Partnering with MIT: A UK independent school’s experience

Robert Gordon’s College, an independent school in Aberdeen, UK, and MIT, USA, are part of the CASE global community and are a perfect example of how schools and higher education institutions can work together for mutual benefit — no matter where they are in the world. The College recently partnered with MIT (the Massachusetts Institute of Technology) which brought its Global Teaching Lab (GTL) programme to the northeast of Scotland.

Two undergraduate students from MIT have taken a trip across the Atlantic to deliver lessons that complement the science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics curriculum (STEAM) at Robert Gordon’s College in Scotland. The visit is part of a partnership between MIT and the College which will see selected MIT students spending time each January teaching at the school.

The first two MIT students to visit the College were Nancy Lu, a senior chemical engineering student, and Pratheek Nagaraj who is undertaking a Masters in computer science at MIT.

Nancy (left) and Pratheek (right) at the College

Nancy helped with the analytical chemistry club during her time at the College which has inspired her to consider a career in teaching chemistry once she graduates.

“I have been amazed by the level of knowledge the young scientists have here,” she said. “It has also been really fun getting involved with the analytical chemistry club.”

Dr Jane Kennedy, Head of Chemistry said: “This is a crucial time for our senior pupils. They are formulating their understanding of chemistry which underpins their project work and discussing this with Nancy has allowed them to build confidence.”

Pratheek shared his experiences with pupils of internships at leading edge global technology companies including Amazon, Facebook and Snapchat. He gave lectures in the computing science labs to inspire pupils to think about a future in the field of computer science. The Global Teaching Lab programme has shown him how companies can engage with scientists from a young age to help prepare them for life beyond school.

“I have been providing lectures for pupils from S1 to S6 and helping them learn new programming languages,” explained Pratheek. “I have been impressed by the pupils supporting one another to learn and I am finding ways to help inspire them. After my time in Scotland, I’ll be returning to MIT to complete my masters degree and move in to a start-up tech-finance company.”

Pratheek (left) and Mark Hay (right)

Mr Mark Hay, Head of Computing said: “Pratheek has delivered incredibly interesting and interactive lessons on higher and advanced higher topics such as cloud computing, sorting algorithms and concurrent programming. We have also had pupils from Aberdeen Grammar attending the analytics and social networking lesson. Our pupils have benefitted from his experience in working for organisations such as Facebook which has allowed them to gain further insight into the curriculum content. As a teacher, he has helped create material that will further stretch and prepare our senior pupils for life beyond Robert Gordon’s College. We have hugely enjoyed having him here as have our pupils.”

During the programme, Nancy and Pratheek hosted a wider school community workshop, sharing their knowledge and experience of how the university application process works in the United States. Students were interested to hear their advice first hand on what universities like to see from applicants.

Robert Gordon’s College is an independent school in the heart of Aberdeen educating pupils from pre-school nursery through to S6. The College hosts The Wood Foundation Centre for Science and Technology — the largest school centre for science education in Britain.

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