Friday July 29, 2016

Making a Better Wheelchair--and Science Curriculum

By Kelly Garrow

This summer, teachers and future teachers participating in the National Science Foundation-sponsored Research Experience for Teachers/Research Experience for Undergraduates (RET/REU) program spent time at the University of Dayton designing a better all-terrain wheel for wheelchairs that does not require air to inflate and is puncture resistant.

Participants designed, 3-D printed and tested prototype materials using polymers configured in honeycomb and eggshell-inspired designs. Current all-terrain wheels are bulky and cannot be used on a regular folding wheelchair.

UD students Maureen Burke, chemical engineering; Devin Mallett, mechanical engineering; and Sean Conway, mechanical engineering; serve as program facilitators. The trio will continue the wheel development work after the six-week program ends. With the help of professionals at the Dayton Regional STEM School (science technology, engineering, math), participating teachers and education majors will use the hands-on experience they receive to create a more compelling materials science curriculum for their classrooms.

Jenny Montgomery, an art teacher at the STEM School, is co-teaching a class called “The Art and Science of Materials” this fall with a chemistry teacher. She has not only enjoyed her time at Kettering Labs but also the industry and laboratory tours, guest speakers and time spent at co-sponsors Wright State University and Central State University.

As an art teacher at a STEM school, Montgomery found a kindred spirit in Nick Kaufman, who teaches physics at the Stivers School for the Arts. The two plan to collaborate in the future. Seventh grade math teachers Sydney Thomas, from Charlotte, N.C., and Linda Gillum, who teaches at Springboro Junior High School, hope to better engage their students by incorporating examples and principles from science into their math lessons.

The six-week program is funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation and has funding for at least one more year. Information about next year’s RET/REU program will be posted on the K-12 section of the School of Engineering’s website when it becomes available.

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