ITEST: Being There

Assistant Professor of Informatics Selma Šabanović and Professor of Learning Sciences Cindy Hmelo-Silver were awarded a National Science Foundation grant for research to engage more students from urban and rural areas in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields.

Engaging students in STEM activities relevant to their everyday lives is critical to increasing their motivation, interest, learning, and participation in STEM. This project will address this challenge through engineering and computer science activities aimed at helping middle and high school students grasp the intricacies of scientific principles and technology design as they relate to issues that are important to their local communities.

Sabanovic, who serves as the principal investigator, will work with Hmelo-Silver from IU’s School of Education’s Center for Research on Learning and Technology, as well as colleagues from the electrical engineering and computer science departments of the University of Alaska at Fairbanks.

The interdisciplinary group will develop a curriculum to address the technical and societal aspects of human-centered robotics. Students will build robotic technologies and applications for everyday use, while telepresence robots will allow enhanced communication, operation, and exploration across great distances. The proposed approach is highly relevant to the daily needs of students in Alaska, as telepresence robots will enable them to share their work with other students who might be chronically ill, reside in remote places or live in the lower 48 states.

The project aims to help student develop technology-based products adaptable to peoples' daily environments, needs, and practices in a meaningful way, which in turn, could increase student's motivation and interest in STEM fields. This is expected to be particularly effective for increasing the interest of minority and female students in STEM fields, which is one of the goals of the project.

Each year, students will engage in a nine-month problem-based learning strategy using two basic open-architecture platforms based on the Arduino microcontroller. Students will be able to customize these platforms throughout the year, and will participate in a year-end open exhibition where they will display their work to their community.

The STEM curriculum that will be developed and tested couples the development of technical skills and knowledge with the study of the social context and consequences of computing technologies. This can make STEM topics more attractive to a broader base of students, including women and minorities, who are currently underrepresented in STEM professions. Furthermore, the curriculum will provide students, our future STEM workforce, with a strong foundation in sociotechnical systems thinking, which is crucial to developing successful scientific and technological solutions that fit into and are beneficial to society

Project Members