Faculty from the College of Arts and Sciences Department of Physics and Astronomy and the C.N. Yang Institute for Theoretical Physics are leading efforts to introduce pre-college students to quantum information science with funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF) totaling $1.5 million. By creating learning opportunities and resources in quantum information science and its applications, their project, Quantum Education for Students and Teachers Program (QuEST), will enhance quantum education, physical science literacy, and the diversity of the STEM pipeline.

The research is run by principal investigator Angela Kelly, co-PIs Tzu-Chieh Wei and Dominik Schneble, and is in association with the New York Hall of Science. With the potential to directly affect 800 students and 160 teachers in New York City and Long Island, they will increase knowledge of quantum information science for secondary science teachers and their students in grades 8 through 12. The three experts combine their knowledge in physics education research, quantum simulation, and quantum information theory. In addition to learning the fundamentals of quantum physics and sharpening their intuition, teachers and students will get some practical experience and learn about the potential uses of quantum computing. Their participation will affect how teachers deliver related instruction and how future curriculum might successfully include quantum knowledge.

Schneble declared, “We are eager to implement the QuEST initiative. Even the great scientist Richard Feynman reportedly observed, “I think I can confidently assert that nobody knows quantum mechanics.” Quantum mechanics is typically thought to be difficult to understand. Kelly continued, “Students will develop superior intuition and become proficient in quantum thinking if we expose them to the wonders of quantum physics and its potential applications in quantum information science and technology at a young age. Importantly, enlisting teachers in our QuEST project will equip them with the knowledge and skills necessary to mentor students and integrate quantum physics and quantum information science into their lessons.

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Kelly, Schneble, and Wei have created specific goals that encourage critical thinking, reasoning, and communication skills, as well as student awareness and interest in careers and academic pathways in quantum science. Since the project’s main objective is to broaden quantum education through a collaboration of Stony Brook University with local school districts, these objectives have been carefully considered. The Institute for STEM Education’s (I-STEM) objective to improve research in quantum education, particularly in terms of implications on historically underrepresented populations, is furthered by this QuEST project. QuEST creates Next Generation Physics Standards-aligned, research-based teaching strategies for pre-college quantum science and computing.

Wei declared that the situation was interesting given that three scientists who helped establish the science of quantum information were given this year’s Nobel Prize in Physics. There are numerous tales we can tell to educators and students. The QuEST project is a component of our initiative to broaden access to quantum education at Stony Brook. Wei said that Stony Brook University is beginning a master’s degree in quantum information science and technology in addition to instructing PhD students in conducting research in the field. There is a lot of enthusiasm for quantum information science on our school, in the country, and around the world.

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