June 15, 2014
June 15, 2014
June 18, 2014
K-12 & Pre-College Engineering
24.626.1 - 24.626.10
Four-Way Collaboration Between a Non-Profit, University, Honor Society, and Charter School to Engineer Tropism Machines for Sustainable Space Nutrition Classroom InstructionAbstractWe have forged a unique collaboration – between, a non-profit organization, a university, astudent engineering honor society, and a charter high school – to create and deliver sustainablespace nutrition modules for secondary school classroom instruction. We describe how thiscomplex partnership was forged and is sustained: the collaborative project binding theorganizations together was designed to meet goals central to the missions of all four partners.The non-profit educates the community about sustainable agriculture and nutrition. Theuniversity builds community partnerships that facilitate rich hands-on learning experiences forstudents. Members of the honor society hail from a variety of engineering disciplines:architectural, bio-medial, bio-molecular, civil, computer, electrical, and mechanical. To maintaingood standing, members participate in documented community service. To create cohesionwithin the society, they seek unifying philanthropic projects with elements relevant to allmembers. The charter school accesses resources and support to build the STEM knowledge,skills, and competencies of its teachers and students. The collaboration is tied together throughfabrication and classroom demonstration of “tropism machines”.Growing plants in space is the first essential step to providing adequate and sustainable spacenutrition. Major factors impacting plant growth in space include geotropism and phototropism,plant growth directional preference in response to gravity and light, respectively. To demonstratein a terrestrial classroom how plant growth responds to non-terrestrial gravity and illumination,honor society students will follow the formal engineering design process to create a “geotropismmachine” and a “phototropism machine”. The geotropism machine will centrifuge plants toproduce artificially high gravity. The phototropism machine will expose plants to artificial lightprojected from abnormal directions. On each apparatus, beds of edible sprouts at three differentdevelopment stages will be mounted: 1) newly sprouted, 2) maturing, and 3) harvest ready.When closely inspected by secondary school students in the classroom, these machines willreveal a snapshot of the plants’ growth progression under non-terrestrial gravity and illuminationrespectively. As a control, sprouts planted at the same time as spouts exposed to the tropismmachines and showing similar development stages under normal Earth gravity and illuminationwill be available for comparison.The tropism machines illustrate key aspects of the scientific method used for new knowledgediscovery in STEM fields. Students will learn about variable independence and dependence. Forexample on the geotropism machine, the magnitude of centripetal acceleration can be controlled(the independent variable) to influence the growth of the plants (the dependent variable).Students will also be taught the importance of experimental controls. Plants growing undernormal illumination, for example, are needed to provide a baseline for comparison against plantgrowth in the phototropism machine under abnormal illumination. Students will also be taughtthe importance of verifying experimental results with observations made by other researchers –our results will be compared against similar experiments conducted by NASA reported in theliterature to validate observed outcomes.Our project raises exposure and interest of secondary school teachers, students, and the generalpublic toward space sciences and engineering, human health and wellbeing in space, andtechnology realized through engineering design. By teaching secondary school students space-related STEM skills that are tied into nutrition (a familiar topic they can relate to) this projectwill increase interest, recruitment, and training of pre-college students in the pursuit of space-related science, design, and technology careers.Once developed, deployed, and vetted at the partner charter school, the team plans to deploy thismodule to other schools in the City, State area. Approximately 29.4% of City residents live inpoverty and the rate increases to 43.0% for children under the age of 18. For City County as awhole, the poverty rate is 21.6% and 31.6% for children under 18 years old. This cohort is thegroup ultimately served by the activities described in this paper through this ongoing partnership.The following program assessment data will be compiled and reported. The charter schoolteachers will report by indirect assessment on ease of implementation and thoroughness oflessons, logical progression, and implementation timing. The secondary school students will alsobe polled through indirect assessment to probe (1) their self-perceived development of technicalskills and knowledge and (2) their self-perceived change in interest to pursue careers in STEM.
Swanson, T. R., & Collins, J. M., & Frey, J., & Zocher, J., & Traum, M. J. (2014, June), Four-Way Collaboration Between a Non-Profit, University, Honor Society, and Charter School to Engineer Tropism Machines for Sustainable Space Nutrition Classroom Instruction (work In progress) Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. https://peer.asee.org/20517
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