What do software developers really do? How do scientists and computer science professionals work collaboratively to solve problems? These questions were answered at the Rice University School Mathematics Project (RUSMP) Fall Networking Conference at the Rice School/La Escuela Rice in September.
The conference showcased the work of the RUSMP Tex2 Externship Program, which is funded through the University of Texas at Austin STEM Center. This program provided teachers with firsthand STEM experiences in which professionals helped teachers gain insights into the knowledge and skills necessary to be successful in STEM careers. RUSMP collaborated with Bluware, a company founded by Rice alum Richard Jones ’76. The company is dedicated to developing software solutions for the oil and gas industry and to provide the externship experience for the teachers.
The networking conference kicked off with a keynote presentation by Andrew Kennedy, Agile practice manager for Bluware, titled “Organization Culture in Software Delivery.” During his presentation, attendees interactively explored aspects of collaboration by developing a movie pitch for a romantic comedy. Several teachers commented on how they could use this model in their own classrooms. The conference continued with presentations from nine of the teachers who participated in the externship program. These presentations provided an overview of their own externship experiences, the Agile software development process used by Bluware and the application of the Agile methodology to their classrooms.
Participants from the externship represented five Houston Independent School District high schools: Bellaire, Challenge Early College, Energy Institute, Lamar and Milby. Three of these participants are master teacher fellows, who are funded by RUSMP National Science Foundation. “I was pleased to have the opportunity to learn more about the oil and gas industry and see how STEM professionals work collaboratively,” said Lan Wu, Lamar High School mathematics teacher and Noyce Master Teacher Fellow.
Richard Parr, RUSMP executive director and externship project manager, added, “the externship provided an authentic opportunity for teachers to see how the content and skills they are teaching students are being applied in industry, and also to see how some ideas from industry can be used in their teaching.”
The conference concluded with discussions about literacy and numeracy facilitated by RUSMP directors Carolyn White and Susan Troutman. Conference attendees shared activities and tips for promoting connections between mathematics and language arts. The plethora of tweets after the conference confirmed the huge success of the event.
— Anne Papakonstantinou
Rice University School Mathematics Project