This year, we had a wonderful opportunity to engage two interns at MNA. Aneesha Goodala–our intern from last year–now a rising junior at the University of Virginia, returned to help us on a few National Science Foundation grants and Rhea Goswami–a rising STEM junior at the Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Alexandria, VA–who participated in an AI Workshop that MNA is evaluating for the Fayetteville State University in North Carolina.
Rhea not only participated in the week-long intensive hands-on workshop but excelled in it.
The workshop, funded by the NSF was a part of FSU’s HBCU-UP Supplemental conference grant.
It was primarily aimed at STEM and Computer Science educators from NC-based high schools, community colleges, and universities to teach them strategies on teaching AI to their students using the Process-Oriented Guided Inquiry Learning (POGIL) method.
Using a small-group set up, the sessions were fully virtual, interactive, and covered topics such as–Regression, Decision tree, and Artificial Neural Networks.
Although, Rhea had taken courses in all the above topics, she said that she benefited from participating in the workshop. In a short essay, she wrote
I already have a background in advanced computer science. At the AI workshop, the three topics were very familiar to me. However, as a participant in a small-group setting, it was a good opportunity for me to engage with other team members who were educators from various NC high schools, community colleges, and universities. I enjoyed responding to questions, completing short tasks, reading articles, and presenting an ANN code during my presentation on the last day of the workshop. The workshop was well organized and the facilitator in our group engaged all of us well.
As a team member, I have learned that in order to keep pace with the rest of the group–who may not be as up-to-date on these three topics–I needed to be patient, give others an opportunity to think, respond and participate equally, break down my responses to explain my thought processes, and be a good team player.
At high school, everything seems like a competition where every student is trying to outsmart the other(s) and that is perhaps the norm. However, during the workshop, while interacting with adult learners and educators, I learned that patience, team work, collaboration, and empathy are the true marks of a good learner.
I thank MNA for the opportunity and hope to return for more such STEM-related workshops in near future.
Rhea also offered a few suggestions to improve the workshop:
Even though, my AI knowledge may not have dramatically increased as a result of the workshop, but my understanding about educator training and teachers has definitely changed. I have gained a new perspective and a new-found respect for my teachers for the amount of hard work and effort they put into understanding and applying subjects that they teach.
More hands-on workshops like this should be created and offered to educators to allow them to understand new technologies, software or programming tools (such as Jupyter notebook, Google Colab) and the POGIL teaching technique that they can bring into their classrooms to benefit their students.
We wish Rhea the best of luck for a very bright future ahead. We hope that she rises to new challenges and opportunities at her high school, college, and beyond! Thank you for your participation and input, Rhea!