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Coxsackie-Athens CSD teacher Tom Guile works with a student in one of his science classes.

Since 2014, Questar III’s Summer STEM Research Institute has placed local secondary school STEM teachers in local businesses, colleges/universities and research facilities to get hands-on experience in areas related to the courses they teach – providing their students a more authentic education and better preparing them for the world they will encounter after graduation.

Tom Guile teaches Web Page Design, General Physics, Regents Physics, College Physics and 8th Grade Science at Coxsackie-Athens CSD. This is his second year in his second cohort in Questar III’s Summer STEM Research Program, and he is spending the summer at SUNY Polytechnic Institute in Albany, studying electricity and light.

Briefly describe your research to someone without a STEM background.
This year I am working with Dr. Carpenter and using a program called COMSOL to model different scenarios like using electricity to heat up a wire and passing light through a device known as a waveguide. The program allows you to input a three-dimensional model of an object, and then the program can run various studies on it to show how the object responds to different conditions.

What made you want to apply for the Summer STEM program?
I wanted to re-apply to the Summer STEM program because it is the most genuine PD I have ever experienced. Everything you learn is immediately tangible to you, and what you bring back is immediately tangible to the students, too. Beyond the lessons that are inspired by this program, just being able to show students what genuine science looks like (and not just canned grade school science) is huge.

How do you see this program impacting your instruction and benefiting your students?
It’s transformed how I think about teaching Physics. As a course that is driven by formulas, a lot of students really don’t “get it.” They think the formulas are just math exercises to get to some final result. Each summer I have done this program I have turned the course further from that mindset and have worked to show students that the formulas are models that can be used to make predictions about the world around you. They come from somewhere, and they can explain so much more than just the final answer to a word problem.

What are you most looking forward to through the program, or what has been the most beneficial experience for you so far?
What has been most beneficial for me is just the wide breadth of placements I have had through this program. I have gotten to work in four different placements, a new one each year. I have been able to explore optics, computer science, material processing, polymer science, design thinking, data analysis and more. I’ve been able to really detail to students all that is out there for them to explore if they were to pursue a career in STEM.

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