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Studio STEM: Engaging Middle School Students in Networked Science and Engineering Projects

Michael Evans and Brett Jones, Virginia Tech; Carol Brandt, Temple University

Studio STEM is an inquiry-based studio experience supported by information and communication technologies (ICTs). Presenters will discuss how Studio STEM uses engineering design activities that integrate digital modeling and game development tools, and social networking technologies to engage students in investigating concepts and skills in science (e.g., alternative energy resources, energy transfer, and energy sustainability), technology (e.g., social networking technologies, multimedia software), engineering (e.g., engineering design processes), and mathematics (e.g., mathematical modeling, graphing).

About the Presenters:
Michael Evans, Associate Professor, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech)
Michael Evans is PI on two current NSF-sponsored projects. The GAMES project proposes to develop serious mathematical games for tablets and other mobile devices, focusing on pre-algebra readiness and states of engagement. Studio STEM proposes to engage middle school students in science and engineering in an after-school setting. His current research focuses on the design, development, and evaluation of instructional multimedia for interactive surfaces (personal media devices, smartphones, tablets, tables, and whiteboards) to support collaborative learning as well as the adoption of video game elements for instructional design, particularly for informal settings. Current research projects include (1) examining the effects of physical and virtual manipulatives on the mathematical reasoning of elementary students; (2) designing educational simulations and games for middle school students in STEM areas; and (3) developing instructional multimedia for mobile and wireless devices. He has been published in journals including the Journal of Computing for Higher Education, Innovate: Journal of Online Education, and Technology, Pedagogy, & Education. Evans received his BA in Psychology and his MA in Cognitive Psychology from the University of West Florida, and earned his PhD in Instructional Systems Technology from Indiana University, Bloomington.

Brett Jones, Associate Professor, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech)
Brett Jones is currently investigating how students’ beliefs impact their motivation and is examining methods instructors can use to design instructional environments that support students’ motivation and learning. He is involved in three ongoing NSF-funded projects that focus on student motivation in the STEM fields, including a project intended to motivate middle school students to engage in STEM fields, a project investigating the impacts of instruction on undergraduate students’ identification with engineering, and a project related to improving the structural engineering education of architecture students. Jones developed the MUSIC Model of Academic Motivation to help instructors in STEM and other fields to intentionally design instruction that can engage students and foster their identification with STEM fields by (1) eMpowering students, (2) demonstrating the Usefulness of the subject, (3) supporting students’ Success, (4) triggering students’ Interests, and (5) fostering a sense of Caring (MUSIC is an acronym for these five principles). Jones has published more than 50 refereed journal articles and presented at more than 80 regional, national, and international conferences. For his research, Jones received the North Carolina Association for Research in Education’s Distinguished Paper Award in 2000 and the Best Paper Award from the American Society for Engineering Education, K–12 Engineering Division in 2010. He serves as a member of the Academic Advisory Board for Annual Editions: Educational Psychology. Jones received his BAE from The Pennsylvania State University and his MA and PhD in Educational Psychology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Carol Brandt, Assistant Professor, Temple University
Carol Brandt’s research explores the sociocultural dimensions of learning math and science beyond the classroom and the ways that language structures participation, as youth and adults move between home, community, and school. Brandt’s expertise focuses on problem-based learning, the design studio as a learning environment, and scaffolding discussion and inquiry through questioning. She is especially interested in innovative learning environments that foster engagement in STEM for students from underserved communities. She has published her research in the journals Science Education, Interdisciplinary Journal of Problem-based Learning, Education Technology Research & Development, and Cultural Studies in Science Education. This last year she was editor of a special issue in the journal Ethnography & Education focused on science education. Brandt completed her PhD in Educational Thought & Sociocultural Studies at the University of New Mexico and conducted her postdoctoral research with the Center for Informal Learning and Schools at the University of California, Santa Cruz.