Research Center's 2017 RET Program Kicks Off at Hellstern Middle School

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Sixth graders at Hellstern Middle School will be the focus of the University of Arkansas Center for Power Optimization of Electro-Thermal Systems team over the next two weeks.

Teachers in the Research Experience for Teachers program will be teaching the lesson plans they developed this summer alongside Shannon Davis, education coordinator for the Center for Power Optimization of Electro-Thermal Systems. This year's curriculum focuses on learning how the production of heat through chemical reactions (combustion) provides energy to power engines.  

Staff and students of the center will be on hand to support, mentor and observe the students in a learning environment. The students will first make what is called elephant paste, which is actually a chemical reaction that produces heat. Then they will build cars that run on the same exothermic reaction. They will observe a working motorcycle or car engine and then will have the opportunity to view a sectioned combustion engine to see the working parts. 

This year's RET teachers from Hellstern are Tammy Guthrie, Math and Science Instructional Facilitator; Kathy Prophet, Greg Herzig, and Cassie Kautzer, 6th grade science teachers; and Mike Jackson, an Advanced Placement teacher of physics and chemistry from Farmington High School.

The program began last summer with Shawn Bell, a 7th grade science teacher at the time who is now the science specialist for the U of A STEM Center for Mathematics and Science Education, and Mike Jackson, an AP physics and chemistry teacher from Farmington High School, participating in the Research Experience for Teachers program through Center for Power Optimization of Electro-Thermal Systems.

The lesson plans and activities that resulted from the research are available through the Center for Mathematics and Science Education, to any teacher who wishes to use them, as well as the other five STEM centers around the state.  Since the lesson plans and activities meet current Next Generation Science Standards, they are useful to anyone in the country.

Watch the video highlighting the 2016 RET program produced by the Springdale School system.

The Center for Power Optimization of Electro-Thermal Systems' ambitious and innovative research goal is to increase the power density of current mobile electrified systems by 10-100 times over current state-of-the-art systems. Results from this study could save highway vehicles between 100-300 million liters of fuel per year.

The Power Optimization for Electro-Thermal Systems Center is a National Science Foundation Engineering Research Center. At this center, engineering faculty from the University of Arkansas, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Howard University and Stanford University collaborate with members of industry to identify and carry out research projects to improve the power density of next generation electro-thermal systems that are the most relevant to industry needs.

For more information on the University of Arkansas Center for Power Optimization of Electro-Thermal Systems education programs, contact Shannon Davis at For more information on the center, contact Alan Mantooth, deputy director, at


Karin Alvarado, MarComm specialist
Department of Electrical Engineering


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