Alumni News

Matt Sears (M.A.T. ’04) heads invention grant for “green” project at local high school

Photo of Matt Sears

Matt Sears

Durham’s Hillside New Tech High School was recently awarded a Lemelson-MIT InvenTeam grant of $7,000 to develop a residential green roofing system. Hillside New Tech is the first North Carolina school to be selected as an InvenTeam recipient, and is one of 15 high schools chosen nationwide this year.

School of Education alumnus Matt Sears is leading a group of high school students, teachers and mentors in the endeavor.

Sears, a mathematics teacher at Hillside New Tech, will work with students to develop a project that will allow plants to grow on sloped roofs, reducing storm water runoff and providing natural shade to homes. He traveled to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in June to attend training and to prepare for the final proposal.

“It is going to be wonderful to watch our students design, build, test and implement their invention this year,” said Sears. “These are dedicated students who love to solve difficult problems, and I am excited to see what they accomplish.”

Sears, along with several other UNC-Chapel Hill School of Education graduates, began teaching at Hillside New Tech High School when it opened in August 2007. Hillside New Tech is a progressive school that creates a learning community focused on preparing students for college and the modern workforce through the use of technology in project-based learning and solving real-world problems.

Sears draws upon the qualities he developed at the School of Education to create an open and diverse classroom focused on student achievement.

 “When you come intro my classroom on any given day, you may think you’ve jumped into a physics class, architecture class, forensics class or astronomy class,” said Sears.  “At the School of Education, I learned not to be afraid to be unconventional while trying to teach my students.”

Sears was selected as a Kenan Fellow for 2006-2008 though N.C. State University, and in the fall of 2008 he traveled to India on the Fulbright exchange program. He also was the 2008 Teacher of the Year for Durham Public Schools, as well as the 2008 Golf Coach of the Year for the PAC-6 conference.   

The Lemelson-MIT Program awards grants of up to $10,000 each to invent technological solutions to real-world problems. The program recognizes outstanding inventors and encourages sustainable new solutions to everyday issues.