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UTSI Holds SpEcTruM Retreat for Local Teachers

A two-day retreat was held recently at the University of Tennessee Space Institute (UTSI) for teachers and educators in the surrounding area interested in science, technology, engineering and math. The retreat gave attendees an opportunity to find out what resources were readily available for them at UTSI, Arnold Engineering Development Complex (AEDC), Tennessee Technological University (TTU) and the Hands on Science Center (HOSC).

Carole Thomas, Program Manager for STEM at UTSI, coordinated the event. Attendees were given tours of UTSI’s advanced laboratory, HOSC and AEDC Fox’s Den to get ideas for future school field trips.

Katrina Sweetland, UTSI Space Grant Research Assistant, presented information about the solar observatory under development at UTSI. The solar observatory will track the sun and provide live-feed images to a website that will be available to the public. Educators and students will be able to request an account that will allow them to capture images of the sun, track sunspots and other solar activity and use them in the classroom or after-school clubs.

Teachers reviewed different STEM kits and other valuable resources available for classrooms from the Millard Oakley STEM Center at TTU. Kits can be checked out on a two-week period. There are thousands of items ranging from hand-held data acquisition units with sensors and probes, to math manipulatives, to LEGO Mindstorms.

Attendees learned to make bottle rockets and soda straw rockets to help teach basic statistics in a manner that allows teachers to demonstrate grade appropriate math to realistic problems.

Kellye Burns, a junior at Clemson University and summer intern at the Hands On Science Center, designed the website for the event. Kellye was also the main MC for the event.

Contact Carole Thomas for additional information at 931-393-7300 or email