NSF Awards SC State University with $399,940 Grant

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Students prepare to launch a weather balloon from a site in Orangeburg County. The balloon rose almost 20 miles before bursting and parachuting to the ground with its payload.The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded $399,940 to SC State University and OCtech to develop a partnership that will enhance the physics programs at each institution. The three year award will provide funds to develop shared resources and new coursework materials at both institutions. While physics is a relatively small field of study it plays an important role in all science and engineering fields with applications that range from the energy industry to the space program and the health professions. Physics majors are in demand with excellent prospects for employment.

“This project will bring together the two physics areas which have complementary strengths,” said Dr. Donald Walter, principal investigator at SC State. “We will develop new materials that both schools can include in the classroom,” he said.

A number of shared activities will be supported by the grant. Students from both schools will tour industrial sites and graduate programs at universities around the state of South Carolina. Each year a team of students will work with faculty to launch a weather balloon with a research payload that will rise to a height of 20 miles above Orangeburg to collect meteorological data and measure the ozone content in the atmosphere.

Faculty members will modify existing laboratory exercises to include alternative energy applications as well as incorporate the latest teaching methods that have been shown to improve student performance in physics courses.

“Faculty from the two institutions will work together on revisions to their respective physics programs and on the introduction of topics related to alternative energy into various courses,” stated Dr. James Payne, co-principal investigator at OC Tech.

South Carolina State University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.