EAGER: MAKER: The Design and Engineering of Scientific Instrumentation as a Pathway for Introducing Making into High School Science Classrooms

Thursday, September 1, 2016 to Wednesday, February 28, 2018
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Project Descriptions
Environment Type: 
Public Programs, Afterschool Programs, Summer and Extended Camps, Making and Tinkering Programs, Professional Development, Conferences, and Networks, Professional Development and Workshops, Informal/Formal Connections, Pre-K/Early Childhood Programs, Higher Education Programs
Youth/Teen (up to 17) | Educators/Teachers
Computing and information science | Education and learning science | Engineering | Physics | Technology
Northwestern University

As part of an overall strategy to enhance learning within maker contexts in formal and informal environments, the Innovative Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers (ITEST) and Advancing Informal STEM Learning (AISL) programs partnered to support innovative models for making in a variety of settings through the Enabling the Future of Making to Catalyze New Approaches in STEM Learning and Innovation Dear Colleague Letter. This Early Concept Grant for Exploratory Research (EAGER) will test an innovative approach to bringing making from primarily informal out-of-school contexts into formal science classrooms. While the literature base to support the positive outcomes and impacts of design-based making in informal settings at the K-12 level is emerging, to date, minimal studies have investigated the impacts of making design principles within formal contexts. If successful, this project would not only add to this gap in the literature base but would also present a novel model for bridging the successful engineering design practices of making and tinkering primarily found in informal science education into formal science education classrooms. The model would also demonstrate an innovative, highly interactive way to engage high school students and their teachers in engineering based design principles with immediate real-world applications, as the scientific instruments developed in this project could be integrated directly into science classrooms at relatively minimal costs.

Through a multi-phased design and implementation model, high school students and their teachers will engage deeply in making design principles through the design and development of their own scientific instruments using Arduino-compatible hardware and software. The first phase of the project will reflect a more traditional making experience with up to twenty high school students and their teachers participating in an after-school design making club, in this case, focused on the development and testing of scientific instrument prototypes. During the second phase of the project, the first effort to transpose the after school making experience to a more formalized experience will be tested with up to eight students selected to participate in two week summer research internships focused on scientific instrument design and development through making at Northwestern University. A two-day summer teacher workshop will also be held for high school teachers participating in the subsequent pilot study. The collective insights gleaned from the after school program, student internships, and teacher workshop will culminate to inform the full implementation of the formal classroom pilot study. The third and final phase will coalesce months of iterative, formative research, design and development, resulting in a comprehensive pilot investigation in up to seven high school physics classrooms.

Using a multi-phased, mixed methods exploratory design-based research approach, this 18-month EAGER will explore several salient research questions: (a) How and to what extent does the design & making of scientific instrumentation serve as useful tasks for learning important science and engineering knowledge, practices, and epistemologies? (b) How engaging is this making activity to learners of diverse abilities and prior interests? What can be generalized to other types of making activities? (c) How accessible is the Arduino hardware and coding environment to learners? What combination of hardware and software materials and tools best support accessibility and learning in this type of digital making activity? and (d) What types of scaffolding (for students and teachers) are required to support the effective use of maker materials and activities in a classroom setting? Structured interviews, artifacts, video recordings from visor cameras, student design logs, logfiles, and ethnographic field notes will be employed to garner data and address the research questions. Given the early stage of the proposed research, the dissemination of the findings will be limited to a few select journals, teacher forums and workshops, and professional conferences.

This EAGER is well-poised to directly impact up to 125 high school physics students (average= 25 students/class), approximately 7 high school physics teachers, 6-8 high school summer interns, nearly 20 high school students participating in the after-school design making club, and indirectly many more. The results of this EAGER could provide the basis and evidence needed to support a more robust, expanded future investigation to further substantiate the findings and build the case for similar efforts to bring making into formal science education contexts.

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Team Members

David UttalDavid UttalPrincipal Investigator
Kemi JonaCo-Principal Investigator

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