New Research & Published Papers
Students & Faculty

Research Paper Presented 43rd Annual Frontiers in Education (FIE) Conference

  • William Eblerle, Associate Professor in the Computer Science Department at Tennessee Tech made a full paper and oral presentation, Computer Science Widening the STEM Education Spectrum bat the FIE conference in this fall.
  • The research and paper were produced by Christopher J. Morack, a former Oakley STEM Center Graduate Assistant. Morack is a software engineer with the company, Relatient. His research was base on his work with the STEM Center's state-of-the-art Virtual Theater.
  • FIE is the major international conference focused on educational innovations and research in engineering and computing.


2012-2013 Funded Grant Projects in STEM Education Strategies
Grant Summaries & Numbers Served

The STEM Center and associated departments at TTU apply for numerous research grants annually focused on a variety of topics, studies, and outcomes.

2012-2013 Funded Projects / $787,450

TTU receives First to the Top Awards for Professional Development for Regional Teachers

Tennessee Tech University was awarded $787,450 in the second round of grants supporting improved teacher training in STEM subjects through Tennessee’s First to the Top education initiative.THEC STEM PD Grantees 2012 web

The four programs funded at TTU, by sub-grants recently awarded by the Tennessee Higher Education Commission, provide 18-month intensive professional development training for teachers representing kindergarten through 10th grade in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

  • The 2012-13 training workshops will involve more than 130 teachers in programs expressly targeted on their students’ learning needs.
  • The development of these training programs are based on the needs data provided by the state’s TCAP testing results.
  • Collectively, the training programs serve teachers in Campbell, Cannon, Clay, Cumberland, DeKalb, Fentress, Jackson, Lebanon, Macon, Morgan, Overton, Pickett, Putnam, Roane, Scott, Sequatchie, Sumner, Union, Van Buren, Warren, Wilson, White counties and York Institute.

The Faculty

The university’s four winning proposals were submitted by assistant professor Jane Baker, associate professor Leslie Suters, both of college of education; professor Ismail Fidan, college of engineering; and Sally Pardue, Director of the Oakley STEM Center.

Pictured Above:

  • Seated L-R: Assistant Professor Jane Baker, Associate Professor Melissa Comer (working as an instructor with the “From Earth to Space with STEM” program) and Associate Professor Leslie Suters.
  • Standing L-R: Professor Ismail Fidan, Assistant Professor Julie Baker, Sally Pardue, Director of the Oakley STEM Center, and Assistant Professor Martha Howard.

Shaping Early STEM Learning / Dr. Jane Baker

Baker will work with 40 teachers representing Kindergarten through 2nd grade from primarily rural schools in the region in her program, Shaping Early STEM Learning.

  • The teachers will participate in an institute exploring Tennessee common core standards in math and engineering and active learning experiences with a grant of $199,435.
  • The project co-director is Kara Fromke, math instructor.
  • Counties Served: Cannon Clay, Cumberland, DeKalb, Jackson, Lebanon, Overton, Putnam, Sequatchie, Sumner, Van Buren, Warren and White.

Curriculum Development Through Project-Based Inquiry Using Design & Modeling Tools / Dr. Ismail Fidan

Fidan’s project, Designing the Future: Curriculum Development Through Project-Based Inquiry Using Design & Modeling Tools, works with  twenty-five (25) 9th and 10th grade math, science, and computer technology teachers.

  • The teachers will experience cutting-edge, cross-curricular activities to replicate in the classroom.
  • The program includes introductions to STEM careers and professional opportunities.
  • Program grant is $189,578.
  • Julie Baker, interim assistant dean, college of education is the project co-director.
  • Counties/Schools Served: Cannon, Clay, Cumberland, DeKalb, Fentress, Macon, Overton, Pickett, Putnam, Sequatchie, Sumner, Van Buren, Warren, Wilson, York Institute.

STEM Around Us / Dr. Sally Pardue

Sally Pardue’s, STEM Around Us program includes 40 teachers from the 3rd – 6th grades and uses place-based, real-life applications to problem-solving in math and science.

  • This area of STEM learning has been identified as a critical need for improvement in student comprehension and development.
  • The program grant is $198,706.
  • Project co-director is Dr. Martha Howard, college of education.
  • Counties Served: Cannon, Clay, Cumberland, DeKalb, Fentress, Jackson, Lebanon, Macon, Overton, Pickett, Putnam, Van Buren, Warren, White, Wilson

From Earth to Space with STEM / Dr. Leslie Suter

Suters’ program, From Earth to Space with STEM, partners with Roane State Community College and serves 30 math and science teachers from the 4th to 7th grade in that region.

  • The training will focus on earth and space sciences and includes a 10-day summer institute and several Saturday workshops.
  • Grant amount $199,731.
  • Project co-director is professor Arthur Lee, Roane State.
  • The program works with business support partner, the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA).
  • Counties Servied: Campbell, Morgan, Roane, Scott, Union



Upper Cumberland Rural STEM Initiative (UCRSI)
First to the Top Funding for Platform Schools & STEM Hub (Oakley STEM Center)

The UCRSI HUB is a place for educators, administrators, professionals, parents and more to come together and share, explore, learn and grow!


Oakley STEM Center Launches Upper Cumberland Rural STEM Initiative (UCRSI) Hub

Tech’s Millard Oakley STEM Center has been at the forefront of enhancing science, technology, engineering and mathematics education for the region’s students since it opened in 2010, and a recent grant places the center in an even more active role.

Now the official Hub for the Upper Cumberland Rural STEM Initiative, the STEM Center received $500,000 of a $1.5 million grant from Tennessee’s First to the Top program. The remaining $1 million went to the Putnam County School System.UCRSI Grand Launch

Part of the Tennessee STEM Innovation Network, the UCRSI Hub will support partnerships between post-secondary education entities, local and regional school districts, and businesses and non-profits that are interested in STEM education.

As the Hub, the STEM Center will coordinate processes among the partners to create customizable lessons and experiences for classrooms and communicate progress on the program’s objectives. The Hub will document the activities, successes and results and share best practices among participating school districts. Additionally, the Hub will actively seek funding to continue the efforts beyond the initial timeframe for the grant, which is two years.

The UCRSI website will launch this fall (2012) and provide training resources for teachers and private and public community partner volunteers.

The flow of information won’t be one-way though, according to STEM Center director Sally Pardue. “We are not planning to simply send out information to our partners,” Pardue said. “The Hub is designed to encourage an intentional and ongoing conversation with our educators and the broader community to promote innovation and create a more unified and consistent approach to teaching STEM subjects across the entire region.

“The STEM Hub will leverage connections to enhance how students learn STEM subjects and establish the framework to engage the students in authentic ways. For students to understand why these subjects are important, they need to see, touch and experience them in real-world situations,” she said.

While efforts have begun in Putnam County, the program will reach far beyond the county line. More than 72,000 students in 20 counties will benefit from the initiative. UCRSI programs will launch this fall in the Lebanon Special School District and in the following counties: Bledsoe, Cannon, Clay, Cumberland, Dekalb, Fentress, Grundy, Jackson, Macon, Overton, Pickett, Putnam, Sequatchie, Smith, Sumner, Trousdale, Van Buren, Warren, White and Wilson.

Shirley Myers, former Overton County supervisor of instruction and Hub manager, is pleased with the opportunities and resources that will be available to the schools and educators.

“UCRSI allows us the time and technology to help so many counties to work collaboratively, to better communicate best practices, and to be able to customize the learning solutions so all students can get the maximum benefit,” said Myers.

“This will place additional, practical tools in the hands of our dedicated educators to help them get students excited about learning STEM subjects.”
Developing a collaborative network is a primary goal for UCRSI. Local businesses and groups have joined the partnership, and Pardue encourages more to commit to the cause.

“Each partner brings unique resources and expertise to the creative table, and we’d like to include more partners who share our passion for STEM education for our students,” said Pardue. “The UCRSI Hub will serve as a regional example of the power of collaboration. Through this united effort and sharing of resources, students will have access to a better education and brighter futures.”

For more information, contact the Oakley STEM Center at 931-372-6573.




Frequently Asked Questions / Reference Key
Information & Definitions

Reference Key

NSF = National Science Foundation

  • The National Science Foundation funds research and education in science and engineering, through grants, contracts, and cooperative agreements. The Foundation accounts for about 20% of federal support to academic institutions for basic research.

MSP = Math Science Partnership

Grants to institutions of higher education to provide research-based professional development to K-12 teachers of math and science. These Math and Science Partnership grants create a three-year relationship between a university and area school systems to enhance teaching of these critical subject areas.

ITQ = Improving Teacher Quality

  • The Improving Teacher Quality State Grants Program (formerly the Eisenhower Professional Development Program) was enacted to improve teacher quality and instructional leadership through partnerships between high-need elementary and secondary schools and postsecondary education institutions. This program gives states the flexibility to implement strategies that meet specified needs to improve teacher quality and raise student learning in the core academic subjects of mathematics, science, arts, civics and government, economics, English, foreign languages, geography, and history.

Race to the Top / First to the Top

  • In 2010, Tennessee was granted more than 500 million in federal funding for improvements in education through the national Race to the Top initiative.

  • Tennessee’s First to the Top education plan includes expanding performance goals, including academic readiness for young students, better preparing high school graduates for college and careers, and higher rates of graduates enrolling and succeeding in post-secondary education.



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