River Falls, WI, United States
River Falls, WI, United States

The University of Wisconsin–River Falls is a public liberal arts university located in River Falls, Wisconsin. The 226-acre campus is situated on the Kinnickinnic River in the St. Croix River valley. The university has 32 major buildings and two laboratory farms, with a total of 440 acres of land.In 2013-2014 UWRF had an enrollment of 6,061 students in more than 40 undergraduate and graduate programs. Being a part of the University of Wisconsin System, it is a member of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities. UWRF is also a member of the American Council of Education Internationalization Laboratory and provides several global studies and study abroad programs. The university has created the St. Croix Institute for Sustainable Community Development.Athletic teams at UWRF compete in the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference in all sports except men's and women's ice hockey, which compete in the Northern Collegiate Hockey Association. The men's ice hockey team has won three national championships. Wikipedia.

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Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: S-STEM:SCHLR SCI TECH ENG&MATH | Award Amount: 199.81K | Year: 2013

Researchers at University of Wisconsin-River Falls and at Henry Sibley High School in Mendota Heights, MN, are creating new high-quality and resource-rich videos for physics instruction, substantially adding to an existing library, so that the entire introductory mechanics curriculum is covered. The team is also creating detailed and ready-to-use curricular materials to support the videos so that other instructors will be able to easily incorporate our videos into their classes, expanding a web resource that hosts the video library, curricular materials and pedagogical support, and rigorously measuring the extent to which students who use these sets of abstracted and applied videos are able to apply their knowledge to new situations.

One particularly compelling aspect of these videos is the pairing between two types of videos: abstract and applied, the former referring to videos that show physics concepts at their most elemental level using traditional physics lab equipment, while the latter show real-world phenomena exhibiting in a similar concept but in a more complicated setting. This pairing allows the instructor and the students to spiral back over material for better retention and learning transfer. The project has strong potential for broader impact in the physics community and beyond because of the ease of dissemination via vetted and oft-used digital library collections such as SERC and ComPADRE, which have millions of visitors each year.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: S-STEM:SCHLR SCI TECH ENG&MATH | Award Amount: 149.06K | Year: 2012

This collaborative project between the University of Wisconsin-River Falls and Winona State University is gathering evidence on the role timing and type of feedback has on student learning when multiple choice exams are used in large-enrollment general chemistry and organic chemistry lecture courses. This systematic chemical education research project is using both traditional Scantron and Immediate Feedback Assessment Technique forms (also known as Answer Until Correct in which answer spaces are covered with a coating that is scratched off like a lottery ticket). The variables being investigated include immediate versus delayed feedback, corrective versus non-corrective feedback, test retaking, deliberate increases in cognitive complexity demands, and student confidence in their answers. The results are providing evidence about student cognitive and metacognitive growth and how different sub-populations vary within the testing regimes. Volunteer student populations from one doctoral institution, three comprehensive institutions, and two community colleges (Anoka-Ramsey Community College and South Suburban College) are participating. The intellectual merit of this project includes valid and reliable General Chemistry 1 and Organic Chemistry 1 multiple-choice tests that encompass a spectrum of thinking skills, including higher order cognitive skills. In addition, the project is documenting how multiple choice exams are used both for real-time student learning as well as assessing a students knowledge. The broader impacts of this project are the knowledge that is being created about how the structure of multiple choice questions, coupled with type and timing of feedback, influences student learning for the whole, as well as for different sub-groups. Given the wide-spread use of multiple-choice exams, this project also is establishing best practices for the construction of online practice and homework problems such that they now can now be formulated better to maximize student learning.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Continuing grant | Program: | Phase: ADVANCED TECH EDUCATION PROG | Award Amount: 230.96K | Year: 2013

This award focuses on a specific research program that will be using data from the neutron monitor at McMurdo (which will be then moved to Jang Bogo) and from other worldwide locations. The research program is based on a unique southward cosmic rays viewing direction of the subject monitor for comprehensive analyses of individual solar events by measuring three dimensional distribution functions of solar energetic particles. The long and complete database acquired by the McMurdo monitor over 50+ years also plays an important role in the studies of historical trends in solar modulation of galactic cosmic rays and the influence of solar magnetic activity on the radiation input into the Earths atmosphere. The recent deep solar minimum and slow recovery to the maximum are unprecedented for the potentially new era in the studies of the Sun. To ensure continuity of the McMurdo long-term dataset, it is proposed to move the monitor to the new Korean station Jang Bogo, which is located in Terra Nova Bay and has the viewing direction nearly identical to that of McMurdo. Solid science, international partners, and travel to Antarctica provide an ideal opportunity to achieve excellent education and outreach goals. By providing undergraduates and two-year college students with Antarctic research experience, the proposal demonstrates how a future generation of scientists can make meaningful contributions to the cutting-edge research.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: IRES | Award Amount: 249.70K | Year: 2014

Over three summers, this International Research Experience for Students (IRES) effort, led by the University of Wisconsin-River Falls, will provide a total of 18 ten-week research experiences for U.S. undergraduates in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields at partner universities in Belgium, Sweden, and Germany. The European host universities are members of the IceCube Collaboration, which consists of 42 institutions and organizations that work together on the scientific aspects of the IceCube Neutrino Observatory located in Antarctica the South Pole. This observatory is a cubic kilometer of instrumented ice between 1450 and 2450 meters below the surface of the ice sheet. Together, students guided research experiences will contribute to the broader study of particle astrophysics. At the same time, each participant will gain a beneficial professional introduction to leveraged, large scale, virtual and direct international cooperative research and instrumentation.

The U.S. students selected by the University of Wisconsin-River Falls to participate in this IRES will have access to significant European experimental and theoretical expertise and be able to utilize hardware and software resources located at designated IceCube Collaboration member universities in Brussels, Stockholm, Bonn or Bochum. Prior to research abroad, students first participate in a science and software boot camp at the University of Wisconsin-Madison to ensure appropriate knowledge of IceCube Neutrino Observatory topics and data protocols. Identified topics for further exploration at the European labs include multimessenger astronomy, high-energy cosmic-ray composition and energy spectrum, neutrino oscillations, cosmic-ray anisotropy, point source searches, and indirect searches for dark matter, among others. For broader impact, targeted recruiting efforts and existing institutional networks will ensure that at least one third of the students (six) come from two-year colleges or are participants in the well-established McNair program, which prepares low-income, first-generation and/or underrepresented U.S. undergraduate students for success in doctoral STEM programs. Complementing their early career international research experience, participants will receive mentoring on effective public presentations, including understanding and explaining the interdependence of science and technology and how fundamental research results can lead to innovations while opening new avenues of scientific discovery.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: Antarctic Education | Award Amount: 340.18K | Year: 2014

The neutron monitor at the U.S. Amundsen-Scott Station, located at the geographic South Pole, has operated since 1964. Neutrons detected by such monitors are byproducts of nuclear interactions of cosmic rays (predominantly protons and helium nuclei) with Earths atmosphere. South Pole is a unique location at high altitude and low geomagnetic cutoff rigidity. This installation is the lynchpin of the worldwide neutron monitor network at low energies and the primary link to spacecraft measurements at much lower energies. Central to the research is the need to understand the detector response to the radiation environment of the South Pole, particularly to determine the cause of a peculiar secular decline in cosmic rays intensity at South Pole throughout the ~50-year operating period of the neutron monitor. Understanding this decline is important because cosmic rays produce radionuclides such as Beryllium-10 that become trapped in the ice and are used to determine ice-core sample ages and precipitation levels over the Earths Polar Regions. A full understanding of the production rate is vital to interpreting these data.

Recent opening of the IceCube Neutrino Observatory at South Pole, specifically the IceTop air shower array, has increased the value of neutron observation. In addition to its primary function as an extensive air shower detector, IceTop is highly sensitive to the intensity and spectrum of cosmic rays of energy formerly accessible only to the neutron monitors. IceTop and the neutron monitor are highly complementary to each other as the former is more sensitive in an absolute sense but responds to somewhat higher energy particles than does the monitor. IceTop responds primarily to the electronic component of the secondary particles whereas the neutron monitor responds primarily to the hadronic component. Together the detectors can determine not only the spectra but also the element composition of the primary particles.

Solid science, collaborative effort, international partners, and travel to Antarctica provide an ideal opportunity to achieve education and outreach goals. Operation of the neutron monitor at South Pole will become an undergraduate activity at University of Wisconsin-River Falls. Providing undergraduate and two-year college students with research experiences will allow students to make meaningful contributions to cutting-edge science.

Neutron monitor data are broadly employed by other research groups, with applications in cosmic ray research, solar-terrestrial relations, space weather, climatology, atmospheric physics, geophysics, and magnetospheric physics. Neutron monitors play a direct role in forecasting and specifying solar wind disturbances and in providing Ground Level Enhancement alerts relevant to the transpolar aviation. Improving the capability to forecast and characterize major space weather events has direct societal benefit.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: STEM TALENT EXPANSN PGM (STEP) | Award Amount: 885.00K | Year: 2013

The University of Wisconsin, River Falls GREAT (Graduate, Retain, Engage, Advise, Team learning) Falcon Project is designed to increase the number of graduates in Biology, Chemistry, Geology, Environmental Science, Physics, and Mathematics. The project targets students in their first two years, using proven strategies to increase student success and support to increase the retention of STEM students.

The GREAT Falcon Project takes a three-fold approach to improve STEM retention, progression, and graduation rates. First, faculty are implementing student-centered pedagogies such as research-based laboratories, Studio Physics, and Process Oriented Guided Inquiry Learning to increase student engagement and success in gateway STEM courses. Several of these teaching strategies are making extensive use of a new high-technology Active Learning Classroom. Second, Peer-Led Team Learning is utilized in key bottleneck courses in Chemistry and Mathematics to teach students the problem-solving skills needed in STEM. Finally, a hybrid advising system helps STEM students with academic, social, and/or financial issues. Students showing risk factors for continued retention are contacted by a retention specialist/mentor, with appropriate interventions scheduled as needed. Students who leave STEM majors and/or the university are interviewed to assess why they are leaving. The GREAT Falcon Project directly impacts 900 students per year in STEM majors and is designed to increase the number of STEM graduates by 40 per year (from the current 130 to 170 students per year) by the end of the grant period.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: I-Corps | Award Amount: 50.00K | Year: 2016

The traditional opportunity for students to hone their science skills is in the laboratory. Unfortunately many lab activities are formulaic and dont actually prepare students for the open-ended investigative endeavors that we typically associate with the practice of science. Perhaps an even larger limitation of the traditional laboratory is that student access to the physical apparatus is often restricted to brief lab periods. That means that students learning of critical science skills is also restricted. Another way for students to observe phenomena, make measurements and collect and analyze data is using Direct Measurement Videos (DMVs). DMVs are short high-quality videos that show an interesting event. Students are able to analyze the DMV using provided online tools (rulers, protractors, stopwatches, et cetera). Some of the DMVs are published as single videos, but others are published as an interconnected web or matrix of videos that the user can navigate using an integrated console. This gives the user a sense that they are actually controlling what happens in the video. This innovative breakthrough creates a complex multidimensional environment students can authentically explore, allowing them to go through the process of real investigative science while benefiting from the advantages that an online resource provides.

This project will benefit society because it provides science students a way to engage in the authentic practice of science: carefully observing an interesting real-world event, coming up with a scientific question about the event, designing an experiment to answer that question, collecting and analyzing data, and reaching a conclusion. The classroom-ready activities produced by this project will bring best-practices pedagogy to science students in all environments, including large and underfunded classrooms, flipped and online courses, home schools, and institutions with inexperienced or time-crunched instructors. This project has excellent prospects for significantly advancing knowledge for the following reasons: 1) it solves an important problem for teachers, that is, how to practically teach the science process skills that are such critical keys for robust student learning; 2) the approach has been proven effective; 3) the team is very well qualified for this endeavor; and 4) the project has a track record of success.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Continuing grant | Program: | Phase: Integrative Activities in Phys | Award Amount: 152.29K | Year: 2015

This award supports a new Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) site at the University of Wisconsin - River Falls to provide six undergraduates with ten-week summer research experiences annually on projects with data from the international IceCube Neutrino Observatory. To advance discovery and understanding while promoting teaching, training, and learning, students will be integrated into a research collaboration that opened the field of neutrino astronomy, and work in a department where learning and involving undergraduates in research are priorities. Students will acquire a broad range of research skills, will learn to appreciate the value of fundamental science to society and will be mentored on giving effective scientific presentations and in communicating science.

Students will make contributions to the IceCube experiment that will help advance understanding and knowledge in the field of neutrino astronomy. IceCube is a unique telescope located at the South Pole. (However, students will not travel to the South Pole). Unlike traditional optical telescopes, IceCube looks at the universe via particles called neutrinos. Physics World deemed IceCubes observation of extraterrestrial neutrinos, a result that ushered in the era of neutrino astronomy, the physics breakthrough of the year 2013. With access to IceCube data, high performance computing resources, and personnel, the students will make real contributions while acquiring research skills that are transferrable to many fields of science, technology, and engineering. Under the guidance of faculty advisors who have many years of experience successfully supervising undergraduate research, students will contribute to resolving some of the biggest puzzles in particle astrophysics: the origin of high-energy cosmic rays, the nature of neutrino oscillations, and the composition of dark matter.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: IUSE | Award Amount: 498.48K | Year: 2016

General chemistry is often taught in large lecture sections, which can influence an instructors choice to utilize multiple-choice exams and limit the testing feedback students receive. This project will build on prior work (DUE Awards #1140351 and #1140914) to further understand the best ways provide feedback to students and to help instructors employ best practices that maximize student learning through testing. Based on existing research in cognitive science, this project will collect evidence on current practices of testing feedback in general chemistry and measure the impacts on student learning of various forms of feedback with a diverse set of student populations. Findings from this work will be applicable to general chemistry programs across the nation as well as other STEM disciplines that utilize complex content items in multiple-choice testing. Developing and using evidence-based strategies to enhance and support student learning is a critical step in producing a well-prepared and diverse STEM workforce.

This project aims to generate evidence regarding the role of testing feedback to promote and support learning in general chemistry. It will pursue three related sets of studies. Laboratory and classroom testing feedback studies will examine the impact of different corrective feedback types and timings on future test performance and confidence-accuracy calibration. Qualitative testing feedback studies will employ semi-structured interviews to reveal how students use feedback in a testing environment and how this feedback may affect their learning, testing strategies, and confidence. Lastly, a national survey will be developed and administered to examine instructors testing feedback practices and perceptions in first-term general chemistry to better connect theory developed through this project with current practices. The results of this work will generate evidence for selecting and using testing feedback with a goal of using multiple-choice testing as a learning tool as well as an evaluation tool.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: ROBERT NOYCE SCHOLARSHIP PGM | Award Amount: 299.62K | Year: 2014

Developing more, highly qualified science and mathematics teachers is a national priority. Through funding from the National Science Foundations Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program, this Capacity Building grant will support the development of an innovative and financially self-sustaining Graduate Teaching Certification (GTC) program that will provide initial STEM teaching certification to an unreached and underserved population of recent STEM graduates and STEM professionals with relevant science and/or mathematical expertise. This project is responsive to a persistent concern at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls (UWRF) related to the traditional undergraduate teacher certification pathway. The issue is that completing the coursework for earning both a baccalaureate degree in a STEM major and completing requirements for teacher certification as an undergraduate is extremely difficult. This problem of completing both a major and earning certification is found in many institutions across this nation, therefore, what is learned from this work at UWRF will have implications for other institutions facing similar challenges.

During the two years of this Capacity Building grant, UWRF will build upon what has been learned in the UTeach program for undergraduates at the University of Texas-Austin. However, UWRF will focus on the graduate level as it designs a UTeach-inspired Graduate Teaching Certification program with an optional Masters degree. This project will develop the GTC curriculum, recruitment strategies, and marketing activities. Among the recruitment strategies will be the implementation of learning assistant internships and the development and implementation of a novel undergraduate STEM education course to try out teaching, with the added advantage of meeting a university communications undergraduate course requirement. Field experiences will include both urban and rural schools and schools with different compositions of students, with an emphasis on learning about and experiencing different learning styles and the importance of cultural context first hand. Ultimately, the new GTC program will expand and diversify the pool of teacher candidates as it will actively seek to offer high quality academic instruction to a broader population, including adult learners and recent UWRF and University of Wisconsin System graduates. Success of this effort will be evaluated by the UTeach Institute at the University of Texas-Austin. The evaluation plan will map to the UTeach Elements of Success (distinctive program identity, cross-college and school district collaborations, long-term institutional and community support, active student recruitment and support, a dedicated Master Teacher, rigorous research-based instruction, early and intensive field experiences, and continuous program improvement).

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