An Anonymous Donor Helps IEEE Bring Tech History to Life in the Classroom

The money is being used to create free videos and other resources for high school teachers

20 January 2016

High school students know how to use the latest gadgets, but most are unaware of who invented the technology and how it evolved. To fill the gap, the IEEE History Center is producing free educational resources that high school teachers can use to instruct students about the history of technology and the role engineers play in society through the new REACH (Raising Engineering Awareness through the Conduit of History) program. The result of a partnership between the IEEE History Center and the IEEE Foundation, the program just received a boost in funding by an anonymous donor.

In December, the donor committed to giving US $25,000 per year for the next four years to the foundation to fund REACH, according to Natalie Krauser McCarthy, the foundation’s development officer.

“This contribution will allow us to develop several REACH resource modules simultaneously,” Krauser McCarthy says. REACH is one of the foundation’s signature programs.

The foundation actively raises and provides funds for those programs, which yield immediate and broad impact and are sustainable over the long term.

“The resources we develop through REACH will enhance the capabilities of high school teachers, excite their students, and help answer an important question: How have scientific and technological developments through history changed the way people live and the way economies and governments function?” says Michael Geselowitz, senior director of the IEEE History Center, which is located at Stevens Institute of Technology, in Hoboken, N.J.

GAINING MOMENTUM

The History Center is collaborating with an academic advisory panel composed of high school teachers and administrators to produce the resources, which include videos and hands-on projects. Although the center is developing REACH to meet U.S. National Council for the Social Studies standards, the resources will be available to instructors around the world. The resources will be available on the REACH website, currently in development. A beta version of the website is expected to debut in April.

Each resource will focus on the history of a certain type of technology in such areas as agriculture, manufacturing, and transportation, and explore its social, political, economic, and cultural impact. The materials are intended to supplement teachers’ existing lesson plans. Instructors can pick and choose which resources to use, depending on how much time they have to devote to a particular subject.

 The History Center is designing materials around two themes—marine navigation and telecommunications—as part of a pilot program for ninth- and tenth- grade social studies classes at Manalapan High School and Madison High School, both in New Jersey. Once the pilot is completed, the program will expand to schools across the country, according to REACH program manager Kelly McKenna. She promoted the program at the 2015 New Jersey Council for the Social Studies conference, held in October in New Brunswick, and at the 2015 National Council for Social Studies conference, held in November in New Orleans. Both audiences were enthusiastic about using REACH, McKenna says.

The resources are designed to make students better-informed citizens in today’s technology-oriented society, she says, adding, “Not only will students gain a deeper appreciation of engineering, but they will also obtain a greater understanding about how technologies have impacted society throughout history.”

Visit the IEEE Foundation’s website to learn more about REACH and how you can contribute to the program.

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