FSU’s Center for Defense and Homeland Security Working with North Carolina K-12 Teachers to Improve STEM Classroom Instruction

An innovative program that helps North Carolina teachers better incorporate science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) curriculum into middle school classrooms has completed its successful inaugural year, according to officials at Fayetteville State University’s Center for Defense and Homeland Security (CDHS).

For the past year, professors and researchers associated with CDHS have worked with educators from five area counties, conducting workshops and presentations with STEM field teachers that include the latest teaching techniques, each designed to promote enthusiasm for the subjects in public school classrooms. 

Titled “CDHS Professional Development: Statistics Teaching Using Web-Based Visualization,” the program aims to inspire and reinvigorate teachers in the STEM fields with the anticipation that they will carry their enthusiasm back into their respective classrooms, according to organizers.

“Science and math subjects can sometimes be very dense and difficult to understand.  Our approach is to present the research so that public school teachers can understand it, digest it, and deliver it in innovative and exciting ways,” said Dr. Kelly Jackson Charles, FSU assistant professor and assessment coordinator, who helped produce the program.

“For kids, it may also help stimulate their interest in school in these subjects.  If we continue to inspire teachers, throughout the year and their academic careers, their students might consider majoring in the STEM fields in college,” she added.

Dr. Charles was recently named “Teacher of the Year” by Fayetteville State University for her efforts.

Studies consistently show that minority, rural, and at-risk students are significantly underrepresented in today’s STEM careers, something the CDHS program strives to combat.

“These students are often not adequately prepared and, subsequently, their presence in STEM careers is not as prevalent,” said Ms. Latonya Leeks, professional development coordinator in FSU’s School of Education, who helped design the program.

“A solid learning foundation in the sixth, seventh, and eighth grades is key to becoming well-prepared for a career in STEM fields,” Ms. Leeks added.  “The jobs are new and innovative and career opportunities are being created every day.”

To stir the interest of North Carolina teachers, the CDHS project included demonstrations of programmable robots courtesy of Dr. Sambit Bhattacharya, an FSU computer scientist specializing in the field of artificial intelligence.

Dr. Bhattacharya worked with teachers to input statistical data into the robot — which is outfitted with visual, proximity, and chemical sensors — and the teachers then watched as the programmed robots began to move and interact according to their input.

“Robots are great educational tools for teaching computer science,” said. Dr. Bhattacharya.

The program also included other CDHS scholars in mathematics education (Dr. Peter Eley), criminal justice (Dr. Lorenzo Boyd), biological sciences (Dr. Lieceng Zhu), computer science (Dr. Sambit Bhattacharya), and forensic biology (Lodhi, Khalid) who interacted with the middle school teachers in programming statistics and probability into visualization software called “Tinkerplots,” which helps with the understanding of data, numbers, and probability.  Dr. Peter Eley, an Assistant Professor of mathematics education in the School of Education, introduced the teachers to Tinkerplots, and offered in-classroom support to participating teachers throughout the school year.

“It was done in a way that a child in fourth grade could grasp it — and it was extremely effective,” said Dr. Charles.

The workshops and presentations were also geared to assist teachers in meeting the newly-adopted national Common Core Standards for Mathematics, which stress teacher competence in fields such as statistical thinking, computer science, bio-energy, and security.

“We want to enable professional educators to deliver rigorous 21st Century content within a global context using 21st Century technology tools,” Dr. Charles said.

Sponsored by the Center for Defense and Homeland Security, the program was one of the first major initiatives of the CDHS, which drew upon the expertise of FSU professors from across a variety of academic disciplines.

“The most intriguing part for me — and the reason why I believe it’s such an important effort — is that the CDHS is quite interdisciplinary,” said Dr. Charles.  “The CDHS pulls together a dynamic and intriguing web of expert faculty from across many disciplines, who think critically and innovatively, so that we can apply our respective expertise in ways that are impactful to the region.”

“The CDHS allows our professors to brainstorm and produce innovative ideas that address compelling issues for the region in new and dynamic ways,” she added, “and, in this case, to help create new opportunities for students to be successful in STEM.”


Fayetteville State University’s Center for Defense and Homeland Security is designed to prepare the next generation of national security and disaster preparedness workforce, by addressing issues of compelling interest to the security of the United States.  Through its diverse partnerships with national laboratories, industry partners, and K-20 institutions, the CDHS focus its research in Cyber Security; Command, Control, Communication, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance (C4ISR); Chemical and Biological Countermeasures; and Critical Infrastructure Protection and Disaster Management Preparedness.

CDHS Contact:
Dr. Curtis Charles, CDHS Executive Director
Senior Associate Vice Chancellor for Institutional Transformation
Office of the Chancellor
Phone: 910.672.2006
Email: ccharles@uncfsu.edu

Media contact:
Jeffery  M. Womble – ’86
Director of Public Relations
Fayetteville State University
1200 Murchison Road
Fayetteville, NC 28301
(910) 672-1474 (Office)
(910) 672-1382 (Fax)