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Initial ARRL Teachers Institute Session a Success


The first ARRL Teachers Institute of 2016 wrapped up on June 10 in Highlands Ranch, Colorado. The bonus, donor-sponsored introductory (TI-1) session was hosted by the Douglas County STEM School and Academy for teachers along the Denver Front Range. These educational opportunities are offered by the ARRL Education & Technology Program (ETP).

“Because we had a surplus of very qualified applicants for our regular sessions, we were able to fit a few of those applicants into this Colorado session, along with nine local teachers,” ARRL Education Services Manager Debra Johnson, K1DMJ, explained. ETP Instructor Larry Kendall, K6NDL, taught the Colorado class — the first-ever 5-day TI session.

Already on the 2016 schedule are two introductory Teachers Institute sessions and one advanced session. The Introduction to Wireless Technology course (TI-1) is under way this week (June 20-24) at Parallax Inc in Rocklin, California; a second is set for July 25-29 at ARRL Headquarters in Connecticut. The advanced Remote Sensing and Data Gathering course (TI-2) will be offered July 18-21 at the Dayton Amateur Radio Association in Dayton, Ohio. The TI-1 course is a prerequisite to TI-2.

Kendall said the Colorado Teachers Institute was organized by Paul Veal, N0AH, a former TI participant and STEM parent and supporter. His daughter Anna, W0ANT, spoke to the TI attendees about her involvement in the school’s balloon-borne research projects. Complementing the Colorado educators were teachers from Georgia, North Dakota, and Illinois.

“This was a very strong group, who began to see applications and relevance in their curriculum from the first day,” Kendall recounted. “Their enthusiasm and energy carried through to the end, including our ‘graduation ceremony’ featuring a 13-robot robotic conga line and ‘hokey pokey’ dance.”

Kendall said participants took advantage of the additional class time at the Colorado session to discuss classroom implementation, demonstrations of classroom activities, and to absorbing the concepts covered during the week.

The class got high marks from participants. “My background is in architecture and construction, so electronics has never been a strength for me,” said Lance Newman, a high school teacher from Illinois. “Although I teach some basics in communications technology and modern manufacturing processes, I have struggled to bring hands-on, practical applications to my students. TI-1 was just what I needed!” Newman said he’s planning to get his Amateur Radio license and is excited about bringing ham radio into his classrooms.

Fifth grade teacher Chris Laster, KM4KPJ, of Georgia, said the TI-1 session was “hands-down” the best one he’d ever attended. “I left with tons of ideas to implement and a much deeper understanding of radio science and electronics that will make me both a better ham and a better teacher,” he said. “It was an incredibly productive week!”

The TI-1 curriculum covered fundamental principles of electronics, Ohm’s Law, electronic components, simple circuits, and a “Soldering 101” tutorial. Participants built a 24-hour digital clock. They also explored such concepts as oscillators, amplifiers, filters, mixers, and rectifiers, gaining experience with an oscilloscope in the process. The course also introduced digital signals and processing, microcontrollers, and programming, and participants built and tested a variety of circuits to demonstrate programming concepts.

“The indoor sessions were interrupted several times to work satellite passes,” Kendall said. “We didn’t make any contacts, but we were able to listen to many operators and note the diverse range of grid squares, and participants got a feel for the equipment needed and the process of tracking the satellites and making contacts.” The class also took part in a hidden transmitter (fox) hunt, and constructed BoeBot® robots.

“One teacher programmed her robot to negotiate a maze using RF identification tags to control the robot’s movements,” Kendall said. “Another developed a program that displayed different pictures of dinosaurs depending on the tag read.”

Kendall said that going into the class, only one teacher had an Amateur Radio license. “Though not a key focus of the Institute, by the end over half expressed their intent to pursue licensing,” he said.

An article in the March issue of QST offers more details about each course, or visit the ARRL Teachers Institute on Wireless Technology page on the ARRL website.

Contributions from individuals and from corporate and institutional supporters make the annual ARRL Teachers Institutes possible. Donations to support the ARRL’s efforts to promote Amateur Radio in schools and to provide professional development to educations is welcome. 




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