Ed Friedman and CIESE: Transforming K-12 STEM Education in the U.S. and Worldwide
With the creation of the Center for Innovation in Engineering and Science Education (CIESE), Professor Ed Friedman and Stevens have changed how STEM courses are taught around the globe.
It’s recognized today that the prosperity and continued well-being of the nation, indeed of nations everywhere, requires that citizens be educated in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. And Stevens has done more than its share to advance that goal, helping thousands of schools around the world teach those subjects effectively at the K-12 levels.
Ed Friedman and CIESE were at the heart of this work.
CIESE (Stevens’ Center for Innovation in Engineering and Science Education) was created more than a quarter-century ago to teach K-12 teachers how to better instruct and inspire their students in STEM disciplines. The center was created just as new technologies were rapidly being created and evolving, so the timing was fortuitous.
CIESE was envisioned and directed by Edward Friedman, an MIT-trained physicist who had been instrumental in Stevens becoming the first U.S. institution to require undergraduates to purchase personal computers. Friedman has always been a man of the world, helping build educational programs in Afghanistan, India and Sub-Saharan Africa. Under his leadership, CIESE was soon partnering with schools in nations such as Peru, Ecuador and Costa Rica.
Similar to programs in the United States, one project, “Proyecto Ciberaprendiz,” used internet data to build a web-based curriculum. Members of CIESE worked with ministers of education, building coalitions between nations and schools.
“One of the keys to this project is interaction between public and private schools,” Friedman said at the time. “Cross-pollination among these schools is a key factor to dramatically energizing the societies and economies of these countries.”
The seed he planted then began to thrive. Beth McGrath, now chief of staff to Stevens President Nariman Farvardin, joined CIESE in 1993 and served as its director and executive director from 2004 through 2011. During her tenure, CIESE expanded its portfolio to include engineering, which was once largely absent from U.S. K-12 curricular offerings but now regularly features in them. The university’s signature Waterbotics summer robotics program was widely applauded and modeled upon, for instance.
CIESE eventually executed 30 instructional and training programs, reaching more than 30,000 educators worldwide. Its impact — particularly in bringing STEM programming to underserved youth nationwide — earned a very prestigious honor in 2011, when McGrath traveled to Washington, D.C., on behalf of CIESE to accept a Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring at the White House from President Barack Obama.
“CIESE’s impact has been felt locally, through its work with Hoboken and Hudson County schools, as well as throughout New Jersey and in more than 25 U.S. states and in more than a dozen countries,” McGrath has said.
“Through programs delivered directly to teachers and students, through turnkey training and scaleup programs, and through its contributions to STEM education research, CIESE has literally changed the landscape of K-12 STEM education.”