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GE Fund Awards Clarkson $300,000 For Team-based Learning

Clarkson University has received a $300,000 competitive grant from the GE Fund's Learning Excellence initiative to expand team-based learning opportunities for students. The Fund’s Learning Excellence program invests in the development of innovative, interdisciplinary curricula and teaching methods in engineering and business disciplines, all with a focus on measurably increasing student learning.

Clarkson offers a wide variety of team learning opportunities to undergraduate and graduate students through the SPEED program, with many teams competing nationally. SPEED – Student Projects for Engineering Experience and Design – was established in 1997 with assistance from the GE Fund. The 14 current teams tackle such challenges as environmental remediation of hazardous waste sites, Formula SAE racecar design, and reduced-emission snowmobile design.

SPEED earns high marks from industry for preparing students for real-world challenges through multi-disciplinary projects that refine communication skills, provide management experience, and increase technical design competencies in a collaborative environment.
One focus of the GE Fund grant will be to help Clarkson faculty develop "hands-on homework" in the fundamental engineering science laboratory curriculum using examples of engineering problems faced by SPEED participants.  

Through hands-on homework, students complete self-guided experiments, which illustrate theoretical principles. "For example, a Materials Science instructor may assign a hands-on homework problem that requires strength testing of the properties for the Formula SAE Car team's tow bar,” explained Nobi Ackerman, dean of engineering. “A sidebar to the assignment would include a discussion and analysis of different materials to meet a budget constraint." Ackerman anticipates that hands-on homework will more than double the laboratory exposure students receive while at Clarkson and further align their skills and knowledge with the needs of industry.
The latest funding will also enhance the SPEED program's commitment to attracting and retaining women and students of color. A combination of campus-wide diversity workshops and faculty proposals will be funded to further develop cultural collaboration within team-learning experiences.

Joyce Hergenhan, president of the GE Fund, noted, "At GE, problem-solving skills, teamwork, and boundaryless thinking are critical to our ongoing success. The Learning Excellence Grants support the same kind of transformation of teaching and learning process, with clear results in terms of student learning. We're excited that this new grant to Clarkson will support not only the next phase of SPEED, but integrate an understanding of the critical role of diversity."

The GE Fund, the philanthropic foundation of the General Electric Company, invests in improving educational quality and access and strengthening community organizations in GE communities around the world. All told, GE, the GE Fund, and GE employees and retirees contributed over $90 million to community and educational institutions in 1999. For more information on the GE Fund, visit 

This gift is part of “The Campaign for Clarkson,” which includes fund-raising priorities for new construction, student financial aid and academic excellence initiatives. To date, the University has raised $48 million toward its $70-million goal.

[News directors and editors: For more information, contact Annie Harrison, Director of Media Relations, at 315-268-6764 or]

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