After a Successful Summer, the COSMOS Program Visits Teachers in the Classroom

Maggie Barrows & Kristian Breton
November 29, 2021

COSMOS follows up with the teachers who participated this summer to see them in action.

On October 14, Kristian Breton and Cassandra Barrett from Columbia Engineering made the first of several planned school visits to follow up on the work that they did with teachers from New York City public schools over the summer. At Stuyvesant High School, COSMOS New-LAW RET-REM Program participant Jason Econome was putting into action a lab activity he planned: using sensors to optimize yeast growth conditions. 

For a fourth consecutive summer, the COSMOS program brought together science teachers from New York City public schools and faculty mentors from higher ed institutions for cutting-edge research on wireless networks and cloud computing. The dynamic group of science teachers included Brooke Williams from PS/MS 46 Arthur Tappan School in Central Harlem and Basil Masood from The Mott Hall School near City College. Several of the educators who took part in the program were returning from the summer 2020 cohort to expand on the work they started that year. By providing access to research on innovative, relevant topics, COSMOS allows the participating teachers to create labs and lessons that highlight the real-world application of science and engineering in their classrooms.

Jason Econome, in his classroom at Stuyvesant High School, overseeing the yeast lab activity he planned this past summer.

The COSMOS summer research program for teachers is one of the outreach arms of the COSMOS advanced wireless testbed, which is a project to design, develop, and deploy advanced wireless technology in order to facilitate research on that technology. The testbed is a joint venture of Columbia, Rutgers, and NYU, with partners that include New York CityCity College of New YorkUniversity of ArizonaSilicon Harlem, and IBM

Despite having taught remotely for over a year, the returning teachers were excited about continuing to partner and learn with the researchers from the New York University Tandon School of Engineering, Columbia Fu Foundation School of Engineering, and the Columbia Data Science Institute. With continued support from the National Science Foundation’s Emerging Frontiers in Research and Innovation Program and the Platforms for Advanced Wireless Research program, COSMOS was able to undertake a second summer of virtual instruction and mentorship structured around the wireless testbed and the research being done there.

“We know how hard all of you worked during the remote teaching period this past year and a half. We really appreciate the fact that you joined this summer program to continue the hard work and develop lessons, experiments, and mentoring plans for your students and for other teachers and students,” said Prof. Shih-Fu Chang, interim dean of the Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science, who opened the 2021 National Science Foundation (NSF) COSMOS-NewLAW RET/REM final presentation session by recognizing the dedicated work of the teacher cohort.

With hands-on access to the tools they used to learn through COSMOS Wireless Education Toolkits, the participating teachers were able to develop and expand lesson plans based on emerging technologies such as wireless internet and cloud computing. Several of them worked to refine their lesson plans so they can be shared with other teachers who aren't familiar with the COSMOS labs and equipment. The summer’s virtual mentoring was led by Prof. Thanasis Korakis of NYU Tandon School of Engineering. Mentors included NYU graduate students and researchers Nikos Makris, Kostas Hounos, Manos Maroulis, George Kletsas, and professors Zoran Kostic, Harish Krishnaswamy, and Gil Zussman from Columbia Electrical Engineering.

The projects that teachers worked on spanned a wide variety of topics and ideas. Richard Foster, from Parkside Preparatory Academy, worked on a lesson using Pharrel’s song “Happy” to demonstrate how sound wave signals are affected by noise. Brooke Williams, from PS/MS 46 Arthur Tappan School, created several lessons covering proportionality, statistics, and AM/FM modulation.

Basil Masood from The Mott Hall School presenting his new lessons at the end of the summer program.

Basil Masood reworked lessons about interference of waves and IP addresses to make them suitable for middle school students at The Mott Hall School rather than the high school students they were initially designed for. Other projects included one by Melissa Sanchez, who teaches at Salome Urena Leadership Academy, MS 322, who made her math lessons suitable for middle school students, and another by Judith Damiao, who teaches at Martin Van Buren High School, who improved the labs she designed in the summer of 2020, which ranged in subject matter from carbon dioxide absorption in plants to analyzing airplane routes.

After the end of the summer program, the teachers presented their work and accomplishments at a final presentation on August 2, 2021, which Silicon Harlem program partners, and NSF program managers attended. After teachers presented their work, NSF Program Director Dr. Alias Smith shared, “The efforts and the work that the teachers have shown today is right along with what it takes to bring in our young people—our middle schoolers, our high schoolers—and show them how engineering and science impacts their world and how they can use it to change their world, to make an impact in the world.”

Clayton Banks, the co-founder of Silicon Harlem, capped off the event by saying, “Broadband is essential to equity and opportunity, and COSMOS is walking the walk towards that.”

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