Last spring, I was awarded a Professional Improvement Fellowship which gives me a release from my "regular responsibilities for one semester" to work on the project I had proposed. This is kind of a big deal.
When I arrived at the University, Lo, these many years ago, I was one of relatively few Non-Tenure Track (NTT) faculty. Although, I was hired in at a salary that was competitive with other faculty, there were no promotion opportunities and the conditions for NTT faculty varied widely across the campus. Over the years, we've made huge strides at the bargining table through patient negotiation. In the last contract, we secured a one-semester leave for Senior Lecturers to work on a significant academic project. The first time I applied, I did not receive one, but was awarded one the second time around.
During the fall, in free moments here and there, I began laying the groundwork for my leave. I applied and received some travel money to attend meetings during my professional leave and I submitted a proposal to the Honors College to have my course project fast-tracked for approval as an honors seminar. This proposal was also approved and I have now submitted the official paperwork for the course approval process. And it has cleared the first level of approval. Here's the course description:
In this two 4-credit course sequence, students will build instruments using open science hardware and collect data that bears on a research question. In the first semester, students will explore case studies about creating/deploying instruments combined with hands-on activities to develop technical skills for instrument development. Each technical lesson and activity, modeled on the Software Carpentry curriculum, will lead students through two instrumentation platforms (Raspberry Pi and Arduino) and how to collect, log, and analyze data from analog and digital sensors. Students will post brief weekly "Research Notes". By the end of the first semester, students will have (1) drafted a proposal for a research project and (2) developed a functional prototype of the instrument. During the second semester, students will use Agile project management techniques to collaboratively build, test, and deploy finished versions of their instruments and conduct iterative rounds of calibration and data collection to assemble a data set that bears on their research question. By the end of the course, students will complete an individual thesis using data collected with their instrument and create an "instructable", supplemented with imagery or video, that describes their instrument, how it works, and how to make one.
Now the real work begins.