About WISE

The Westminster Institute for Science Education

is a 501c3 non-profit organization dedicated to helping schools create the most innovative and engaging interactive STEM learning environments and programs on Earth.

Our Philosophy

Exploration, creativity, discovery, and mentorship in the practice of innovation are the foundations of our program. The WISE program incorporates the distilled learnings from over thirty years of experience in innovation, and in teaching students how to innovate, at Cornell University, NASA, CalTech, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Science, engineering, math and design education are all structured to reflect future professional experiences. Creativity and innovation are elemental to every aspect of these programs.  Students perform science experiments of their own and create things that have never existed through engagement in challenging collaborative projects.

Our Approach

WISE consults with K-12 schools at every level to affect broad changes and updates to STEM programs, from developing strategic plans for districts and private schools through running workshops for school boards, teachers, and students.  We help schools plan and communicate with their community to finance these programs, and so far, have helped schools self-fund WISE program updates. Our programs leverage the latest technologies in computers, tablets, and smart phones, as well as scientific tools and software to create deeply interactive learning experiences that challenge students to create and innovate without the boundaries of more traditional cook-book recipe approaches.

 

Recent Projects

NSF Proposal

Building Innovation Spaces for K-12 Schools

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Click on the image at left to read the proposal WISE submitted to the National Science Foundation, written in collaboration with MIT and Georgia Tech. This includes details of WISE goals and philosophies, along with a complete outline of how schools can set up the STEM equivalent of the school library: a WISE Lab or Maker Space where students can go in their free time to explore, design, discover, and innovate.

The Berkeley School (PreK–8)

Strategic Planning, Board Leadership,
Teacher Training, and Science Electives

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Through direct Board of Trustees participation, and in collaboration with former Head of School Janet Stork, WISE helped the then Berkeley Montessori School update its strategic plan, and broaden and modernize the K-8 school’s focus to include a wider range of teaching practices emphasizing creativity and innovation. This work led to a broad community survey and complete rebranding process to transform the institution into The Berkeley School.  Once a unified curriculum plan was in place, WISE helped plan and purchase updated science and engineering equipment, software, and curriculum materials, set up a WISE laboratory, and mentor the administration and science teachers. Throughout the process, WISE staff taught 4-8th grade electives and after-school programs in Lego robotics and sustainable aquatic biosystems.

 


 

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The Branson School (9–12)

21st Century Digital Storytelling Workshop

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In 2012, WISE offered a one-day 21st Century design workshop focused on ‘New Media’ story-telling tools and techniques for The Branson School Language Arts Department in Ross, CA.  The goal of the workshop was to offer teachers training and mentorship in how to challenge students to create original stories and projects using state-of-the-art multimedia and online publishing software.  New tools leverage powerful online services to brainstorm, compose, edit, critique, publish, and distribute content.

Workshop Agenda

9:00 am  Training

  • Intro, Downloads, Origins, and a Little Bit of Inspiration
  • Fundamental Principles
  • 21st Century Skills and Teaching

10:00 am  Mentorship in the Practice

  • Hands-on Innovation Challenges: Adding a Twist & Saving Literature

1:15 pm Collaborative Afternoon Workshops

  • Deconstructing the Design Process
  • Fostering Design Thinking and Innovation
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The Westminster Schools (K–12)

Strategic Planning, STEM Education Expansion,
Program Communication, and the Founding of WISE

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WISE began with a project driven by Atlanta’s Westminster School’s Headmaster, Bill Clarkson, to completely renovate and modernize the K-12 school’s STEM disciplines. Together, we envisioned new programs focused on innovation and creativity and empowered with state-of-the-art tools and programs, such as the FIRST robotics competition and Lego leagues, the Science Olympiad, and summer science internships.  This lead to the rapid implementation of a 1-to-1 laptop and iPad program and a completely renovated broadband infrastructure upgrade.  WISE supported the school throughout the process with consulting on basic strategy and philosophy, class schedule planning, community communications, teacher and board presentations, and program design. The success demonstrated by Westminster’s transformation into an education innovation leader led directly to the founding of WISE, with a mission to support all schools nationwide in realizing similar dreams.

Since the founding of WISE in 2006, the Wiredcats robotics teams have grown into multi-generational programs, where senior high students mentor junior high and elementary students, and graduates return to mentor future generations of innovators. The real power of the program is exemplified in how the students themselves have developed training materials for mechanical and software design, machine tool use, and leadership for those other students and schools that they now mentor. Westminster is now recognized as one of Apple’s distinguished technology leader schools and hosts the national Educational Technology conference, and the spirit of innovation permeates the entire fabric of the school culture.

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Burke’s School Board Retreat

Strategic Planning and Board of Trustees Training

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WISE was invited to run a one-day Board retreat for the Katherine Delmar Burke School’s trustees.  The goal of the program was to introduce the school leadership to what the nation’s leading technical universities had learned about how to teach and mentor students to be creative and innovate in an increasingly technical world.

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Prospect Sierra School (K–8)

Strategic Planning, IT Consulting, Teacher Mentorship

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WISE has been supporting Prospect Sierra School since 2009 in a broad range of innovation initiatives including:

  • Strategic planning for K-8 STEM curricula and pedagogy
  • Class schedule redesign to allow longer blocks of time for innovation
  • IT infrastructure redesign and deployment
  • External programs support, including FIRST Lego League
  • Board of Trustees, administration, and teacher training
  • Special community events, including Earth Day, Innovation, and Math weeks
  • Taught Electives in computer science, computer design, and Lego robotic design

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NAIS Board Workshop

Teaching Students to Innovate in the 21st Century

In November of 2013, WISE offered the leadership of the National Association of Independent Schools a one-day workshop to explore 21st century STEM education challenges / opportunities. Using an extended hands-on technical challenge, WISE demonstrated the latest pedagogical strategies developed specifically to foster creativity and innovation. These strategies have been refined over the last three decades at the world’s leading technical universities. There was further discussion about how these strategies have proven effective when translated and adapted for K-12 students, typical challenges in implementation, and the extraordinary results that make such efforts more than worthwhile.


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  • NSF Proposal

    NSF Proposal

  • The Berkeley School (PreK–8)

    The Berkeley School (PreK–8)

  • The Branson School (9–12)

    The Branson School (9–12)

  • The Westminster Schools (K–12)

    The Westminster Schools (K–12)

  • Burke’s School Board Retreat

    Burke’s School Board Retreat

  • Prospect Sierra School (K–8)

    Prospect Sierra School (K–8)

  • NAIS Board Workshop

    NAIS Board Workshop

WISE Leadership

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Dr. Phillip Alvelda

Dr. Alvelda is the founding Chairman of the Westminster Institute for Science Education, a 501C3 that helps schools extend STEM education with an emphasis on technical design, creativity, and innovation, and the CEO of TaDa Innovations, Inc., a tech/media/SaaS startup delivering live TV and voice service over broadband networks.

Prior to TaDa and WISE, Dr. Alvelda was the founding CEO of MobiTV, the world’s leading provider of live TV, VoD, and music over mobile networks. MobiTV launched the world’s first live television experience over mobile networks. MobiTV’s service has grown since its launch in 2003 to over 18M subscribers across all the major US, Canada, UK, and Latin American mobile networks, making MobiTV the US’s 3rd largest television distributor.

Dr. Alvelda has been awarded an Emmy by the Academy of Motion Pictures, was selected by Fast Company as the US’s 15th most influential high-tech entrepreneur, and has received numerous other industry leadership awards from AlwaysOn, CNET, Fierce, Frost & Sullivan, Mobile Entertainment (as one of the top 20 most influential New Media Executives), Red Herring, and other influencers for innovation and market leadership. He is a regular invited speaker at media, telecom, and education industry events, including the World Economic Forum, where he was chosen as a “Technology Pioneer” in 2007.  Prior to MobiTV, Dr. Alvelda founded The MicroDisplay Corporation, a manufacturer of high-resolution miniature displays for low-cost, high-definition TVs and virtual reality displays.

Dr. Alvelda has also developed spacecraft hardware and software systems and new computing architectures at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, where he designed and built sensors that flew on the Space Shuttle, as well as the Galileo and Magellan interplanetary spacecraft.

Dr. Alvelda sits on the boards of

  • Education Superhighway: a 501C3 dedicated to a providing a gigabit of broadband for all public schools in the US, and the policy driver behind the White House’s “Connected Education Initiative”
  • Schoolzilla: a Big Data analytics provider for school, teacher, and student performance management developed at the Aspire Charter Schools
  • Underground Labs: the media start-up behind The New York Rock Exchange.

Dr. Alvelda holds over 30 patents and patents-pending on a wide range of technologies, a technical Emmy Award, a Bachelor’s degree in Physics from Cornell University, and Master’s and PhD degrees in Computer Science and Electrical Engineering from MIT.