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A Hands-On Workshop Investigating the Greek Trireme and Its Impact on Democracy and Empire

August 7, 2018 - 8:30am to 5:30pm EDT

Make Social Studies Come Alive with Inquiry & STEM!
A Hands-On Workshop Investigating the Greek Trireme and Its Impact on Democracy and Empire

IEEE at Stevens Institute of Technology
1 Castle Point Terrace
Bissinger Room
Hoboken, NJ 07030


Investigate the history of technology and its impact on society, culture, politics and economics, and explore the influence these same factors have on technology itself. This hands-on workshop focuses on the Greek trireme and its impact on democracy and empire. You will learn about the technology of ancient naval warfare from a professional Historian, gain access to free IDM resources including primary and secondary source materials, and participate in a hands-on activity with guidance and insight from a world history teacher. In addition, you will walk away from the workshop with an action plan in hand, which will empower you to incorporate the history of technology, and its social context, in your classroom.


In the fall of 480 BCE, Xerxes, the King of Persia, attacked the city-states of Greece on land and at sea. While the land battle that ended with a Spartan stand to the last man at Thermopylae is perhaps more famous, it was the Greek naval victory at Salamis that repelled Xerxes' assault and saved the Greeks from defeat. What saved Greece from the encroachment of an empire that had already consumed much of western Asia? The Athenians, the leaders of the Greek coalition navy, employed an innovative ship design called the Trireme. Built for speed and agility and designed as an offensive weapon, the trireme allowed the ancient Greeks to destroy most of the Persian fleet, stop the western advance of the imperial Persian king, and to preserve their fledgling democratic system that was to transform the world.

Gain an understanding of the connections between ancient naval technology and the principles of democracy and empire. Leave with a tool kit that will assist you with enhancing students' critical thinking skills, decision-making skills, and with a better understanding of technological and cultural literacy.

Note: Laptop or tablet required for this hands-on workshop.




Historical Thinking Standards - D2.His.1.9-12
Evaluate how historical events and developments were shaped by unique circumstances of time and place as well as broader historical contexts.

Historical Thinking Standards - D2.His.2.9-12 
Analyze change and continuity in historical eras.

Common Core Content Standards 

Develop claim(s) and counterclaims fairly, supplying data and evidence for each while pointing out the strengths and limitations of both claim(s) and counterclaims in a discipline-appropriate form and in a manner, that anticipates the audience's knowledge level and concerns.



  • NCSS Members – $169 per person
  • Non-Members – $259 per person


John VardalasDr. John Vardalas
Sr. Historian, History of Technology
IEEE History Center

Until his retirement from IEEE, in July 2016, Dr. John Vardalas, was the senior historian at the IEEE History Center. He is still an industry associate professor, in the College of Arts & Letters, Stevens Institute of Technology. He has written numerous articles on the history of technology in society. His current historical interests center on the interrelationships, over the millennia, between "command of the sea", trade, geopolitics, and the development of science and technology. Recently, he coauthored a paper, along with Drs. Murray, Ferreiro, and Royal, in the International Journal of Nautical Archaeology that dealt with ancient ship design in the Aegean. He, along with Peter Marland and David Boslaugh, presented a paper at the 2017 McMullen Naval History Conference, held at the U.S. Naval Academy that dealt with sea power and the information age.

Dr. Vardalas has taught courses in the history of technology, and history of the sea at Rutgers University, and at the University of California, Merced. While at the Stevens Institute of Technology, he pioneered a course on the history of engineering, which integrated "labs" into the traditional humanities curriculum. He has also given numerous workshops, to middle school and high school social studies teachers, on the introduction of STEM topics into world history lesson plans.

He has a B.S. in physics, an M.Sc. in mathematical physics, an M.A. in geography, and a Ph.D. in history. He is a member of IEEE, the Society for the History of Technology (SHOT), and a member of the National Physics Honor Society Sigma Pi Sigma (ΣΠΣ). He is also an avid sailor.

Laurie A. BiscontiLaurie A. Bisconti
World History Teacher
Heritage Middle School

A 17-year veteran Social Studies Teacher, Ms. Bisconti is an 8th grade world history teacher at Heritage Middle School in Livingston, NJ. With a broad command of humanities scholarship and wide-ranging pedagogical skills, Ms. Bisconti has created and implemented numerous world history programs, actively participates in curriculum writing workshops, and has received numerous accolades including recognition by the New Jersey Board of Education as teacher of the year. A master at using technology, film, books, and periodicals in the classroom, her students are able to uncover a picture of human life in another time and place. Dedicated to interdisciplinary studies she has built a career based on innovation and collaboration and is currently assisting the IEEE History Center to bring the history of technology to life in the classroom. Fascinated by how ideas impact history, she recognizes that technology begins as an idea, and when nurtured, turns into an innovation that ultimately affects society and shapes history in ways no one anticipates. Ms. Bisconti has a BA and MA in European and East Asian history from Pennsylvania State University. Ms. Bisconti is the original creator of the Greek trireme's lesson plan, her lesson was repurposed for IEEE REACH.

Kelly McKennaKelly McKenna
IEEE REACH Program Manager
IEEE History Center

Kelly McKenna is the REACH Program Manager with the IEEE History Center and is responsible for the program's development, implementation, and distribution. Kelly's goal is to share stories that matter through all forms of multimedia as a way to inform, educate, and inspire. She is thrilled to have an opportunity to work with both teachers and IEEE historians on this innovative multimedia journey that provides a different lens for students to think about the consequences of change, particularly in relation to the roles technology and innovation play in global events and in addressing social problems. Self-described as passionately curious, Kelly aims to bring the same type of elevated inquiry and interest to students through the resources provided by the IEEE REACH program. Kelly has a M.F.A. in documentary film from Wake Forest University and a B.A. in broadcasting from the University of Dayton. Kelly also holds a certificate (18 hours) from the Inquiry Design Model (IDM) Institute 2017, which was offered by NCSS and C3 Teachers.


Stevens Institute of Technology
1 Castle Point Terrace
Bissinger Room
Hoboken, NJ 07030