In April of 2016, POWER team leaders, Ben Zwickl and Kelly Norris Martin received an additional grant from the NSF with Matt Hora from the University of Wisconsin, for research focused on 21st century skills, which include collaboration, communication skills, problem solving, and self-regulated learning. The research, now referred to as the EMPOWER STEM project will look at employers’ perception of these skills among new hires and the degree to which new employees display these skills. It will also look at the extent students are learning and practicing 21st century skills.
This is a collaborative effort between RIT and the University of Wisconsin-Madison and will focus on STEM-related industries and educators in 2 and 4 year institutions in four major regions, Seattle, Raleigh, Denver and Houston. The goal is to develop further understanding of how industry defines and develops 21st century skills and how students and employees gain proficiency in those skills using focus groups, surveys, and studying how 21st century skills are taught.
Kirk Winans, one of the original POWER team members, has moved on to pursue his PhD in communication and rhetoric at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. The program focuses on researching and describing the effects of new technology mediated communication. At RIT this past August, Kirk successfully completed his M.S. in Communication & Media Technology and defended his thesis, which looked framing by journalists and the public perception of the term “skills gap.” The paper contributed to the mission of the POWER team to further understand issues surrounding the skills gap among those in transition from school to a technical job.
Thanks to Susan Gawlowicz’s nice writeup in RIT University News, we were able to spread the word about our project to local and national media outlets.
- 12/7/15, WXXI, RIT Studies Photonics Workforce Development
- 12/7/15, Photonics.com, RIT to Study Photonics, Optics Workforce Training
- 12/3/15, Rochester Business News, $400K Grant for Optics and Photonics Education Research
- 12/3/15, ASEE First Bell, NSF Awards $400K Grant to Study Experience Needs for Photonics Careers
- 12/2/15, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, RIT will study how to teach someone photonics skills
- 12/2/15, RIT University News, Photonics Workforce Development Study
Ben Zwickl was an invited speaker at the 46th Annual APS Division of Atomic, Molecular, and Optical Physics (DAMOP) conference was held June 8-12, 2015 in Columbus, Ohio. His talk “Preparing students for research excellence in optics and photonics” was part of a special session on “Turning Physics Students into Physicists.”[ http://meetings.aps.org/Meeting/DAMOP15/Session/N2] The education-focused session also brought in leading physics education researchers: Carl Wieman (Stanford), Heather Lewandowski (CU-Boulder/JILA), and David Jones (University of British Columbia). The session was co-sponsored by the APS Forum on Education with the hope of bringing more attention to education issues at a conference traditionally focused on scientific research. Judging by the 200+ attendees and the numerous questions, the session was a success. Thank you, DAMOP organizers, for the opportunity to present our Photonics Careers Project research!
The POWER group continues to expand. As a part of RIT’s Discipline-Based Education Research (DBER) summer Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU), Jarrett Vosburg and Josh Deslongchamps become the latest members to join the team. Jarrett comes to the group from the Physics Department at SUNY Geneseo, while Josh arrives as a physics and math major from Texas State.
Jarrett joins third-year Physics major, Javier Olivera, on a project researching problem solving among graduate-level research students in engineering and the physical sciences. Josh teams up with Kingston Chen, also a third-year physics major, studying symbolic and computational math use at the graduate-level. Although these projects have a workforce focus, they build on a foundation of ideas from physics education research (PER). Kingston becomes the latest RIT student on the team, uniting with Javier and recent RIT physics grad Michael Rinkus. These members are sure to have an impact as they study the links between undergraduate preparation and the photonics workforce.