Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy

To ignite and nurture creative, ethical, scientific minds that advance the human condition.

IMSA Science Teacher Branson Lawrence Wins DiscoverE Educator Award

energyhousebranson200w_0.jpgOne of the greatest rewards of teaching is making an impact on the next generation.

IMSA Science Faculty member Branson Lawrence was recently awarded for doing just that, and was selected as one of only eight runner-ups in the nationwide 2013 DiscoverE Educator Recognition Awards.

The DiscoverE Educator Awards were established by the American Society of Mechanical Engineering (AMSE) last year as part of the Engineers Week (EWeek) slate of activities and shines a spotlight on educators who are inspiring tomorrow’s innovation generation by helping students discover engineering. The program is open to all full-time educators teaching in grades 6-12.  Teachers can be nominated by either engineers or engineering students. Winners were selected by National Engineers Week Foundation and its non-profit partners. Last year, engineers and engineering students nominated more than 180 teachers for the inaugural DiscoverE Educator Awards.

As a result of the honor, Lawrence will receive a $500 award, a 3M Shoot ‘n Share digital camera and a 3M gift pack of classroom supplies.

IMSA alumnus Adam Leemans ‘09 was one of his students who was grateful for the difference Lawrence made in his life.  In his nomination essay, Leemans traces his love of engineering back to his days as one of Branson’s students when he was working on the building and design of the IMSA energy house (pictured).

“Many doubted the project's feasibility—an energy efficient house, with wheels? Yet, five students and a teacher built the unique creation, complete with solar panels and a wind turbine. Four years later, the project is still used to educate students across Illinois because one instructor had confidence in my team and our dream.”

Leemans went on to explain how he learned so much about engineering from Lawrence, who wanted him to understand step-by-step how everything came together.

“Before I spent weekends cutting plywood and wiring this house with Mr. Lawrence, I worked as his lab technician. Within a year I knew every laboratory setup in detail because he wanted me to understand the experiment, not simply set it up. As my physics instructor, he pushed the class to do more than answer the question: he always wanted us to comprehend what was physically happening.”

In her essay, Birce Onal ’08 said Lawrence was the first teacher to make physics ‘fun’ for her.

“Whether you took his Advanced Physics course, or saw him shoot rockets with students behind the school, you knew that Mr. Lawrence was all about science and engineering. After I witnessed my upperclassmen friends raft across the school pool in duct-taped cardboard boats, I had to take his class. He was the first person to make physics fun for me.”

Leemans and Onal both credit Lawrence for their love of engineering.

“I fell in love with engineering because what I envisioned became reality,” Leemans said. “I'm now going to graduate school to pursue that dream. That only happened because a great teacher cared.”

Onal echoed that sentiment. “His commitment to this field and to his students still inspires me as I continue my engineering education.”

Adam Leemans '09 graduated Valedictorian from West Point with a degree in Mechanical Engineering and Birce Onal '08 graduated from Washington University in St. Louis with a degree in Biomedical Engineering. Both are attending graduate school.