July 29, 2014

Valdosta Middle School Teacher Collaborates with VSU through Summer GIFT Program

VALDOSTA – For the past three years, Valdosta Middle School teacher Cody Moncrief has collaborated with Dr. Tom Manning, professor of chemistry at Valdosta State University, to explore STEM instruction and teaching practices through the GIFT (Georgia Intern Fellowship for Teachers) program. This year, Moncrief worked with science majors from VSU and area middle school students to construct remotely operated underwater vehicles (ROV) during a weeklong camp held July 14 to 18.

“The GIFT program puts school teachers in professional settings to investigate different techniques and bring that information back to their classrooms,” said Moncrief. “This year, eight students participated in the camp. Each of them built ROVs, tested them in the water, and were able to take them home at the end of the camp.”

VSU students from the Valdosta Noyce Scholars Science Teacher Preparation and Retention project joined Moncrief in facilitating the camp. Noyce scholars included Eric Haas, Quinton Hunt, Gregory Jackson, Donna Law, Chelsie Northcutt, Erica Ledel, Hannah Tabrizi, Ryndell Langford, Timothie Warren and Darius Miliam.

“This year’s GIFT experience had many benefits,” said Moncrief. “It benefited the STEM majors at VSU, who will eventually be teaching this material in their own classrooms. It also allowed me to develop curriculum for the STEM club at Valdosta Middle School.”  

Moncrief added that one of the most interesting experiences during the camp was watching the Noyce scholars and middle school students work with some tools for first time.

“It was rewarding to see their confidence grow as they became more comfortable with these tools,” he said. “One of the most important things that I learned this year is that students need to be challenged, make mistakes, work with different tools and not be afraid of failure.”

Offered through the Georgia Institute of Technology, the GIFT program allows middle and high school students to spend four to seven weeks during the summer working in industry workplaces and university laboratories to examine how scientists and researchers approach scientific problems and develop workplace solutions.

Moncrief’s work with ROVs spans beyond the summer program. He and Manning have spent the past two years developing a way to examine the ocean floor with the underwater vehicles. Filled with water, the ROVs can sink to the bottom of the ocean to collect samples and then float back to the surface after releasing hydrogen gas. The ROV system developed by Moncrief and Manning has been issued a provisional patent.