Clemson to work on NSF Digital Library

10/27/04

Collaboration with Shodor Foundation

CLEMSON -- A grant from the National Science Foundation has strengthened Clemson University's partnership with Shodor Education Foundation, Inc., recipient of one of four National Digital Library Pathways Projects awards worth more than $2 million.

For 10 years, Clemson and Shodor have worked together to develop computer tools that help students understand everything from fractions to fractals.

In math and science education, the phrase "a picture is worth 1,000 words" holds true. Through modeling and simulation software, computers turn complex problems into real-world scenarios. For instance, a computer model, named Fire!, helps students learn about probability by showing -- through pictures -- the impact a one-in-six chance that a tree will burn has on a forest. Similar models help biostatisticians predict the flu's spread, but they aren't perfect.

"It's great that computer models allow students to understand math," said Steve Stevenson, director of Clemson's Institute for Modeling and Simulation Applications. "But models are inherently flawed, so we need to make sure that the ones offered through a digital library are as correct as they can be, or teachers are wasting time."

Stevenson will work with Shodor partners -- North Carolina Central University, the National Institute for Community Initiatives at the University of Vermont, Kean University in New Jersey and the National Center for Supercomputing Applications at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign -- to design a system that allows access to validated models offered through the digital library, thus helping university and K-12 educators reach out to their students. Clemson math professor Dan Warner also is a member of the Shodor board and will help guide activities of the grant.

"Clemson is just as proud of our work to help K-12 science teachers as we are of producing top-quality graduates," said Thomas M. Keinath, dean of the College of Engineering and Science at Clemson University. "We are honored to be working with the Shodor Foundation on this grant. They have blazed trails in using computers and models to inspire teachers and students, by showing them just how much fun math and science can be and how they relate to our everyday lives."

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