Indiana State University Newsroom

Education program led by Indiana State grad garners state award

October 25, 2011

When Indiana State University alumnus Brandon Small bumped into fellow ISU graduate Kara Harris during a recent conference, Harris asked him if he planned to stay for the awards banquet that night.

She encouraged him to do so; he later learned why.

Small, one of two teachers in the engineering and technology education program at Sullivan High School, received the Program Excellence Award from the Engineering/Technology Educators of Indiana at the group's annual conference in Indianapolis. The Sullivan High School program stands out because of the variety of programming, including experiential learning opportunities, that it provides for students, despite the school's small size, said Harris, technology and engineering education coordinator and director of undergraduate academic student services at ISU and president of the organization when the award was given.

"In their small program, they are hitting so many facets to make sure that all of the students that come through there are receiving a beneficial education, so they can either move on to post-secondary institutions or internships," Harris said. "They put in a ton of extra time with their students, and they really, truly care."

Small advises Sullivan High School's super mileage team, a group that creates a car designed to get high gas mileage. In addition, he also is the director of the interdisciplinary cooperative education, a program that helps provide community jobs to students in the high school.

He also regularly creates other critical thinking and problem solving projects that implement the lessons. Small realizes the importance of students thinking on their own to solve real-world problems. In one project, Small gives students everyday products, such as newspapers, tape, glue and staples, and requires them to move a ping-pong ball down four steps as a slow rate of speed.

"So I'm always giving them challenges like that, to where they get out of their seats, they get to use their hands and solve problems and use teamwork," Small said, "and that's something we use in the classroom on a weekly basis."

Small maximizes the capabilities of computers and technology to help teach students, and the projects and other work that students do in his class "are just out of this world," said Jon Stuckey, principal of Sullivan High School.

"He makes learning alive, and the kids really get into that and then they walk away with, in my opinion, certainly a better understanding of the concept s that are being taught," Stuckey said. "It's almost like the kids don't even realize they're being taught."

Small said that he was inspired by Harris, who has pushed him to do more with his students, along with his high school technology teacher, who also used projects to teach. Jeff McNabb was his most influential ISU professor, as he would tell stories about how he was teaching his students. Small added that students were excited to attend McNabb's classes.

"I want students to want to come to class, I want them to want to be here, and to enjoy being in my classroom," Small said. "So I attribute a lot of what I do today to a passion he showed me when I was a student at ISU."

Some students who have graduated from Sullivan High School have enrolled at Indiana State in numerous majors in the College of Technology, and were well prepared for the college curriculum, Harris said.

In his classes, Small is "able to put theory into practice in a way that high school students can understand it, apply it, and move it forward to help them later in life," she said.

Photo: (Submitted Photo)
Brian Wagaman, left, and Brandon Small of Sullivan High School pose with Ken Amos, the president of the Engineering/Technology Educators of Indiana. Sullivan High School received the Program Excellence Award from the organization this year. Small is a graduate of Indiana State University.

Contact: Kara Harris, technology and engineering education program coordinator and director of undergraduate academic student services, 812-237-9633 or

Writer: Austin Arceo, assistant director of media relations, Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University, 812-237-3790 or

Story Highlights

Brandon Small, an ISU graduate and one of two teachers in the engineering and technology education program at Sullivan High School, received the Program Excellence Award from the Engineering/Technology Educators of Indiana.

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