Rice University Office of STEM Engagement (R-STEM)

The Rice Office of STEM Engagement (R-STEM) serves as a single point of contact for all science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) related outreach and education efforts at Rice University.  In collaboration with the Office of the Vice President for Research, R-STEM facilitates interdisciplinary collaborations between Rice’s faculty and students and the K-12 educational community that integrate authentic research and pedagogical practices.  In collaboration with the Office of the Vice Provost for Research, R-STEM assists faculty in responding effectively to the “broader impacts” requirements of governmental funding agencies.  We also support the education and outreach efforts of several university centers, including the NSF Engineering Research Centers for NanoEnabled Water Treatment (NEWT) and for Precise Advanced Technologies and Health Systems for Underserved Populations (PATHS-UP).

Programs for K-12 teachers

R-STEM supports K-12 teachers through long-term professional development programs in inquiry-based STEM.  These programs provide teachers with fresh, updated content knowledge and train them in innovative pedagogical approaches through day and evening courses.

R-STEM hosts several NSF Research Experiences for Teachers (RET) programs, including an NSF RET Site program entitled Nanotechnology Research Experiences with a Focus on Leadership, NEWT RET internships in water sustainability, and the PATHS-UP virtual RET program in computer science with a focus on health. These programs offer high school science teachers a six-week summer internship in Rice research laboratories, NEWT research labs at the University of El Paso, Arizona State University and Yale University, and PATHS-UP laboratories at Rice and the University of California in Los Angeles. In these RET programs, teachers can reinforce their understanding and appreciation of science as a process, observe and actively participate in research, develop inquiry-based lesson plans that apply cutting edge research, learn how to use media and other strategies to bring laboratory experiences to students, and network with fellow science teachers.

The NanoEnvironmental Engineering for Teachers (NEET) program is a course designed to serve environmental science teachers and empower them in implementing rigorous project-based engineering activities on the topic of water sustainability in the classroom that are infused with research from Rice’s NSF NEWT research center. The NEET program is offered at Rice, ASU, UTEP and Yale University and consists of a full semester of 3 hour weekly sessions. Program evaluation shows that teachers have significant gains in their engineering teaching self efficacy[i].

The ConocoPhillips-Rice Elementary Model STEM Lab (REMSL), which is located in a public school district, provides 3rd- to 5th-grade teachers with over 100 hours of inquiry-based professional development through a weeklong summer institute and a series of 14 school year sessions. Since 2006, REMSL has trained over 1000 teachers and has been shown to improve teachers’ skills and student outcomes[ii].

ConocoPhillips Applied Math Program (AMP!) is a year-long professional development program for teachers in the Greater Houston Area. The program is designed to have Science and Mathematics teachers in grades 5-9 attend as a team representing their school. The program uses inquiry-based teaching strategies to provide innovative and unique professional development designed to improve student achievement in mathematics.

The Computer Science Teaching at Rice (CSTaR) program seeks to expand the pipeline of teachers qualified to provide high-impact instruction in computer science courses by supporting development of content knowledge and stimulating desire to teach such courses. These 3-day workshops focus on different aspects of computer science, from middle school technology topics to AP computer science standards.

The NSF Teacher Leader Engineering Network (TaLENt) Fellowship is a project to create objectives and associated metrics for K–12 engineering teaching. Designed in collaboration with 15 teacher fellows from diverse urban and rural schools across the United States, the TaLENt program addresses and outlines how good engineering practices can and should be incorporated into elementary, middle and high school classrooms[iii].

The Texas Leadership Initiative for Inquiry Science Teaching (TLIIST) is a 5-year program for 20 K-12 science teachers that serve to further science content knowledge and pedagogical skills of exemplary teachers while transforming them into effective leaders who can support change at the school, district, and state level. Funded by the NSF, R-STEM has partnered with Houston ISD, the University of Houston, Houston Community College, and the Science Teachers Association of Texas (STAT) to provide a wealth of opportunities for teachers who are seeking to develop leadership opportunities while impacting their students in the classroom. The goal of the TLIIST program is to develop and recognize Master Teaching Fellows as intellectual science leaders at their campuses, in their districts and throughout Texas

R-STEM offers teacher Workshops on a wide-ranging selection of topics, among them cell structure and function, DNA structure and function, transcription and translation, and gene expression and epigenetics, as well as the behavior of light and optics and the atomic structure and the periodic table.

Programs for graduate students

As part of the R-STEM led NSF REU and RET programs, graduate students are offered the professional development opportunities to improve their mentoring skills and public communication skills. In the Entering Mentoring workshops, graduate students work with R-STEM and NEWT staff who are trained facilitators through the Center for the Improvement of Mentored Experiences in Research (CIMER) at The University of Wisconsin. Topics include aligning expectations, effective communication, developing concrete research projects, assessing understanding, fostering independence, cultivating ethical behavior, understanding equity & inclusion, articulating your mentoring philosophy, and reflection on mentoring experiences. The Grad STEM Share program is part of the NSF RET program, where graduate students who are involved in our teacher research internships or are interested in improving their science communication skills, meet as a group in biweekly sessions with R-STEM staff who have taught in K-12 schools. The training provides graduate students from different disciplines with the knowledge of how to talk about their research to K-12 students and then as pairs, graduate students present in local in classrooms in R-STEMs extensive teacher network.

Programs for undergraduate students

R-STEM supports undergraduate students through Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) including an NSF REU site program at Rice entitled REU in Nanotechnology with a Focus on Community College Students and the NEWT REU program at Rice, Arizona State University (ASU) and The University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP).  These 10-week paid summer internships provide authentic research experience for community college students in engineering and science disciplines, especially to those in chemistry, biology, physics, bioengineering, chemical engineering, environmental engineering, and electrical engineering.  During the program, undergraduates work on independent research projects in a research lab with trained graduate student mentors, then present their work at a conference at the end of the summer[iv].

Programs for K-12 students

R-STEM offers a variety of summer and year-long enrichment programs, which vary by year.

STEM-Letics Academy is a week-long summer program in conjunction with Rice Athletics for third- to fifth-grade students to explore STEM topics in both the classroom and on the playing field.

The Introduction to Research and Innovative Design in Engineering (iRIDE) program introduces middle school students from specific Houston communities to the diverse field of engineering. iRIDE guides students through the challenges and applications of engineering design concepts toward completion of a final capstone project. This process works to influence students’ educational path toward a STEM endorsement in high school and to increase their awareness and interest in engineering careers.

The Computer Engineering Design (CED) Academy seeks to inspire 6th, 7th, and 8th grade students to envision themselves as scientists and engineers by exposing them to hands-on design experiences that connect science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) to tangible, real-life applications using new and exciting technology.

The Energy Explorations Academy brings 8th- and 9th-grade students to Rice for a week to learn about all types of energy, including fossil fuels (chemical energy) and alternative energy (such as fuel cells, solar cells).  Participants go on three field trips and have an opportunity to explore seismic data.

Design, Connect, Create Physics Academy for Young Women (DCC) is a two-week camp designed for girls to be taken the summer before they enter physics in the fall at their high schools. This immersive hands-on experience investigates physics concepts and helps students to form a deep understanding and build confidence to move forward in science. Evaluation studies have shown that the DCC program improves student performance in high school physics[v].

The Rice Institute for Dynamics Research (RIDR) a six-week program for current 11th-grade students to shadow graduate students and postdocs in their engineering research at Rice University.  Students assist with experiments and learn more about mechanical engineering; they also experience cross-cultural collaboration through this work.

The R-STEM STEMFab Academy is a partnership with HISD designed to provide a basic understanding of rapid prototyping, computer programming, and computer design to 30 high school migrant students from the greater Houston area.

The PATHS-UP Young Scholars program is an internship program for rising 12 grade students where they learn about machine learning research and applications in health monitoring and diagnosis. 

The PATHS-UP Computing for Health program is designed to engage students who are unrepresented in STEM. This one-week program provides students with technology rich experiences that address health disparities. Students are provided with resources that they can take home to further their knowledge.

The NSF Solar Academy for High School Students is a two-week summer program for 11th and 12th grade students to explore our current understanding of the center of our solar system, the sun, through group-based activities using facilities on Rice’s campus.

The Rice Architecture Summer Immersion program is is offered in collaboration between the Rice Office of STEM Engagement (R-STEM) and Rice Architecture. The program is designed for rising 9th through 12th grade students who have an interest in applying to architecture school. It is a hands-on workshop that introduces participants to principles of architecture and design. We will test design concepts through several media and exercises in two and three dimensions.

Through the NSF NEWT Center, R-STEM brings rising 11th- to 12th-grade students interested in engineering and science disciplines, especially environmental engineering) to Rice to participate in a full-day, six-week paid laboratory internship.

Finally, our Saturday STEM academies bring K-12 students to the Rice campus for free STEM enrichment.  In addition, R-STEM offers Campus Lab Tours to K-12 students so that they can see the 3D visualization lab, wet labs, and engineering labs.

Assistance for faculty and researchers with “broader impacts” projects

R-STEM helps faculty develop their ideas for “broader impacts” projects and see how these projects might fit into existing, well-established programs.  To this end, R-STEM facilitates collaborations between the Rice scientific community and K-12 teachers, schools, and/or school districts.  Specifically, R-STEM helps faculty identify potential K-12 education and outreach partners, market K-12 outreach programs to teachers and students, and recruit and select participants.  In addition, R-STEM coordinates research and laboratory safety training for all program participants before their active involvement in research at Rice.

Source:   Rice University Office of STEM Engagement (https://research.rice.edu/rstem/).

Last Updated:  July 2021

[i] Christina Crawford, Carrie Obenland, and Carolyn Nichol, “An Analysis of the Effect of Long-Term Professional Development on Teacher Engineering Self-Efficacy and Its Impact on Classroom Instruction,” Journal of STEM Outreach 4, no. 1 (February 2021), https://www.jstemoutreach.org/article/19458-an-analysis-of-the-effect-of-long-term-professional-development-on-teacher-engineering-self-efficacy-and-its-impact-on-classroom-instruction.

[ii] Carolyn Nichol, Alice Chow, and Scott Furtwengler, “Year-Long Teacher Professional Development on Fifth Grade Student Science Outcomes,” International Journal of Science Education 40, no. 17 (November 22, 2018): 2099–2117, https://doi.org/10.1080/09500693.2018.1521027; D. Diaconu Radigan, J., Suskavcevic, M., and Nichol, C, “A Multi-Year Study of the Impact of the Rice Model Professional Development on Elementary Teachers,” International Journal of Science Education 33, no. 6 (2012): 855–77.

[iii] Christina Crawford et al., “WIP: Teacher Leader Engineering Network (TaLENt): A Collective Impact Model for K-12 Engineering Teacher Leaders,” in 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access Proceedings (2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line: ASEE Conferences, 2020), 35573, https://doi.org/10.18260/1-2--35573.

[iv] Jorge Loyo-Rosales et al., “Assessing Objective Attainment in a Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) Program Focused on Community College Students,” in 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition  Proceedings (2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Tampa, Florida: ASEE Conferences, 2019), 32115, https://doi.org/10.18260/1-2--32115.

[v] Ericka Lawton et al., “Improving High School Physics Outcomes for Young Women,” Physical Review Physics Education Research 17, no. 1 (March 2, 2021): 010111, https://doi.org/10.1103/PhysRevPhysEducRes.17.010111.

Source:   Rice University Office of STEM Engagement (http://www.rstem.rice.edu/).

Last updated:  December 2017.