From the U.S. Army Edgewood Chemical Biological Center:
Subject matter experts (SME) from the U.S. Army Edgewood Chemical Biological Center (ECBC), the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Laboratory collaborated for a teacher professional training. They immersed 17 Cecil County Public Schools (CCPS) middle school teachers in Math Forensics April 12-14.
This first-ever educational outreach collaboration between the three organizations was part of the Center’s Adopt-a-SME initiative that is sponsored by the National Defense Education Program and aims to connect local science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) educators with ECBC scientists and engineers.
SMEs that supported this trail-blazing training work in federal research and development laboratories, where they apply basic and advanced math to tackle real-world challenges every day. Therefore, they are optimal resources for teachers in terms of conveying and reinforcing mathematical concepts for students in a relevant context, such as forensics.
“I was very surprised that there are so many applications for the math I am teaching,” said CCPS middle school teacher Alli Graham. “It was revealing to see how an equation can help identify [the quantity and quality of] an unknown sample.”
In an effort to help educators prepare their students for college and future careers, scientists and engineers gave interactive presentations and engaged teachers in laboratory activities. The content and methods they offered during the training were designed to assist teachers with the development and implementation of compelling math lessons that will soon be based on Common Core State Standards.
“What a great experience to meet real [Army] scientists and engineers that helped us make the connection between math and real-life missions,” stated CCPS Middle School Teacher Paula Pleasanton. “I look forward to using today’s presenters as future guest speakers in my classroom.”
On the first day, math-focused presentations and laboratory activities were held at ECBC facilities for teachers to experience state-of-the-art technologies and equipment. Teachers had the opportunity to conduct Quantitative Analysis of Evidence at the Center’s Sample Receipt Facility, which is currently non-operational. Then, they visited the Protection Factor Test Facility to learn about the use of math when testing military respiratory protection.
“I can already think of numerous ways to tie this experience into my lesson on chemical formulas,” Pleasanton added. “For example, I would like to use Nerve Agent Analysis as an exercise to apply chemistry.”
The FBI provided an experience that showed how to use math to identify of an unknown substance, while DHS focused on the application of math when assessing the impact of cross contamination.
During the following two days, ECBC scientists brought mathematical applications to life, using emerging disciplines such as Raman Spectroscopy, Air Forensics and White Powder Analysis.
According to CCPS STEM Coordinator Frank Cardo, “this training was the best they’ve received thus far.” And, he believes that teachers and their students will greatly benefit from this outstanding experience.
Phillip Wilcox, electrical engineer at ECBC that supported this event, commended the enthusiasm of participating teachers and feels reassured by their talents and skills.
“My son will be entering the Cecil County public school system in a few years, and it’s great to know that he’ll be in the hands of a caring and enthusiastic group of teachers.”
Other presenters included ECBC Research Biologist Calvin Chue, Ph.D.; ECBC Chemist Brandon Bruey; ECBC Engineering Technician Christopher Druyor; ECBC Chemist Jennifer Exelby; ECBC Program Management Team Chief and Business Manager for the Operations Division Tom Rosso; ECBC Chemist Julius Owens; ECBC Chemical Engineer Steven Yurechko; DHS Researcher Dennis Howell; as well as FBI Chemist and Forensic Examiner James Peterson.
ECBC Electrical Engineer Phillip Wilcox engages Middle School teachers from Cecil County Public Schools in the use of a Raman Spectrometer to identify unknown powders.
Middle School teachers from Cecil County Public Schools become students during three-day “Math Forensics” professional training and apply math during the “Quantitative Analysis of Evidence” activity led ECBC Chemist Brandon Bruey (from left to right).
Photo credits: Jennifer Carroll, U.S. Army Edgewood Chemical Biological Center