The first time I heard about quantum information science I was attending a teacher training workshop in Canada in 2008.
I already knew that quantum science was study of the smallest objects in nature. I also knew that information science was the study of computers and the Internet. What I didn’t know was that quantum information science – sometimes called QIS – was a new field of science and technology, combining physical sciences, mathematics, computer science and engineering.
Until then, I hadn’t realized how much QIS was the key to many everyday objects, such as cell phones, satellites, MRI machines, lasers, cybersecurity and solar technology. I was a physics teacher and I didn’t know it, so I knew the other teachers didn’t either. And if they didn’t know it, that meant K-12 students certainly weren’t learning it.
I am committed to doing a better job teaching these concepts in my own classroom and to the teachers I mentor. But I quickly discovered significant obstacles.
These barriers include:
• Lack of material about quantum information science that high school students can understand.
• Limited funding and professional development opportunities for teachers focused on quantum information science.
• Absence of state or federal government quantum information science standards so that schools follow.
With the help of colleagues, I organized Quantum for everyone in 2020 to help secondary school teachers support quantum information science teaching. The project received nearly a million dollars in funding from the National Science Foundation. The aim of the scholarship is to help students become quantum intelligence teaching K-12 educators how to teach QIS.
Quantum jobs are everywhere
From a societal point of view, there are many reasons to invest in quantum education at the secondary level.
The quantum information technology market is poised to be worth $44 billion by 2028. However, a study estimates a major talent shortage in the industry – with the number of vacant jobs approximately 3 to 1 greater than the number of qualified candidates.
Not having fundamental knowledge in the field can prevent students from pursuing these highly paid jobs. Annual salaries can start at around $100,000 for quantum engineers, developers and scientists. Quantum physicists can earn up to $170,000.
While there is a need for quantum science talent in many sectors, one of the most critical is national security.
Historically, enormous scientific and technological advances have been made in the United States when politicians invest in efforts they deem essential to national security – consider space racewhere the The United States spent $257 billion over 13 yearsor the atomic bomb which cost approximately $30 to $50 billion over four yearsboth in today’s dollars.
In 2016, the U.S. government recognized the importance of quantum information science in maintaining the country’s strategic advantage when China launched the world’s first quantum satellite, presenting its emerging space and technology program. American military leaders also worried that China was on the verge of creating “hack-proof” communication tools much more sophisticated than American designs. This raises the question of which nation will dominate from space in times of crisis.
The Center for New American Security, a Washington-based think tank, warned that China’s focus on quantum science as part of its research efforts, could help this country surpass the United States as an economic and military superpower.
In 2018, the National Quantum Initiative Act was enacted “to accelerate quantum research and development” and “develop a workforce pipeline in quantum information science and technology.” However, the initiative lacked details on how this workforce would be developed.
Quantum science education
With a new national focus on quantum information science, the National Quantum Network was launched in 2020 to help support and coordinate K-12 education efforts, expand available learning tools, and create opportunities for students to consider their role in a workforce. quantum work.
The most logical place to learn about quantum information science would be a high school physics class. However, up to 16% has 39% of high school students don’t attend high schools where physics is offered every year.
Traditional professional development focuses on teaching the teacher rather than helping the teacher prepare to teach. That’s why I and other researchers are studying the effectiveness of a different professional development model. Components of the model include teaching content by other science teachers.
Our model trains teachers one week, then allows them to teach students at a camp the next week while the information and techniques are still fresh. Research has shown that this approach is more efficient than doing summer workshops that only allow teachers to put into practice what they have learned much later.
This model also allows teachers to gain confidence as they practice teaching techniques with other science teachers, which makes it more likely they will implement this knowledge in their own lessons. Lessons developed by the project can be integrated into existing STEM programs – science, technology, engineering and mathematics – or taught as stand-alone subjects.
Examples of quantum information science lessons that have been developed include levitation, where students learn the basics of superconductors And quantum levitation. These concepts are already used in applications such as Maglev trains, which use magnets to float silently above the rails instead of using wheels. There is a lot of advantages of this type of travelincluding energy efficiency, fewer derailments, less maintenance and less impact on the environment.
Other lessons involve understanding cryptography and cybersecurity. Cryptography is the technique of coding information – or encryption – so that it can only be read by the intended recipient, while cybersecurity is the process or procedures taken to keep information secure in devices and networks.
As districts and teachers begin to implement quantum information science concepts, my colleagues and I are collecting feedback from teachers on the effectiveness of their lessons and student engagement. This feedback will be used to explain how to add quantum information in more lessons.
If this new teacher training model works, it could be scaled up nationally.
This type of professional development can be expensive because of the time teachers need to learn the content and increase their confidence. But failing to prepare students for the jobs of tomorrow could prove even more costly if the United States cedes its place in quantum technology, allowing countries like China to assert their supremacy in this area.