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NEWS | Aug. 17, 2018

NRL Expertise Helps Smithsonian Educate Nation's Brightest Teachers

By Jonathan B. Holloway

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Naval Research Laboratory was invited by the Smithsonian Science Education Center to share cutting-edge research with the Smithsonian Science Education Academy for Teachers 2018 summer cohort at the National Museum of Natural History, July 11.

NRL’s Matthew Yates, who holds a doctorate in Environmental Engineering, gave an educational lecture to 17 hand-selected teachers on how to create and demonstrate microbial fuel cells to their students.

“My goal was to give teachers a fundamental understanding of the topic, while letting them steer dialogue for them to effectively bring what they learned back into their classrooms,” Yates said. “I was very happy with the opportunity to participate in this event.”

Microbial fuel cells work by using natural microbial metabolism to transform wastes into useful energy, just one of the different fuel cell technologies NRL is researching.

Yates’ lecture was part of a number of STEM topics delivered by other subject matter experts during the week-long, behind-the-scenes course at Smithsonian museums and research facilities.

“The Smithsonian Science Education Academy for Teachers is a fairly competitive program, and we select highly motivated teachers who are inclined to bring what they learn into classroom settings,” said Katherine Fancher, program specialist at the Smithsonian Science Education Center. “[Yates] resonated with teachers and we hope to have support again next summer.”

NRL’s overall involvement in the program supports and promotes the Department of Navy‘s STEM Education and Workforce Initiative goals as an opportunity to enhance our nation’s STEM curriculum by educating teachers throughout the country.
During his lecture, teachers engaged with their own knowledge of the field, identifying information that would spark student interest and framing questions to Yates in a way they assumed students would perceive the topic.

“I was impressed with this group’s ability to digest the content of my lecture and stimulate meaningful conversation, given their unfamiliarity with the topic,” Yates said.

The Smithsonian Science Education Teacher Academy partnered with the STEMAZing Project of Pima County Schools in Arizona.

“All week we challenged teachers with hands-on activities and stretched their knowledge of STEM fields,” said DaNel Hogan, Director of The STEMAZing Project in Pima County, Arizona. “Using researchers like Yates to equip teachers with more effective tools for STEM engagement and education will ultimately help our future scientists and engineers.”

After Yates’ lecture, Hogan presented teachers with kits to help demonstrate how microorganisms can be used as a fuel cell.

The U.S. Naval Research Laboratory provides the advanced scientific capabilities required to bolster our country’s position of global naval leadership. With 2,500 personnel scientists, engineers and support staff, it has served the U.S. Navy and the nation for nearly 100 years, advancing research further than you can imagine.

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