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Digital Storytelling for Apprenticeships in Sustainability Science and Engineering Design

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2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

Models and Practices of Community Engagement for Engineering Faculty

Tagged Division

Community Engagement Division

Tagged Topic


Page Count


Page Numbers

26.548.1 - 26.548.19



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Paper Authors


Tamara Ball UCSC Baskin School of Engineering

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Dr. Tamara Ball is a project-scientist working with the the Sustainable Engineering and Ecological Design (SEED) collaborative at UCSC. She is the program director for Impact Designs - Engineering and Sustainability through Student Service (IDEASS) and Apprenticeships in Sustainability Science and Engineering Design (ASCEND). She is interested in understanding how extracurricular and co-curricular innovations can support meaningful campus-community connections in higher education and improve learning outcomes. Her research to date has focused on educational designs that emphasize learner initiative and agency through inquiry or problem-based learning in formal and informal learning contexts. She has published several papers on the characteristics of learning environments that support or constrain opportunities for any students (including those from non-dominant backgrounds) to participate in key science and engineering process skills such as scientific argumentation. Her work is largely informed by the principles and perspectives on human development and cognition articulated by Cultural Historical Activity Theory. Putting theory into practice, she teaches a service-learning course at UCSC wherein interdisciplinary teams of students work in an layered apprenticeship model with community mentors to design and implement sustainable solutions to water, energy, waste, transportation and social challenges using "green technology". Dr. Ball has worked as a research fellow with two NSF Centers for Learning and Teaching and most recently on several NSF projects that focus the integration of engineering and social science to support the advancement of experiential learning for sustainability in higher education.

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Michael S. Isaacson University of California, Santa Cruz

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Michael Isaacson is the Narinder Singh Kapany Professor emeritus, professor of electrical engineering, Director of the Center for Sustainable Energy and Power Systems (CenSEPS) and a member of the Sustainable Engineering and Ecological Design Program at UCSC. He is recipient of numerous awards including a Sloan Foundation Faculty Fellowship, the Burton Medal from the Microscopy Society of America, an Alexander von Humboldt Senior Scientist Award, the Rank Prize in Optoelectronics and the Distinguished Scientist Award from the Microscopy Society of America. He is a Fellow of the AAAS and the MSA. He has been elected to the executive board of the Engineering Research Council of the American Society of Engineering Education and is series co-editor of “Advances in Microscopy and Microanalysis” published by Cambridge University Press. He is the PI on an NSF-PIRE grant on “US-Denmark Cooperative Research and Education in Intermittency-Friendly Community-scale Renewable Energy Micro-grids”. Professor Isaacson has a B.S. in Engineering Physics from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and an M.S. and PhD in physics from the University of Chicago. He came to UC Santa Cruz in 2003 from Cornell University where he was a professor of Applied and Engineering Physics, director of the Keck Foundation Program in Nanobiotechnology and Associate Dean of Research, Graduate Studies and Professional Education in the College of Engineering.

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UCSC, in collaboration with science museums and vocational training centers supportedby the Santa Cruz County Office of Alternative Education launched the ASCENDprogram in fall 2013. ASCEND supports dual avenues for at-risk youth to gain first-handexperience with green technologies and engineering projects considered important to thesustainable development of their surrounding community. Approximately 40 youthapprentices work side-by-side with small teams of undergraduates who are either:designing and building sustainable systems/technologies, or involved in the production of“digital stories” documenting projects as they unfold. Topics range from water to waste-management, renewable energy, advanced energy storage, transportation, and greenbuilding. In summer, partner museums host community events featuring screenings ofstudent-produced digital stories and invite discussion about completed and proposedinnovations.Through comparison of learning outcomes for youth apprentices involved in digital-storytelling versus design-build projects, ASCEND contributes to a growing body ofresearch in learning science on “science as storytelling” and the use of audiovisual mediato support informal STEM education. Evidence for these comparisons is collectedthrough annotated drawing tasks, audio diaries, and interviews that use audiovisual clipsto stimulate recall of particular project tasks. Early findings suggest that youth  involved  in  digital-­‐storytelling  a)  feel  greater  responsibility  towards  their  projects  b)  produce  equally  accurate  and  more  sophisticated  problem  statements  and  c)  have  a  better  understanding  of  embedded  tradeoffs  than  their  design-­‐build  counterparts.  ASCEND demonstrates how to leverage community initiatives as a means of preparingunderserved youth for STEM-based careers in the “green economy”. It is a model forhow museums together with community organizations can create lasting communityforums that reposition hard-to-reach target audiences and renegotiate normative practicesthat threaten to alienate members of these audiences from STEM practices and that otherscan replicate to leverage the resources that distinguish their own communities.

Ball, T., & Isaacson, M. S. (2015, June), Digital Storytelling for Apprenticeships in Sustainability Science and Engineering Design Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.23886

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