Director's Forum: A Blog from USPTO's Leadership
Director's Forum: A Blog from USPTO's Leadership
Friday Mar 11, 2016

USPTO’s National Summer Teacher Institute – Bringing Innovation to the Classroom

Guest blog by Russ Slifer, Deputy Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Deputy Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO)

Teachers across the country have until April 18 to apply for the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s (USPTO) 3rd annual National Summer Teacher Institute—an exceptional opportunity  for teachers to garner additional skills in innovation, “making,” and intellectual property, to incorporate into their classrooms.

The institute will be offered in collaboration with Michigan State University (MSU) in East Lansing from July 17-22, 2016. Fifty elementary, middle school, and high school science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) teachers will be selected to participate, and they will explore experiential training tools, practices, and project-based learning models to help foster skills and motivation for innovation.

Speakers and hands-on workshop instructors will include experts from the USPTO, faculty from MSU, noted scientists and engineers from the Science of Innovation curriculum, and representatives from other federal government agencies and non-profit organizations.

Invention projects provide a practical experience for participants to understand concepts of intellectual property in the context of STEM. Teachers will have access to maker spaces on the campus of MSU during the institute and are encouraged to take ideas and lessons learned back to their own classrooms. The program is designed to help teachers enhance student learning and outcomes, while meeting the rigors of common core and next generation science and engineering standards.

Steve Bennett,  an 8th grade engineering and technology teacher at a middle school outside of Houston, participated in the teacher institute in 2014 and served as a teacher ambassador in 2015. Bennett stated the teacher institute was the best summer experience he has had as an educator. He learned about the patent process, how to teach his students about it, and activities to use in the classroom such as making a microscope from a simple laser pointer.  Along with the tools and techniques to inspire intellectual property and innovation in his curriculum, Bennett said it’s the connections he made at the institute that help continue to drive him professionally. He’s met more than 60 teachers across the country who he continues to collaborate with and share ideas with. He now works with other schools and universities to promote STEM teaching programs, activities, and events. “The teacher institute opened up a whole new world for me,” he said. “The USPTO’s program can be used for any subject, and I recommend it for any teacher.”

Requirements for the USPTO’s National Summer Teacher Institute include three years of teaching experience and a commitment and willingness to take what they learn back to classrooms to help inspire a new generation of innovators. Teachers are chosen from across the country, and will have travel and lodging expenses covered if they live more than 50 miles from the venue.

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