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Associate professor receives university's highest early career teaching honor

Kathryn Kao

April 18, 2017

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With students in both the College of Education and the College of Engineering, John Mativo's influence and enthusiasm for teaching extends across the STEM fields and into the community where students are benefiting from their work on real-world industry projects.

"My teaching philosophy is simple—inspire students to dig deeper in what they are learning," said Mativo, who joined UGA's faculty in 2007. "In presenting real-life examples, students can bridge the unknown to the known."

Hired to help develop a new engineering design program in education, Mativo teaches graduate-level courses in Global Innovation, Technology and Careers; Evaluation of Workforce Programs; and Action Research in the College of Education, as well as Dynamics; Computational Engineering Methods; and Logic Design in the College of Engineering. Additionally, he instructs undergraduate students in two Freshman Odyssey courses, Alternative Energy and Sustainability as well as Product Design and Innovation.

"Dr. Mativo's achievements in his teaching, research and service attest to his ability to fulfill the land grant university mission," said Rob Branch, professor of learning, design and technology and head of the Department of Career and Information Studies. "Several students have recognized him as a mentor and indicated him as a prime reason for the successful completion of their respective academic degree programs."

Many of Mativo's courses contain a service component for students to actively engage in the community. As a result, students are not only immersed in experiential learning, but they also experience the benefits of service and outreach.

In 2011, his dedication to this approach inspired his students to design, install and commission a wireless computer network for the Athens Nurse Clinic—a facility that provides free health care to homeless and low-income residents in Athens—so medical practitioners could share information about their patients more rapidly and efficiently.

The course materials, along with the students' enthusiasm and knowledge, helped guide the development of the network design. After just two months, the project was approved by the clinic, and the team officially established the wireless network.

"We designed [the network] in such a way that it could be moved because the clinic was anticipating to relocate to a new facility," said Mativo. "Our wireless system design prevented the need for installation and the removal of wires."

By the end of the semester, Mativo's students are equipped with the knowledge to tackle their own projects or take on an industry-inspired project in the community. The idea is for each student to claim a concept they can call their own by understanding it through direct involvement in problem solving.

Mativo's goals as both an educator and a researcher are two-fold: to enhance the way students engage in learning today and to advance energy harvesting systems that can withstand vibratory environments. He has played a significant role in developing an integrative STEM curriculum using robotics to teach science within existing middle school curricula.

"Students come to us with different backgrounds, and we have to figure out what they know and what they don't and work from that point toward meeting the learning objectives of the course so students can perform exceedingly well," said Mativo. "By exercising respect to one another, we can attain great achievements."

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