COSAM named two recipients of the 2012 Dean’s Outstanding Outreach Award, David King, professor of geology, and Ash Abebe, associate professor of mathematics and statistics. The annual Outstanding Outreach Award is given to COSAM faculty members with recent records of service and outreach performance that extend beyond normal expectations.
King was recognized for his work at a site where about 85 million years ago, a small asteroid or comet struck the shallow waters of the northern Gulf of Mexico in the vicinity of Wetumpka, Ala. The energy from this impact was about 175,000 times that of the Hiroshima bomb, and it excavated a depression and raised a rim of hills that largely still stands today. King led a team that identified the unusual geological features in Wetumpka indicating the impact crater, and preliminary scientific research results were first published in 2002. King and his students and colleagues abroad continue to conduct research at the crater. In addition, King has worked with the city of Wetumpka and its Impact Crater Commission for the past 14 years to bring public education about the crater to the community, organize and staff annual crater tours, and in recent years to help the city plan for the Alabama Crater Center, which will be built in the near future on US 231 in Wetumpka.
Abebe is involved in a variety of outreach-centered work. He has secured funding from the British government through its UK-US New Partnership Fund as part of the Strategic Alliances and Partnerships strand of the Prime Minister’s Initiative for International Education 2. The funding is intended to stimulate the strategic partnership between Auburn University and the University of Sussex to improve mathematics education and research in Sub-Saharan African institutions.
He is also the co-primary investigator for a $200,000 NSF outreach-centered NSF grant titled, US-Africa Advanced Study Institute and Workshop Series in Mathematical Sciences. The US-Africa Advanced Study Institute and Workshop Series in Mathematical Sciences program is a collaborative effort between U.S. and African mathematicians with the aim off: strengthening the U.S. and Southern African human infrastructure in mathematical sciences research; increasing and sustaining research collaboration between U.S. and Southern African mathematicians; and improving the collaboration between U.S. and Southern African colleges and universities. The first US-Africa Advanced Study Institute and Workshops were held December 1 - 14, 2011 in Livingstone, Zambia. In addition to NSF funding, this project is also supported by the Southern Africa Mathematical Sciences Association (SAMSA), Auburn University, British Council, Mathematical Association of America (MAA), National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis (NIMBioS), and the University of Sussex.
In addition to his work with mathematics higher education in Sub-Saharan Africa, Abebe is the co-primary investigator for a $3 million NSF grant titled, Alabama Alliance for Students with Disabilities in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics). The grant supports collaborative research involving four universities, two community colleges and six school districts in east-central Alabama with an outreach component that covers the whole state of Alabama. The Alliance has the following major goals: increase the number of students with disabilities completing associate, undergraduate, and graduate degrees in STEM disciplines and entering the workforce, especially among minorities, veterans, and women; improve academic performance of students with disabilities in secondary level science and mathematics courses through improved enrichment, advising, counseling, and mentoring; improve collaboration among and between post-secondary institutions and government agencies in Alabama in addressing the education of students with disabilities in STEM; and promote community outreach and information dissemination to increase disabilities awareness through civic engagement, multimedia forms, and workshops.
Lastly, from 2006 to 2011, Abebe was co-primary investigator on an NSF-funded $1,926,195 grant that was a partnership between Auburn and Tuskegee universities and Lee and Macon County School Systems to ensure that students receive high quality instruction, and that teachers have high quality training and resources for enhancing STEM education in rural schools. The grant, titled GK-12 Fellows in Science and Mathematics for East Alabama Schools Project, placed graduate students (GK-12 Fellows) from Auburn and Tuskegee universities in ninth- through 12th-grade science and mathematics classrooms to serve as resource persons. The project increased student learning, motivation, confidence, achievement and enrollment in science and mathematics courses in ninth- through 12th-grade classrooms; increased teacher content knowledge and skills; and increased the number of science and mathematics majors that learn about teaching and the learning process.
"I am honored that some of my outreach work is being recognized,” Abebe said. “This work is done with several other collaborators at Auburn and elsewhere. This is recognition of their efforts as well."