Year Awarded: 2016
Enrique del Barco
College of Sciences
Teaching at all levels is the most satisfying consequence of my responsibilities as a faculty member at UCF. I am strongly dedicated to the education of young men and women in all aspects related to my scientific background. I am of the firm opinion that modern societies require a better understanding of the mechanisms governing our universe, at all scales, to be able to fully develop ourselves in a frame of high respect with our environment and natural resources. We, as scientists and educators of a public university, are in an adequate position and have the responsibility to help implant these natural principles in the brains of our future leaders.
My approach to scientific education is strongly shaped by a student-instructor interaction strategy, which I use in my teaching activities at all levels. The interaction strategy is of paramount importance for the understanding of science. The implementation of this strategy in the general physics courses I teach at UCF started with my initiative supported by NSF seven years ago to redesign the lectures and instructional labs of algebra- and calculus-based physics courses, making them highly interactive. During the last few years, I have focused my efforts in a further/deeper renovation of the instructional laboratories of these same courses. In particular, the new project consists in using Webassign as a platform to support the laboratory experiments, including pre-, post-, and in-lab activities, quizzes, and automatic grading. Since its pilot implementation three years ago, we have extended the project to all traditional calculus-based physics laboratories and represented a tremendous success. Two of my group of graduate students have been awarded the AAPT 2012 Outstanding Teaching Assistant Award for their invaluable assistance in this initiative. In addition, one of them was awarded the 2014 UCF COS Excellence Award for Graduate Teaching Assistance and the 2014 UCF University Award for Excellence as a Graduate Teaching Assistant, the highest recognition given to a teaching assistant at UCF.
But teaching science does not stop at the university; it needs to percolate into our youngest minds and excite them about the magic behind STEM disciplines. I have developed several initiatives during the last few years to reach out to K-12 students. Among these, is a new science blog that I created in collaboration with high-school students, designed to strengthen the interaction between the two sides—science and the general public. Also, supported by a UCF i-STEM fellowship in 2015, I have recently led the creation of a new Minor and a B.A. in Nanoscale Science and Technology at UCF, for which three new core courses have been developed and are offered as Service-Learning, with students interacting with middle schools in the Orlando metropolitan area and using the exciting world of nanotechnology to attract them into STEM careers.