New Mexico Tech President Daniel H. López addresses ITEST participants at a recent luncheon.
by George Zamora
SOCORRO, N.M., June 29, 2006 – New Mexico Tech and Santa Fe Indian School are collaborating on a new education and training program that will provide students, teachers, and mentors at several of northern New Mexico’s pueblos with practical experiences using geographic positioning systems, mathematical modeling, and computer technology to help solve environmental problems the various Native American communities are facing.
With funding provided by the National Science Foundation, the state-supported research university in Socorro recently teamed up with the Santa Fe high school to initiate the Information Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers (ITEST) program, in which participating teachers and students gain college credits during the summer as they enhance their information technology (IT) skills and knowledge in New Mexico Tech classrooms and computer labs.
In addition, high school students enrolled in ITEST will have opportunities to test their newly acquired IT skills during the regular school year, as they work on a part-time basis as student interns in the environmental or IT departments associated with their respective pueblos.
“Through this program, high school teachers and students work together to enhance their IT skills, and then use the knowledge to help with difficulties encountered in their home communities, such as developing engineering solutions for recurring flooding problems,” said Srinivas Mukkamala, IT coordinator for New Mexico Tech’s Institute for Complex Additive Systems Analysis (ICASA) and one of the university’s project coordinators for the ITEST program.
The innovative education and training program is based on a model already in place at Santa Fe Indian School, in which curriculum is designed around problems and practices typically encountered in traditional Pueblo Indian culture and life.
“The ultimate goal of the ITEST program is to make a difference in these Native American communities,” Mukkamala said. “We want teachers as well as students to feel comfortable with information technology and to be able to apply it in developing practical solutions to common problems faced in their communities.”
Supplemental funding for the New Mexico Pueblo ITEST program is currently provided by the New Mexico Tech President’s Office, the Tech Academic Affairs Office, and the university’s ICASA research division.