Oct 24, 2022
In his first year at Georgia Tech, mechanical engineering major Daniel Webber had the opportunity to engage with middle and high school students through two unique internships that allowed him to explore teaching as a possible career choice.
“I don’t have a particular plan for immediately after college but want to seek an engineering position in which I am making a visibly positive impact on others’ lives and exercising the full extent of my creativity,” he said. “I have been trying to find something of a niche in between engineering and education.”
Both internships were made possible through existing partnerships created by the Center for Education Integrating Science, Mathematics, and Computing (CEISMC). For the last decade, Pre-Teaching Advisor Susan Belmonte has been facilitating these types of experiential learning opportunities with public and private schools and community organizations.
“Students who complete the internships traditionally have some interest in education whether using their talents directly as a teacher in that space or being involved through their industry through outreach,” explained Belmonte, who has a dual role with CEISMC and Pre-Graduate and Pre-Professional (PGPP) Advising. “These opportunities allow students to delve deeper into their interests early on so they can make better informed future career decisions.”
In spring 2022, Webber was one of three Georgia Tech pre-teaching interns at Centennial Academy, a K-8 school in Atlanta. He worked in a sixth-grade science classroom, observing lessons, leading small and large group instruction, and collaboratively planning problem-based learning (PBL) activities.
For example, Webber designed and executed a classwide PBL, “Planet Crayon,” in which students were astronomers tasked with mapping out a crayon-based planet using coordinate planes and creating prototypes of the planet’s waxy rock formations, utilizing their rock cycle knowledge.
“I now know that my ideal education environment and generally my professional environment is one where I am allowed to express creative freedom,” he said. “If I pursue education as a career, it will be with a subject matter highly prone to unconventional teaching methods and interdisciplinary connections, and I would not have known how important that was to me until my internship with Centennial Academy.”
During the summer, Webber was the first undergraduate pre-teaching intern to participate in CEISMC’s Georgia-Intern Fellowships for Teachers (GIFT) program, which places K-12 teachers in STEM-based internships with universities, organizations, and industry.
He worked in the Smart Structures and Dynamical Systems Laboratory of Woodruff Professor of Mechanical Engineering Alper Erturk who hosted teacher Kimberly Ford and students Simone Marshall and Shameria Smith from Booker T. Washington High School as part of the GIFT program.
Webber said that he was happy to participate in another opportunity to engage with students, this time explaining in more relatable terms the complex concepts behind studying the acoustic properties of the human skull. He also demonstrated his 3D printing knowledge by creating the skull prototypes that were used in the wave propagation experiments.
“The research Dr. Alper and graduate researcher Eetu Kohtanen are conducting in the lab is amazing, and even in the absence of any K-12 connection, I would find the work exciting and fruitful,” he said. “Through GIFT, however, I was able to devote just as much to the advancement of the research as I would to the investment in the next generation of researchers.”
—Joëlle Walls, CEISMC Communications
Daniel Webber was the first undergraduate pre-teaching intern to participate in CEISMC's Georgia-Intern Fellowships for Teachers (GIFT) program over the summer. Learn more about his experience from the GIFT Program's "End of Summer Highlights" video.