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U of M Opening Doors and Minds to STEM Education

Each June, the University of Memphis hosts two fast‐paced interactive summer programs that engage, educate, and excite Memphis area high school and middle school students with a number of activities designed to motivate and challenge participants to explore engineering. In June 2013, the Herff College of Engineering expanded the scope to include 23 high school teachers from area public, private and parochial schools! The college funded a teacher workshop that was held simultaneously with the Girls Experiencing Engineering (GEE) High School Program.

The GEE Program targets middle and high school aged girls. The GEE program increases the number of girls pursuing careers in STEM fields by offering an opportunity to enhance awareness and interest in the fields of mathematics, science, and engineering. 2013 marks the 10th anniversary for the GEE program. Since its inception, GEE has introduced over 1,200 girls to opportunities through engineering. The project is funded through support from the Women’s Foundation for a Greater Memphis, the University of Memphis Intermodal Freight Transportation Institute (IFTI), and the Herff College of Engineering.

A GEE graduate, Tierra Hill, shares “I started GEE my ninth grade year blindly and closed‐minded.

I did not know what engineering was nor did I want to know. When I thought, “engineer”, I thought of a man operating a train engine. I went into the program the first day thinking, “I am not going to be an engineer, and girls don’t do that”. By the third day, however, I loved it. There were professional speakers from different firms and companies that came in and talked to us about the benefits of engineering and why we should consider the field. Because of GEE, I am now an incoming freshman majoring in Civil Engineering at the University of Memphis.”

The male version of the program is called TRansportation Engineering Careers (TREC). The TREC program increases the number of students pursuing careers in transportation by offering high school students an opportunity to increase awareness and interest levels regarding existing and potential opportunities in the transportation field. TREC is also funded through IFTI.

As part of a yearlong emphasis between Wooddale High School and the University of Memphis through the Garrett A. Morgan Technology and Transportation Education Program grant, students from the Wooddale Aviation Magnet Program are participating in the TREC program. This focused TREC project is designed to address the Garrett Morgan program’s goal “to improve the preparation of students, particularly women and minorities, in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics through curriculum development and other transportation‐related activities.”

Both summer programs seek to create a broader impact by providing high school science and math teachers with new methods and tools for use in their classrooms. Program goals are addressed through careful selection of curricular activities, undergraduate student mentors, and professional speakers. Speakers are selected to include diversity in gender, ethnicity, career path, and experience. Content areas covered demonstrate the wide variety of opportunities available through transportation engineering. Students participate in activities in teams of four to emphasize the importance of teamwork and collaboration. Teams earn points based on successful completion of activities, with the winning teams at the end of the week receiving prizes. The competitive environment helps foster active engagement of all students in the program.

The Herff Teacher Workshop was structured exactly like the high school experiences. The teachers even competed with the high school girls in a logistics challenge competition. In addition to participating in an extremely interactive, mind-expanding week, the teachers received the necessary materials and lessons plans to recreate the logistics challenges in their classrooms.

“I have been involved with GEE since the beginning and while my role has changed over the years, every year I learn something new” says math teacher Shelli Brasher. “As a result of my participation with GEE, my teaching style and the learning opportunities that I can make available to students are night and day different from the traditional math classroom.”

More information about GEE is available online at http://www.memphis.edu/herff/gee/index.php. More information about TREC is available online at http://www.memphis.edu/herff/trec/index.php.

These Wooddale High School students are working on the design of their vehicle. Each day the challenges altered slightly so the students were required to make adjustments to their vehicle.


GEEThis Wooddale High School student is working on the timed build of the competition. Students were required to create specific instructions so that anyone could build their car.


High school students collaborate in this year's GEE roller coaster challenge. As the competitions escalate in difficulty throughout the week, the girls really have to fine-tune their ability to "roll" with any constraints they may be given!


Memphis area teachers participating in the Herff College sponsored Teacher Workshop. These teachers are assembling k’nex roller coasters.


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Dr. Erno Lindner

Dr. Erno Lindner, R. Eugene Smith Professor of Biomedical Engineering, has been selected as the recipient of the 2010 Willard R. Sparks Eminent Faculty Award at the University of Memphis.

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Contact Herff College of Engineering | 201 Engineering Administration Bldg |Memphis, TN 38152 | Phone: 901/678-2171 | Fax: 901/678-4180
Last Updated: 8/7/13