University of Alabama Professor Expands STEM School Curriculum in Black Belt

More Alabama Black Belt students will have the opportunity to learn about science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) careers through a unique curriculum that uses brain responses.

Chris Crawford, Assistant Professor at University of Alabama‘s Department of Computer Science, will expand the Black Belt STEM Project to schools in Sumter County starting this fall. Crawford currently works in Hale and Greene counties with the program and will continue to raise awareness of careers in computer programming, engineering, and robotics through the use of neurophysiological responses.

“I am a black belt product from Alabama and grew up in Greene County. I must give credit to my teachers and mentors in Greene County for getting me interested in this area of ​​work,” Crawford said. “Because of this, I know the importance of educating students about STEM careers in this part of the state where resources are limited. I want these students to use their brains to learn differently and apply thinking concepts in a whole new way. »

Acknowledging the Alabama Power Foundation grant to expand STEM in the Black Belt are, left to right, Alabama Power Western Division Vice President Mark Crews, University of Alabama President , Stuart Bell, and University of Alabama Assistant Professor Chris Crawford. (Danielle Kimbrough/Alabama Press Center)

Crawford will work with research students from the University of Alabama to deliver the program to Sumter Central Secondary School and University charter school in Livingston. Students will explore next-generation physiological computing systems to better understand human-computer interaction. Additionally, the program will incorporate career awareness modules that increase students’ knowledge of local employment opportunities and prepare students for further study at colleges and universities.

“We are thrilled that our students have the opportunity to explore STEM careers in a whole new way,” said JJ Wedgworth, the university’s charter school principal and superintendent. “Chris Crawford’s work and research is innovative, and we hope our students will be inspired by this program to create their own innovative career paths.”

A grant from the Alabama Energy Foundation made possible the expansion of the program. Alabama Power West Division Vice President Mark Crews believes the program holds promise for students in western Alabama and hopes to see further expansion across the state.

“Expanding this program to the Black Belt region allows us to reach students with a modern approach to introducing STEM careers to schools. We know Alabama’s future workforce is heavily influenced by technology, so this is an essential step in preparing students for future jobs,” Crews said. “The work that Chris Crawford does is so important and we are grateful that the Alabama Power Foundation offers him the opportunity to share his expertise with students in our area.”

Sumter County School System Superintendent Anthony Gardner added, “We greatly appreciate the partnership with Alabama Power, Chris Crawford and the University of Alabama that allows us to provide new and meaningful experiences for our students. of Sumter County. It’s no secret that there are some brilliant minds in Alabama’s Black Belt, and I hope this program will further raise awareness of the endless possibilities for our students.

Supporting STEM in the Black Belt are, left to right, Alabama Power Western Division Regional Manager Joseph Brown, Chris Crawford with University of Alabama, Alabama Power Western Division Vice President Mark Crews, Sumter County Schools Superintendent Anthony Gardner and University Charter School Principal The School and Superintendent JJ ​​Wedgworth. (Danielle Kimbrough/Alabama Press Center)

In addition to being an assistant professor, Crawford directs the university’s Human-Technology Interaction Laboratory (HTIL). His research focuses on human-robot interaction and brain-computer interfaces (BCI). He studied systems that provide computer applications and robots with information about a user’s cognitive state.

His work developing the Brain Drone Race has been featured internationally and in over 800 publications, including Forbes and The New York Times. In addition to studying brain-robot interaction applications, Crawford also recently developed Neuroblock, a software platform for developing neurofeedback applications. He is the recipient of a 2021 CAREER Award from the National Science Foundation.

“It’s amazing to be able to continue my work in an area that I call home,” Crawford said. “I sincerely believe that expanding the work we do at the university into the community has an impact and I am pleased that this work is part of the core mission of the College of Engineering at the University of Alabama. I hope to see this program facilitate communication between our business community and our schools to meet labor needs. There is no doubt in my mind that programs like this are the future of STEM careers.

To learn more about Crawford and his work, visit htilua.org.