June 24, 2017
June 24, 2017
June 28, 2017
Community Engagement Division
Too often, the demands of academic science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) programs dull students’ enthusiasm and destroy their academic self concept (ASC) and confidence. However, the popularity of science museums around the world is a notable testament to humans’ enjoyment of scientific discovery. We provide here a process to invigorate the interest of America’s most talented students in science degrees via a community outreach program with one’s local science museum. We address this critical need to recruit students into STEM programs by (1) building robust affect-informed support for their knowledge construction during immersion experiences with a local science museum and (2) engaging them in teams in the development of smart phone applications relevant to science exhibits. We have recruited 36 high-achieving, high-scoring high school students for each of the past two years, thanks to a grant to our local science museum by a major nonprofit organization. There were an equal number of boys and girls, and both groups were representative of our multi-ethhnic demographics and large under-represented minorities. During the internship academic year, these students participated in an immersion experience at the science museum. They formed teams of 3 and focused on a specific exhibit and learned its’ scientific, educational, and community relevance. During the ensuing summer, these teams enrolled in a 3-week intensive course on app development at our university. They developed an Android app based on that museum exhibit. This course was co-taught by two professors one each from engineering and arts. A group of judges, comprised of professionals from the industry, academia, and community, evaluated the team presentations and ranked the apps based on a rubric. We have completed 2 years of this 3 year grant. During each of the summers, students were given pre-course and post-course questionnaires which measured learning outcomes for multiple attributes. Knowledge gains were assessed on a Likert scale from 1 to 5 where 5 indicated the highest level of self-reported improvement. The results indicate significant knowledge gains in all team and technology skills emphasized in the course. During the second year, we sought to tease out the impact of the museum internship on the overall gains made. We will present these results in the paper. Our approach is derived from two theoretical models with strong emphasis on student involvement in the learning process: active student engagement and project-based learning. Both approaches assume active student participation in learning practices where exchange of ideas, extensive collaboration, and synergies are essential. Smithsonian Institution recently suggested that mobile should be understood as social media and projects should leverage its ability to create conversations, communities, and collaborations This requires a museum community that will share code, tools, and best practices with a reusability focus. We follow this philosophy. We use only open source tools and student apps are available for free access as Github repositories. A platform independent app development methodology has also been developed now.
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