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Graduate Fellows 2006
Vuna Fa, co-sponsored by the University of Arizona Department of Immunobiology
Research in biotechnology has grown to encompass almost any imaginable field of scientific research ranging from the science of space exploration to the treatment of disease. Biotech research will undeniably continue to shape our world and ultimately lead to more fascinating discoveries. However, current tools and techniques used in biotechnology can seem both complicated and intimidating to many middle and high school students and even some teachers. This is particularly true if the students do not have a clear understanding of basic science. After a discouraging personal experience with the sciences in high school, I never imagined myself capable of doing anything science-related. As a business major in college my child was diagnosed with a prenatal heart condition exposing me to the world of medicine and ultimately medical research. Today, I am an immunology graduate student studying T cell development including how thymic T cells develop in microgravity. I believe that presenting the basic science behind current scientific techniques, along with the history and people behind them, in a hands-on and entertaining way will help these students to become more scientifically literate and may even be that “eye-opening” experience that leads some students to consider science as a career. My education outreach project consists of 4 presentations called Biotech Labs that present various topics including the race to discover DNA structure, DNA analysis, how diseases are discovered and treated, and why gravity is such a big deal. My target audience for these presentations are students traditionally underrepresented within the science field including underrepresented minorities, students from low-income homes, and students that would be first generation college graduates. Initially, I present these interactive Biotech Lab presentations in science classes after meeting with the teachers to help them prepare their class and to determine the level and needs of the class. I am also developing material for the teachers so that they can continue these Biotech Labs on their own in subsequent years. I am working with various charter and public schools in the Casa Grande, Coolidge, Tucson, and surrounding areas. I am also working on a website that will make these presentations and related material and links available to any teacher or student.
The NASA/UA Spacegrant fellowship is helping me to realize one of my true joys in teaching as well as helping young students to gain greater confidence and understanding with respect to scientific discovery.
Maki Hattori, co-sponsored by the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory
Many students in middle and high school lose interest in science and math because they do not feel that the subject matter is relevant to their lives and studies. Due to this failure to connect science and math to topics of relevance and/or high interest, such as the space sciences, the natural pedagogical progression toward the learning of content and understanding of scientific methods of observation and analysis is disrupted. This problem is perpetuated as these children grow up and become parents and teachers. Their continued disinterest and fear of science and math discourages the next generation from pursuing scientific interests.
As part of my project I have developed the science content for the Juno website, attempting to phrase the important issues that the mission will try to answer in a series of basic questions, covering information about what we know, and why we would like to know more. I am also developing curriculum materials specifically targeting Jupiter and the Juno mission, which is expected to launch in 2011. The curriculum material is intended for use for middle school students distributed from the Juno website.
Fall 2007 Update
In 2006-2007 I helped develop science content for the Juno Mission, expected to launch in 2011, http://juno.wisc.edu/. We have also started development of educational material, affiliated with the Juno mission, both to help increase general interest and as part of the mission itself. One of the cameras equipped on the spacecraft is intended to be used as part of the outreach program by having most of the resulting images analyzed by students. So the goal of the educational material is to interest current students and to serve as preparation material for those students who will be doing some of these analyses starting in 2016 after the spacecraft arrives at Jupiter. We are currently producing the material for middle school level students with some of the easier materials being approachable by lower grades, and some of the more difficult materials having additional components addressing the high school level.
Shoshana Mayden, co-sponsored by the University of Arizona Department of Geography and Regional Development and the Institute for the Study of Planet Earth
Climate variability and change has a great influence on the livelihoods of the people in the Desert Southwest, impacting areas such as agriculture, water supplies, tourism, energy production, and human health. Newspapers are a powerful and effective medium for reaching both everyday citizens and decision makers. However, while weather stories are frequently front-page news, the underlying climate dynamics are often absent or sometimes misrepresented— particularly in smaller newspapers that don’t have dedicated science or environmental reporters
My outreach project seeks to establish a climate education program for journalists, with the ultimate goal of better informing the public on these issues. The initial plans are for a series of short (1-1.5 days) workshops where journalists will partake in hands-on learning activities, real-time data demonstrations, question and answer sessions with scientists, and a trip to the “field” to see climate science in action. Although it will be challenging in a short workshop, I hope to develop a curriculum that will engage participants in scientific inquiry and processes, rather than presenting an overwhelming amount of facts. The journalists participating in the workshops will walk away with a stronger knowledge base regarding climate variability and change to draw from during breaking news stories, as well as new ideas about data (including NASA products) and expert sources that can inform their future work.
I am fortunate to be partnering with two mentors from existing outreach-related programs at the University of Arizona: Gregg Garfin, Program Manager of the Climate Assessment for the Southwest (CLIMAS) project, and Arizona Cooperative Extension Specialist Mike Crimmins. Both are currently involved in a joint effort to produce climate and drought information targeted to the general public in Arizona and New Mexico and are interested in developing a permanent media outreach program. They are aiding in workshop planning, as well as in the development and presentation of educational materials.
The plan for fall 2005 is to workout logistical details and to begin planning the workshop curriculum. The initial workshop, planned for February 2006 (final date TBD), will target Arizona print media with efforts to include journalists in under-served communities (Hispanic and American Indian). Subsequent workshops (planned for fall 2006 and spring 2007, contingent on funding) may grow to include journalists from other parts of the country. We have decided to focus primarily on climate change and I am completing graduate coursework on the climate system this semester that will aid in developing a module on the climate effects of global warming in Arizona. We have put together our initial workshop budget and solicited funds from Cooperative Extension and NOAA. I am also spending time investigating successful media outreach programs at other institutions and looking at the academic literature on how journalist perceive and portray climate change issues. This will be followed by an analysis of newspaper articles regarding climate change from the Southwest and an initial survey of invited participants.
Fall 2006 Update
One goal of the project is to develop a curriculum that will engage participants in scientific inquiry and processes, rather than presenting an overwhelming amount of facts. To this end, I created a web module demonstrating how climate change may already be increasing winter minimum temperatures at several locations around the state that allows users to ask questions and explore climate data. This module was coupled with other hands-on activities at the workshop, including a visit to the UA Laboratory for Tree-Ring Research to see how the varying annual bands of trees hold clues to the climate of the past and an interactive presentation of the online vegetation-monitoring tool, Arizona RangeView.
For 2006-2007, we are planning a second workshop to be held in northern Arizona and will possibly extend the outreach program to editors, publishers, and journalism students. As part of graduate seminar on climate change, I am working with other students to analyze the latest climate change projections and determine how they will influence the Southwest. The information from the class will fuel some of content for the next workshop and I will also be aiding in developing website content for the public based on the results. I am continuing to refine the web module developed in the first year of the project and am working with a professor at Pima Community College who plans to use it her biology/environment courses. My final goal for the project is to develop a website that will be a permanent resource for journalists writing about climate change issues.
Sarah McDonald, co-sponsored by the Agricultural Resource Economics
My outreach project, entitled “Building Bridges: Creating the Awareness to Forge a Sustainable New West,” addresses the information gap between producers and consumers of data regarding the changing demographics and landscapes of Arizona. Rapid in-migration into the West has spurred extensive conversion of rangelands and other agricultural lands into development, causing significant ecological and social impacts. Arizona remains the second fastest growing state in the nation. Additionally, exurban growth in the West has exceeded suburban growth, which has increased the biophysical and demographic impacts on both human and biological communities. These changes continue to provide difficult challenges for the institutions developed to serve the needs of Arizona’s communities, especially as they attempt to incorporate the needs of a growing and poorly-understood exurban community. Addressing these concerns in order to create a more sustainable new West which is driven by community cooperation and scientific knowledge is imperative.
I have limited the focus of this outreach project to two target audiences: county administrative planning boards throughout the state, and residents and special interest groups in Cochise County. I have partnered with the Office of Arid Lands Open Spaces project, the office of the Pima County Administrator for Land, Water, and Environmental Policy, and the Cooperative Extension Service for this outreach project. In developing the Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan, the Pima County Administrator’s Office conducted research assessing the impact of different development types on the fiscal resource base of the county (the first study of its kind in the nation). Not only the insightful results, but the process itself of undertaking such a research project, would be extremely valuable to other counties in the southwest which are facing similar growth patterns and planning challenges. Additionally, the results of this study, which visually illustrate the shifting land use patterns and portray the dilemma of counties in providing basic services to a changing population, are useful for the residents of these counties, which wish to play a role in the future of the landscape. In working with the Pima County Administrator’s Office, I will create two products tailored to each target audience. I am in the process of creating a digital presentation which will focus on the need for and process of gathering economically meaningful data which links land use and development footprints to fiscal resource availability. I will then create additional, visually-focused materials for interest groups highlighting the important results of the study.
Additionally, I am working with the Office of Arid Lands Open Spaces project and the Cooperative Extension Service on an educational symposium titled “Learning to Grow: Options for a Changing Landscape” for the residents of Cochise County, which will take place in April. This symposium is the culmination of a Cochise County Advisory Board meeting devoted to the topic of growth and land use change, at which then sparked a follow up meeting to discuss what interested groups in the county might do to be proactive about future growth. The symposium is intended to educate the public about the demographic and land use trends in Cochise and Pima counties, to highlight both the natural resource and human impacts of such growth changes, and to provide options for planned future growth.
I have found the timing of my project to be optimal for achieving long-term impacts, because the organizations I have partnered with have devoted significant resources to this issue and will maintain the momentum of this project. As a consequence of the meetings in Cochise County, Cooperative Extension is partnering with utilities cooperatives and others to produce a semi-annual publication targeted at exurban audiences. Additionally, Cochise County administrators have planned “visioning” exercises with communities this summer in order to help communities decide what type of growth they support. The symposium this spring will provide an excellent catalyst for community residents to begin discussing options for growth and will provide them with the tools to make educated decisions. My materials will help their elected representatives to be better informed about the economic impacts associated with the various choices, and will be able to ensure the county’s fiscal viability. It is my hope that Cochise County will be the springboard for such focused dialogue and will motivate other counties to follow suit. My outreach materials will facilitate the first steps for these county administrators in exploring their options for growth and creating awareness within their constituencies.
Nick Rattray, co-sponsored by the Disability Resource Center (DRC) and the Bureau of Applied Research in Anthropology (BARA), and the UA Department of Anthropology
In the last few decades, many university campuses have embarked on planning efforts to improve access and services for people with disabilities. More recently, a framework called “Universal Design” has been promoted as a way to move beyond a strategy of accommodating individuals into a focus on structural change that benefits the population as a whole. However, we understand less about the experience of people with disabilities in actually navigating through multiple campus environments – built, social, information – on the university campuses. This project seeks to involve students with disabilities in research using qualitative and geospatial techniques in order to evaluate the accessibility of the campus environment. Through direct participation in the research process, the project aims to encourage students with disabilities to engage in math, science, and geography, fields in which they are traditionally underrepresented
The main partner in the project is the Disability Resource Center (DRC). Staff at the DRC will help recruit participating students and contribute to the project design. In addition, the Center for Applied Spatial Analysis (CASA) will provide Global Positioning Systems (GPS) equipment and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) software for data collection, as well as a laboratory space for data analysis and evaluation. The research results will be addressed to the DRC, the campus planning units, and the participating academic departments.
Working as a team, students affiliated with the Disability Resource Center will collect information about campus accessibility, with the goal of understanding how universal design affects the use of space and educational outcomes. The project participants will utilize geospatial, qualitative and participatory research methods. During fifteen weeks, teams of 3-4 students will evaluate the accessibility of different areas of the UA campus, collecting information about how people with disabilities experience the social and built environment. This will include the paths that people travel, their interactions with labs and classrooms, and perceptions and attitudes students encounter. In the first phase, students will gather qualitative data about the meaning of accessibility by using “map” interviews and focus groups. Next, the students will learn how to collect and analyze geospatial data using GPS technological and GIS software. The data collected will be then uploaded into a web-based, publicly accessible interface, with portions of the qualitative data integrated with the geospatial data. Finally, the students will take a participatory research approach to understand, analyze, and evaluate strategies proposed by the campus planners.
Fall 2007 Update
Jackie Cimino and Kyle Mutz joined the project during the Fall 2007 semester as Space Grant interns, supported by the Foundation Carinoso. Jackie is a psychology major in her third year at Arizona, and plays on the UA wheelchair tennis team. Kyle is working on his Masters in Rehabilitation Counseling, and recently returned from competing on the track in the Para-Pan American Games in Brazil. Kyle and Jackie worked on creating a final report for the project that was shared with the wider UA community, and built a web-accessible GIS interface for displaying the results of the map interviews.
Andrew Shaner, co-sponsored by the University of Arizona Lunar and Planetary Lab Phoenix Mission
MarsBots Curriculum Development
Partnering with NASA’s Science, Engineering, Mathematics and Aerospace Academy (SEMAA) and the Phoenix Mars mission’s E/PO program, I am creating a comprehensive, national standards-based curriculum package out of a set of grades 1-4 robotics activities which had been aligned with Arizona state standards. This curriculum will align with national science, technology, mathematics, reading, and writing standards. The activities were developed and/or adapted by two master teachers – Katy Wilkins of Central Arizona College (CAC) and Mary Lara, a NASA Solar System Educator teaching at DeMiguel Elementary School in Flagstaff, AZ – both of whom serve as my mentors on this project. Three camps were held over summer 2005 to validate the curriculum’s activities. After each camp, revisions were made to the curriculum based off of lessons learned during camp instruction. Final revisions are currently being made to the curriculum in preparation for review by CAC and Phoenix E/PO staff for educational efficacy and technical accuracy.
Fall 2006 Update
The MarsBots robotics learning module passed NASA’s education review in the spring of 2006. After addressing comments from the review committee, the module went on to the Mars Public Engagement Program at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. After review from MPEP, the module will go on to NASA’s communications review. If approved at the communications review, the module will become a part of NASA’s portfolio of education products. Also following review at MPEP, the module will be submitted to NASA’s Science, Engineering, Mathematics, and Aerospace Academy to be incorporated as a supplement to their existing robotics curriculum. Currently, the entire module can be found on the Phoenix mission website:http://phoenix.lpl.arizona.edu/classroom.php.
MarsBots was distributed at teacher workshops conducted last year at various sites across the country including Sally Ride festivals at Arizona State University and Cal Tech, workshops in Kansas, Tennessee, and the National Science Teachers Association’s annual conference. Follow-up emails were sent out to the over 100 participants of these workshops. These emails asked participants whether or not they have used MarsBots activities in their classrooms and what impact it appeared to have on their students. To date, no responses have been received from participants. For one week in June 2006, the Phoenix mission sponsored a teacher workshop in Fairbanks, AK. During the workshop, 18 teachers from the U.S. and two from Canada were exposed to the MarsBots learning module as well as other Mars curricula and activities. After the workshop these teachers became education ambassadors to their local communities for the Phoenix mission. Some of these teachers have done workshops featuring activities from the learning module. The activity “Mars Match Game” has been used by the Phoenix mission E/PO team at numerous outreach venues.
In 2007, more MarsBots workshops will be conducted as the launch of the mission approaches (August 3, 2007). Tentative workshop locations include Wichita, KS, New Orleans, LA, and Florida.