In 2008, the US National Academy of Engineering (NAE) announced 14 Grand Challenges in engineering that are awaiting solutions in the 21st century. This list includes the challenge to “Provide Access to Clean Water.” Water is the critical element for supplying food and energy, safeguarding human health, and maintaining national security. Increasing pressures for water demand worldwide present challenges to scientists to attain sustainable management of water resources. To face large-scale environmental challenges in the 21st century, the National Research Council outlined the need for fundamental knowledge of: (i) the sources of contaminants and how they are linked to different types and levels of human activities; (ii) the persistence, transport processes, and degradation mechanisms of these contaminants; and (iii) the risks they pose to the environment and humans.
A key component of the program is to educate our youth about the interdisciplinary aspects of water research, to make them aware of water-related issues, and to guide them to be future professionals who will develop appropriate solutions to address these challenges. The Water ECubeG (Engineering, Ecology, Environment, Geosciences) Research Experiences for Teachers (RET) Site, developed by an interdisciplinary team of faculty and graduate students, engages teachers in Southwest Virginia in interdisciplinary water research.
The teachers participate in a research project with a host lab on the Virginia Tech campus. The lab is their home for the program, where they conduct specific research projects, participate in weekly professional development activities, attend field trips, and learn water-related scientific practices and techniques, all while being offered continuing education credit. These teachers will in turn educate young students on interdisciplinary aspects of water research and motivate them to pursue water-related STEM careers.

Goal and Objectives

The overall goal of this RET Site is to provide teachers (grades 9-12 & community college) with an interdisciplinary water research experience. More specifically we aim to: 1. Develop and implement a 6-week research experience program for RET Site participants involving hands-on learning experiences in engineering, ecology, environment, and geosciences, 2. Develop and implement a professional development program for teachers, 3. Guide RET Site participants in developing and implementing STEM-based interdisciplinary water research learning modules for their curricula, and 4. Establish a community of teachers mentored in interdisciplinary water research for support, collaboration, and dissemination of Site activities to a larger group of teachers.

Participant Map

The map below shows where the participants from the inaugural year taught at the time of their engagement in the program. The makeup of the this group was mostly grade school teachers, with the remaining two being community college professor participants.

The following photographs were of the first year was comprised of numerous professional development workshops, field trips, and interesting research projects.