Grant Brings Valley Teachers to JMU for Robotics Training

From: Public Affairs

July 17, 2009

A lot of people can remember sitting in their high-school math class and thinking, "What would I ever use this stuff for?"

Now, a James Madison University program is preparing area teachers to be able to show those restless students some fascinating ways they can apply their math skills including robotics.

About 10 teachers and content experts from Page County, Augusta County, Waynesboro, Staunton, Martinsville, Richmond and Harrisonburg school divisions will be on JMU's campus July 20-24 to learn new skills in applying math to practical and exciting technologies, including LEGO robots and global positioning systems.

The workshop is funded by a $200,000 grant from the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia, part of the commonwealth's No Child Left Behind efforts. This is the third consecutive year JMU has received funding for training. Previous years have focused primarily on teachers from upper elementary-school grades. This year's program has expanded to include high-school teachers.

"Each year, we've seen the math skills of the students whose teachers participate go up," said Nick Swayne, external relations director for the JMU College of Education. "When you're able to show the students exactly how the math they're learning applies to things like robotics, they get that 'a-ha' moment. They really get into it."

The examples can be extended into critical thinking and applied math problems that are integral to meeting state standards of learning, Swayne said. The hope is that the participants are able to take the training they receive and pass it on to others in their schools through internal workshops.

Members of the media are invited to join the workshop on Wednesday, July 22, in Room 2378 of the JMU Physics and Chemistry Building (901 Carrier Drive). The sessions run from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. each day.

For more information, contact Swayne at (540) 568-6093 or swaynedd@jmu.edu.

JMU Public Affairs contact: Dan Armstrong, (540) 568-3621 or armstrdr@jmu.edu.

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