SHS educator completes engineering research at MSU for professional development

Teacher/mentor Bob Richards assembles the fluid conveying tail.

by Patrice Johnson

A dozen middle and high school teachers statewide were invited to participate in Michigan State University’s “Research Experience for Teachers,” and Bob Richards, Stockbridge Jr/Sr High School teacher, was one of the select few. On July 26, Richards completed the professional development program in which participants conducted authentic research with one-on-one mentoring from 12 MSU faculty.

Over six weeks of his summer, Richards participated in workshops, seminars, and field trips, and worked in MSU’s Dynamic Systems Laboratory Control Research Lab. His project? He researched ways to increase efficiency and reduce energy consumption in a fish-like propulsion system for marine robots.

Roberts said he felt honored to have been selected. “This experience has provided me with ideas for new underwater vehicles and how to better introduce my students to the field of engineering,” he said.

Richards also developed a K-12 engineering curriculum related to designing and analyzing efficient thrusters for underwater remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) for use at the Jr/Sr High School.

This fish-inspired marine robot, developed in the Department of Mechanical Engineering’s Dynamic Systems Laboratory Control Research Lab, is designed to shed valuable insight into the health and well-being of the Great Lakes.

“Quality teacher professional development opportunities like this one at Michigan State allow teachers to remain in contact with advances in STEM research and teaching methods,” Richards said. “They also give teachers a chance to refresh and become students and researchers again, providing an inspirational spark they can take back to their students and classrooms.”

The program, offered through the Department of Mechanical Engineering in the College of Engineering, focused on educators serving socioeconomically challenged populations with students from groups traditionally underrepresented in science and engineering.

Follow-up academic year activities were designed to ensure the translation of lab research experience into classroom practice, strengthen long-term partnership between engineering faculty and teachers, and disseminate the outcomes.

For more information on the MSU-RET site:

Bob Richards models a potential fin for enhancing an underwater robot’s efficiency and stability.

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