructional opportunities.

“This project came about following discussions on how to engage high school students in university-level instruction when the distance made it impossible to bring them here to RIT,” Pow notes. “By using the Internet and new interactive software we can provide access to faculty and equipment that would otherwise be out of reach for most of these kids.”

“It was incredibly frustrating to not be able to provide more hands-on instruction in imaging science and photonics given the cost of purchasing the equipment necessary and the distance to most state-of-the-art labs,” Bond adds. “This program is the first step in giving rural school districts the ability to provide advanced study in high-tech fields to interested students.”

Pow and Bond’s class was a one-week mini-course in digital image processing and was offered to AP physics students. The course included three hours of in-class instruction and three hours of live online work with Pow teaching from RIT. The program was Web based and required no special software at the high school, keeping costs to a minimum. The course was well received by students and Pow and Bond are already planning to offer a similar program this fall and hope to expand it to other classes in the future.

In addition, Pow has already presented on the course to other instructors here at RIT and to a group from the University of Rochester. He hopes to publicize its success to other colleges and high schools in the area throughout the next school year.

“It is my hope that this course serves as a tool for the development of similar programs at RIT and at other universities in the region,” Pow says. “It is an incredibly useful instructional tool with minimal costs for school districts and tremendous gains for their students.”