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City Tech to Hatch Solutions to Real-World Industrial Problems with NSF Support

Dean Brown and Professor Kolchenko

Through its new I-Cubed (Innovation Through Institutional Integration) program, the National Science Foundation (NSF) has granted City Tech $928,836 for a project titled “The City Tech I3 Incubator: Interdisciplinary Partnerships for Laboratory Integration.”

 “This initiative will change the way that STEM
(science, technology, engineering and mathematics) lab courses are taught at the college,” according to Provost Bonne August, "by reimagining the lab experience in the College and building outside relationships." August, Professor Vasily Kolchenko (biological sciences), Dean of Arts & Sciences Pamela Brown and Dean of Technology & Design Robin Bargar are co-principal Investigators for the project.

City Tech is one of only seven institutions in the nation awarded the prestigious four-year grant; the others are Vanderbilt University, Michigan State University, Arizona State University, Rutgers University New Brunswick, Texas Tech University, and Fort Belknap College (a tribal college).

The goals of I-Cubed are to broaden faculty and student participation, integrate research and education, and develop a global workforce. Students will learn STEM subjects in laboratories transformed to reflect the collaborative interdisciplinary approaches of today’s advanced science and industry labs. “Solving research-based, real-world problems using the latest technology will create a more exciting learning environment for our students and produce graduates with the advanced skills needed by local industries,” comments Dean Brown.

The City Tech I-Cubed Incubatorwill create a multi-dimensional model of laboratory instruction, with an institution-wide focus on inquiry-based research and lab learning. The program will stimulate faculty research outside the classroom and provide students with internship and employment opportunities in the New York metropolitan area.

Pairs of faculty members working on interdisciplinary case studies will develop curriculum and teaching methods for active learning to solve real-world problems in industry. “There also will be professional development for our faculty in the Faculty Commons, a college-wide center for teaching and learning,” notes Kolchenko, who was City Tech’s grants outreach coordinator for the 2008-09 academic year.

The program will weave together five currently funded NSF-funded projects – Metropolitan Mentors Network: Growing an Urban Talent Pool in New York City; Research Experiences for Undergraduates in Ground-Based and Satellite Remote Sensing,at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration-Cooperative Remote Sensing Science and Technology Center (City College-CUNY); two Scholarship Programs (S-STEM); and Research, Reflect, Plan: Increasing the Participation and Advancement of Women in Academic Science and Engineering Careers, as part of the Institutional Transformation (ADVANCE-IT) program’s second phase.

“I-Cubed will also strengthen our partnerships with peer institutions through the NSF Major Research Instrumentation Program, the Project Kaleidoscope Interdisciplinary Initiative, the CUNY Black Male Initiative and NSF ADVANCE Program,” says Barbara Burke, City Tech’s director of grants and contracts. 

August affirms, “Creativity, connectivity, integration and synergy are keys to developing human and institutional capacity to full potential. In both research and education, forging new links between ideas or methodologies frequently paves the way for innovation.”

In practice, this means that, working with a Writing Fellow, students may present their STEM project work as a technical report that must be understood by a third party. They will also participate in virtual reality lab experiences and online activities, including remote access and collaboration, blogs, Wikis and media streaming, among other activities.

On the incubator’s advisory board are members of City Tech departmental advisory boards and the principal investigators of current grant-funded STEM initiatives. More information can be found in Nucleus: A Faculty Commons Quarterly, Vol. 1, Issue 1 and on the faculty discussion blog:

Kolchenko is also involved with another NSF program, funded for $160,000 – the two-year CPATH Computational Thinking Initiative. Another interdisciplinary and collaborative program, it will teach students computing concepts and methods, reasoning at simultaneous multiple levels of abstraction, algorithmic thinking, applying foundational mathematical concepts to solve complex problems, and understanding the dimensions and consequences of scale.

“Computational thinking is an essential competency of the 21st-century workforce,” Kolchenko says. CPATH will create a model of curriculum development addressing information technology’s effects in every field. Faculty groups will convene to develop key indicators of computational thinking and disseminate case studies, prototypes and curriculum units.

The principal investigator for CPATH is Professor Raffael Guidone (Computer Systems Technology). Professor Kolchenko, Dean Bargar and Professor Matthew Gold (English) are the co-principal investigators. 


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