Building an International Network

Just this past summer the NYU Polytechnic School of engineering launched #STEMNOW—an array of programs for teachers and middle and high school students, that included the Science of Smart Cities (SoSC), a program that introduces Stem concepts to middle school students through hands-on activities, demonstrations, and experiments. This effort built on 10 years of work by NYU Polytechnic School of Engineering faculty, graduate and undergraduate students in providing high-quality, hands-on STEM education programs.

Piloted in July 2012, the 100-hour SoSC’s curriculum is divided into four modules, which cover energy, urban infrastructure, transportation, and wireless communications. Through teamwork and mentorship by NYU School of Engineering student instructors, participants connect with the urban environment in which they live and learn the science, engineering and technology that builds and designs more livable, efficient, sustainable, and resilient cities.

SoSC has taken on an international dimension. In partnership with the New York Academy of Sciences, the Center for K12 STEM Education was engaged by the Education Faculty at the National University of Malaysia (Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia or UKM) to design a set of curricula based on Smart Cities that introduces STEM concepts and hands-on activities to Malaysian youth and educators. This new project is known as the Science of Smart Communities, or by its Malay name, Bitara STEM.

The Bitara STEM curriculum is composed of the same four modules as SoSC but subject areas are adapted to a Malaysian and international context. In September, a team of 4 from the Center traveled to UKM and trained 32 education school graduate students, graduate students from various STEM disciples, and practicing teachers in the first module covering energy. The team and newly trained STEM educators then worked over 3 days with 90 13- and 14-year old Malaysian students to instruct the module; conduct the activities, demonstrations and experiments; and create a student-led STEM exposition of the work on UKM’s campus.
Youngsu Cha, a Ph.D. student at NYU School of Engineering involved in this program, said of the experience, "The students and teachers learned from me and I learned from them. We felt that we had challenges to solve, and we solved those together.”

For the development and delivery of the modified module on energy, the Center worked with NYU Professor Maurizio Porfiri and two PhD candidates in his Dynamical Systems Lab, Cha and Flavia Tauro. Domminck Dennisur (ME, 2013) is managing the project for the Center. For the next three modules, the Center will engage relevant faculty and their students in modifying and adapting the SoSC curriculum, and this group will travel again to Malaysia to deliver training.

Ben Esner, director of the Center for K12 STEM Education, said, "This is an exciting project for us. It is so important to work with UKM's education faculty and its scientists to broaden the experience of their students to include curricular approaches, ideas and techniques for innovative, hands-on STEM education practices and pro- grams. I'm tremendously proud of the team: they prepared well, traveled to the other side of the world, worked very hard and met great success."