Grassroots Grants Recipients
Boost-Up the New Generation of Materials Scientists
Valerio Voliani, Center for Nanotechnology Innovation @ NEST, Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia
In Italy, science education in the public school system―and in particular materials science―is under-taught and poorly perceived. As a result, instructors with out-of-date education and training qualifications are teaching these subjects, causing both disorder in the educational system and the loss of students, as they choose not continue academic coursework in scientific fields.
Boost-Up the New Generation of Materials Scientists will enable both the update of science curriculum and teacher training in two well-known and highly populated Italian cities—Pisa and Livorno. By distributing nanomaterials experiment kits to 4th and 5th grade students and their educators, the Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia hopes to increase the interaction between academia and local high schools; recognize and support future-generation scientists; and improve the knowledge of materials science educators in Italy.
Reviving STEM Laboratory Learning in Middle and High Schools Via Inquiry-based Instrument Kits: Fabrication of Inexpensive 3D-Printed Scientific Equipment for Hands-on Student Use
Lon A. Porter, Wabash College
Hands-on laboratory learning and inquiry is becoming scarce in many middle- and high-school-level STEM programs. In order to provide students with the training required to meet the substantial and diverse challenges of the 21st Century, effective programs in science, engineering, and technology must continue to take the lead in embracing high-impact educational practices.
3D printed scientific instruments present an amazing outreach opportunity. These high-impact learning activities are central to STEM education, and low-cost instrumentation provides a great way to help introduce more laboratory learning at the secondary level. In order to accomplish this goal, the Reviving STEM Laboratory Learning program will provide their instruments to local schools, free of charge. In addition, Wabash College students and faculty groups will visit with local school groups and collaborate with innovative local teachers to develop appropriate laboratory analysis activities aimed at ‘real world’ analysis. The goal is to engage students with hands-on, inquiry-based projects using the 3D printed spectrophotometer and other pieces of equipment.
Materials Research Video Competition
Babak Anasori, Drexel University
Even in today’s world of social media, the field of Materials Science and Engineering (MSE) is among the least known educational opportunities for students and the general public. Many high school students choose majors such as electrical, mechanical or chemical engineering, or physics and chemistry, simply because they don’t know the field of MSE exists. And while there are effective ways to educate the public about MSE—open houses, demonstrations, and short courses, for example—but they require major investments of time and money.
Today, one of the most significant means of reaching large audiences is through the power of video. Through video we can reach K-12 and college students, their parents, and their communities, exposing them to the wonderful world of MSE and how it positively impacts society. Drexel’s Materials Research Video Competition will encourage MSE students to team up with art and media/design students or similar majors to create short, yet high-impact, videos for social media platforms. Videos will introduce fundamental MSE-related topics and awards will be given the videos with the most likes and views. The ultimate goal—garnering more student and public interest in materials science and engineering.
Development of STEM Teaching Aids for Low-income Schools
Nirmal Govindaraju, Oklahoma State University
Early STEM education inculcates critical thinking and practical problem solving skills, and improves the ability to grasp complex concepts and apply the same for solving “real life” problems. Unfortunately, current education models rarely expose students to “hands-on” scientific methods-based approaches for learning science and math in the classroom. Moreover, students in low-income schools are placed at a significant disadvantage because of the lack of adequate human resources, infrastructure, and support structures to facilitate learning.
The Development of STEM Teaching Aids for Low-Income Schools project seeks to address this gap by developing lesson plans, teaching aids and low-cost experimental kits for a single class between pre-kindergarten and 6th grade in two low-income schools—one in Tulsa, Oklahoma and another in India. The project will span one year, is metrics driven, and will involve active participation of students, teachers, and administrators. It is envisaged that at the end of the project, an active “hands-on” scientific methodology-based educational model and curriculum will be developed for one specific class in the low-income school. Future work will aim at scaling the project for all grades (K-12), and disseminating the approach nationwide.