Saint Bonaventure, NY, United States
Saint Bonaventure, NY, United States

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Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: ENGINEERING EDUCATION | Award Amount: 310.34K | Year: 2013

This engineering education research project seeks to create a constructionist exhibit at the New York Hall of Science and use the exhibit to understand how informal engineering activities change students pathways in ways that can eventually lead to more students pursuing engineering degrees, a current national priority. To understand the impact on students, particularly those in middle school, the project will log student activities and interaction with museum staff as well as collect post-visit data from participants.

The broader significance and importance of this project arises from the potential to inform how museum exhibits, which annually reach millions of students, can be used to increase the number of students who follow pathways to eventual engineering careers. The project will reach large numbers of students from groups currently under-represented in engineering degree programs. This project overlaps with NSFs strategic goals of transforming the frontiers through preparation of an engineering workforce with new capabilities and expertise. Additionally NSFs goal of innovating for society is enabled by building the capacity of the nations citizenry for addressing societal challenges through engineering.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: STEM + Computing (STEM+C) Part | Award Amount: 1.21M | Year: 2015

The Computational Thinking in Ecosystems (CT-E) project is funded by the STEM+Computing Partnership (STEM+C) program, which seeks to advance new approaches to, and evidence-based understanding of, the integration of computing in STEM teaching and learning. The project is a collaboration between the New York Hall of Science (NYSCI), Columbia Universitys Center for International Earth Science Information Network, and Design I/O. It will address the need for improved data, modeling and computational literacy in young people through development and testing of a portable, computer-based simulation of interactions that occur within ecosystems and between coupled natural and human systems; computational thinking skills are required to advance farther in the simulation. On a tablet computer at NYSCI, each participant will receive a set of virtual cards that require them to enter a computer command, routine or algorithm to control the behavior of animals within a simulated ecosystem. As participants explore the animals simulated habitat, they will learn increasingly more complex strategies needed for the animals survival, will use similar computational ideas and skills that ecologists use to model complex, dynamic ecological systems, and will respond to the effects of the ecosystem changes that they and other participants elicit through interaction with the simulated environment. Research on this approach to understanding interactions among species within biological systems through integration of computing has potential to advance knowledge. Researchers will study how simulations that are similar to popular collectable card game formats can improve computational thinking and better prepare STEM learners to take an interest in, and advance knowledge in, the field of environmental science as their academic and career aspirations evolve. The project will also design and develop a practical approach to programing complex models, and develop skills in communities of young people to exercise agency in learning about modeling and acting within complex systems; deepening learning in young people about how to work toward sustainable solutions, solve complex engineering problems and be better prepared to address the challenges of a complex, global society.

Computational Thinking in the Ecosystems (CT-E) will use a design-based study to prototype and test this novel, tablet-based collectable card game-like intervention to develop innovative practices in middle school science. Through this approach, some of the most significant challenges to teaching practice in the Next Generation Science Standards will be addressed, through infusing computational thinking into life science learning. CT-E will develop a tablet-based simulation representing six dynamic, interconnected ecosystems in which students control the behaviors of creatures to intervene in habitats to accomplish goals and respond to changes in the health of their habitat and the ecosystems of which they are a part. Behaviors of creatures in the simulation are controlled through the virtual collectable cards, with each representing a computational process (such as sequences, loops, variables, conditionals and events). Gameplay involves individual players choosing a creature and habitat, formulating strategies and programming that creature with tactics in that habitat (such as finding food, digging in the ground, diverting water, or removing or planting vegetation) to navigate that habitat and survive. Habitats chosen by the participant are part of particular kinds of biomes (such as desert, rain forest, marshlands and plains) that have their own characteristic flora, fauna, and climate. Because the environments represent complex dynamic interconnected environmental models, participants are challenged to explore how these models work, and test hypotheses about how the environment will respond to their creatures interventions; but also to the creatures of other players, since multiple participants can collaborate or compete similar to commercially available collectable card games (e.g., Magic and Yu-Go-Oh!). NYSCI will conduct participatory design based research to determine impacts on structured and unstructured learning settings and whether it overcomes barriers to learning complex environmental science.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: MSP-OTHER AWARDS | Award Amount: 290.63K | Year: 2013

The New York Hall of Science proposes a two-pronged workshop project that will: (1) conduct a study of and develop a draft report on the topic of STEM badges including conceptualizations, rationale, systems, key contributors and challenges and opportunities for STEM-related badges; and (2) conduct a workshop drawn from a wide range of experts to provide critical feedback on the report. An advisory board will guide and evaluate the work.

Learning increasingly takes place across a wide spectrum of institutions and contexts, through different platforms and environments, and is often incentivized by badge reward systems. There is a concomitant need to understand and make explicit the nature and criteria used, the kinds of accomplishments individuals are expected to realize, and the ways that badges are interpreted by conventional credentialing bodies, such as K-12 educational systems and institutions of higher education. The workshop creates an opportunity for a divrse group of individuals at the forefront of badges to inform each others efforts. The report that is generated will be available to a broad audience of practitoners, developers and researchers involved in STEM education in both formal and informal sectors as well as to individuals involved in setting STEM education policy.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: ITEST | Award Amount: 976.80K | Year: 2016

There is a growing need for citizens to be able to work with data and consider how data is represented. This work employs a design, make, play framework to create data modeling learning experiences for young children and their caregivers in an informal setting. The project will develop and test a curriculum for a workshop series for 5-8 year old children to engage them in playful exploration of data modelling. Children will engage in data collection, data representation and data analysis drawing their own experiences of the world. The curriculum will support developing childrens interest and engagement with data, a foundational concept for a range of STEM careers and disciplines. This work will provide a model for similar learning experiences in data modeling and representation. This project will advance efforts of the Innovative Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers (ITEST) program to better understand and promote practices that increase students motivations and capacities to pursue careers in fields of science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM).

The project is grounded in a theoretical framework for young childrens learning that focus on playful exploration, design, and building on childrens own experiences and questions. The research questions examine how the curriculum needs to be designed to support multi-age groups of children in data modeling, engagement in data modeling by younger (ages 5-6) and older (ages 7-8) children, and evidence of increased in active approaches to learning about STEM. The design and development project will test and investigate the materials using a design-based research framework. The children should increase their confidence in solve problems, in taking initiative and in drawing on available resources to pursue their own questions and respond to novel challenges. Data to be collected include interviews with participants, artifacts of childrens work during the activity, and an observational instrument to document problem solving, persistence, and engagement.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: ENGINEERING EDUCATION | Award Amount: 162.26K | Year: 2016

This one-year project studies the experiences of eight high school-aged youth in an after-school engineering program at the New York Hall of Science, a science center in the highly diverse neighborhood of Corona, Queens. During the 2016-2017 school year, these young people will work with visiting Designers in Residence to learn more about engineering design, and to design, develop and implement new hands-on engineering design activities and programs for museum visitors. The goal of this research is to identify the specific activities and ways of working together that invite participants to draw on their diverse backgrounds to contribute to their shared work, and that encourage participants to engage with the perspectives and ways of thinking, working, teaching and learning that are distinctive to the engineering professions. Evaluations of many engineering programs targeting under-represented youth have shown that such programs can have a meaningful impact on outcomes and educational trajectories. But there is little research that investigates in any detail what particular programmatic structures, policies or practices contribute to creating an environment in which youth from diverse backgrounds choose to persist in and pursue their engagement with engineering and cultivation of an identity as an engineer.

This study will use participatory action research to capture the perspectives and experiences of the program participants, and draws on literature on the state of K-12 engineering education, and on the experiences of underrepresented youth in undergraduate engineering programs, to inform its design and focus. The difficulties encountered by non-dominant youth in engineering education are broadly acknowledged, but cannot be addressed effectively until program designers and educators have better insight into how these youth negotiate the process of building strong, meaningful connections between their own interests and identity and their potential induction into a new identity as a student of engineering. The results of the study will inform programmatic decisions and further research at NYSCI, in the museum-based education community, and among educators and researchers seeking to support underrepresented high school students who wish to explore engineering design and prepare themselves for success in undergraduate education programs.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: Cyberlearn & Future Learn Tech | Award Amount: 55.00K | Year: 2016

The Extracting Salient Scenarios from Interaction Logs (ESSIL) project proposes to develop a new type of educational technology to support students learning about complex systems from their participation in a multi-person immersive simulation. Many important challenges we face today as a society -- including responding to climate change, managing global economies, city planning, disease outbreaks -- are complex systems problems, meaning that important phenomena in each (for instance trends in weather, stock bubbles, traffic jams, disease transmission) result not from a single cause, but because many small causes combine together. Participating in a simulation has the potential to help students understand the principles of complex systems, but because different principles surface depending on how each simulation unfolds, it can be difficult for teachers to adjust their lesson plans on the fly to highlight the principles that emerge in a given simulation run. To address this challenge, ESSIL will develop methods to create automatic salient recaps, as a way to help learners and their teachers make better sense of simulations. These recaps, which will be automatically generated, provide a story of what happened in the simulation in a way that both helps students remember their experience and reveals important scientific principles. Teachers and other facilitators will use these recaps, along with an accompanying discussion guide, to support productive learning conversations about the scientific principles incorporated in a simulation. The recaps will be developed for a large-scale immersive simulation installed at the New York Hall of Science (NYSCI), potentially improving the educational experience of thousands of daily visitors. The capabilities developed to produce them have widespread applicability, because logs of student interactions are routinely produced by many educational systems. The project is supported by the Cyberlearning and Future Learning Technologies Program, which funds efforts that will help envision the next generation of learning technologies and advance what we know about how people learn in technology-rich environments. Cyberlearning Exploration (EXP) Projects explore the viability of new kinds of learning technologies by designing and building new kinds of learning technologies and studying their possibilities for fostering learning and challenges to using them effectively.

The immersive simulation context for the project is Connected Worlds, an embodied, multi-person ecology simulation at NYSCI, with pedagogical goals around sustainability and systems thinking. Using logs from groups of students interacting with Connected Worlds, ESSIL will construct selective recaps of their experience that both are personally salient to them (by including memorable details of their experience) and have explanatory coherence (to enable their discussion of important interconnections in the simulations underlying model). Artificial Intelligence-based methods will be developed to 1) identify salient changes in the state of the simulation during student interaction and 2) construct qualitative models of causal chains that could have led to these changes. These qualitative models will be used to generate salient recaps and discussion guides based on them, which will be provided to teachers whose classes are visiting NYSCI. The effectiveness of the innovation will be investigated by comparing visiting students conversations with and without ESSIL-generated discussion supports and by interrogating their resulting models of the Connected Worlds system through concept maps.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: NSF INCLUDES | Award Amount: 299.93K | Year: 2017

Designing for Diversity will establish a national Networked Improvement Community (NIC) of maker spaces and fab labs serving Black and Latino high school students and specializing in computational making programs. The project will be led by the New York Hall of Science, the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and a national leadership team representing universities, cultural organizations, corporations, foundations and leaders in the Maker Movement. Using a NIC methodology, the partners will identify the most promising mechanisms for ensuring that participation in computational making programs has a significant impact on participants choices to pursue STEM focused internships, post-secondary education, and career paths. The project will extend the NIC methodology into the informal learning community, which is in need of research methods that are both rigorous and accommodating of the institutional complexities of building and sustaining high-quality informal learning environments, and it will contribute to the literature on the impact of maker spaces and fab labs in underserved communities on the diversification of the STEM pipeline. The project will also pave the way for the development of a more fully-developed network of computational making programs across the country and a more comprehensive research initiative that will influence best practices in maker spaces and fab labs and foster perceptions of the value and impact of maker experiences on young peoples readiness for future educational experiences and careers.

The project builds on research indicating that computational making - programs that combine the making of artifacts with computational tools and techniques - is a powerful strategy for engaging underrepresented students in STEM learning. However, participation in such programs will not necessarily lead students to take concrete steps toward computationally-rich STEM careers in which they are currently under-represented. A range of research suggests that computational making programs need to explicitly design for and address the socio-emotional dimensions of these learning experiences in order for them to become stepping stones into these careers. Designing for Diversity will work with a network of maker programs serving high needs Black and Latino high school students to address these learning factors. During this pilot, the leadership team will accomplish three tasks: (1) establish a common framework, shared measurement objectives and guidelines that will be used to identify, recruit and support participant maker programs and their local partners; (2) develop and coordinate the NICs capacity for scaling and disseminating its work by connecting the research efforts to broader national initiatives; and (3) recruit, train, and collect baseline data on the Designing for Diversity NIC.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: Core R&D Programs | Award Amount: 84.75K | Year: 2016

Increasingly, the prosperity, innovation and security of individuals and communities depend on a big data literate society. Yet conspicuously absent from the big data revolution is the field of teaching and learning. The revolution in big data must match a complementary revolution in a new kind of literacy, through a significant infusion of STEM education with the kinds of skills that the revolution in 21st century data-driven science demands. This project represents a concerted effort to determine what it means to be a big data literate citizen, information worker, researcher, or policymaker; to identify the quality of learning resources and programs to improve big data literacy; and to chart a path forward that will bridge big data practice with big data learning, education and career readiness.

Through a process of inquiry research and capacity-building, New York Hall of Science will bring together experts from member institutions of the Northeast Big Data Innovation Hub to galvanize big data communities of practice around education, identify and articulate the nature and quality of extant big data education resources and draft a set of big data literacy principles. The results of this planning process will be a planning document for a Big Data Literacy Spoke that will form an initiative to develop frameworks, strategies and scope and sequence to advance lifelong big data literacy for grades P-20 and across learning settings; and devise, implement, and evaluate programs, curricula and interventions to improve big data literacy for all. The planning document will articulate the findings of the inquiry research and evaluation to provide a practical tool to inform and cultivate other initiatives in data literacy both within the Northeast Big Data Innovation Hub and beyond.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: Cyberlearn & Future Learn Tech | Award Amount: 99.97K | Year: 2015

The Cyberlearning and Future Learning Technologies Program funds efforts that will help envision the next generation of learning technologies and advance what we know about how people learn in technology-rich environments. Capacity-building (CAP) projects increase the ability of researchers to understand how such technology should be designed and used in the future and supports new capacity in allowing researchers to answer questions about how people learn, how to foster or assess learning, and/or how to design for learning. This project supports a workshop in which experts in museums, informal learning, complex systems, and data science collaborate with technologists to examine what types of technologies could help track how learners behave, and learn, in museums and other informal learning locations. The workshops would lead to a written document summarizing what is known about how to track learners for these purposes, and would help spark new collaborations leading to new approaches to these problems. Ethics would be a core theme, and experts in ethics would help ensure that all approaches explored would respect the privacy of museumgoers and other learners. The intellectual merit of this project is to advance the state of the art on how we track what learners do in museums, and the broader impact would be to make it easier to design museums and other learning environments to support learners, and to allow more rigorous assessment of learning behavior in museums.

This project will conduct a three-day workshop leading to an edited volume on technology-enabled visitor metrics in museums and other science and technology centers. The leadership team includes expertise in learning sciences, computer science, interaction design, complex systems, and informal science education, and the workshop will additionally be supported by an advisory committee including experts in educational performance assessment and psychometrics, learning analytics, cross-cultural and cross-setting sociocultural learning theory, and educational policy. Workshop invitees will be recruited to include participants from several categories, including learning sciences, data sciences and learning analytics, informal science education and museum design, ubiquitous and pervasive computing, and data ethics. An embedded evaluation will interview participants after the workshops to gauge whether the meeting spurred new research collaborations.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: ITEST | Award Amount: 1.20M | Year: 2013

The Innovation Institute: From Problem to Product (I2) takes high school students through the entire process of inventing a device, software or other technology. This proposal makes use of a Makerspace at the New York Hall of Science (NYSCI), which is located in a community with a high proportion of both immigrant and low-income residents. I2 builds on NYSCI experience with the Maker movement and leverages its Explainer program (where high school students who work as exhibit or program facilitators) by providing: 1) a product prototype/design program for high school Explainers and 2) afterschool and Saturday activities for middle school students, with mentoring provided by the Explainers. It will serve a total of 60 high school students (20 in each cohort) and 1000 elementary and middle school students.

Using a quasi-experimental design, the project evaluation addresses these questions:
1. Does engaging in the process from design to product, emphasizing entrepreneurship, engineering, and the use of technology, lead to Explainers: Deeper learning and 21st century skills?; STEM and ICT knowledge, skills, dispositions?; and Persistence in the STEM workforce?
2. Does transferring the learning to younger students lead to deeper learning on the part of the Explainers (transfer and self-regulated learning), increased knowledge of the engineering process, and increased knowledge and skills in using technologies?
3. Does participating in design-based activities increase middle and elementary students positive attitudes, engagement and interest in STEM and STEM careers and lead to the perception of Explainers as role models?

The project will disseminate a replication handbook for scaling up the model and project evaluation reports. Project results will be further disseminated through articles submitted to peer-reviewed academic journals, workshops presented at museum conferences, and articles in other publications such as Make Magazine, a publication that targets those in the Maker movement.

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