Arizona State Receives $10mil NASA Grant for Science Tech Education

(Photo: Tran Mau Tri Tam, Creative Commons)

(Photo: Tran Mau Tri Tam, Creative Commons)

Arizona State University has received a $10.18 million grant from NASA's Science Mission Directorate Education Community to develop digital learning that incorporates NASA science content. The grant will spearhead the development of "next-generation" technology in science education.

NASA's grant funds a five-year program that will develop a new way of learning and teaching through the exploration of space. According to EurekAlert!, the platform will feature virtual field trips, online simulations, and adaptive learning analytics to help those who struggle with understanding science.

Developers are already envisioning virtual tours of Saturn's moon Enceladus, Jupiter's moon Europa, and the asteroid belt. The intention is that this technology will eventually be imported from larger research universities into K-12 classrooms so that students of all ages will be able to take advantage of cutting-edge technology to study science.

"The aim is to help learners become problem-solvers capable of exploring the unknown, rather than just mastering what is already known," said Ariel Anbar, a biogeochemist at Arizona State and a co-leader of the development team. "It is learning science as a process and as a universe of questions rather than as a dusty collection of facts."

A major focus of ASU's platform will be an "active and adaptive" approach to science education, where teachers will be able to modify lessons for different audiences and teaching goals. Often, students who perform poorly in the sciences are written it off as too complicated. ASU's program hopes to re-imagine the ways in which young people engage with the natural sciences.

To develop the program, teams from ASU's School of Earth and Space Exploration (SESE) will work with Inspark Science Network, which was launched in 2015 with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The Network strives to create and promote new digital coursework in the sciences for students.

"SESE is known for combining the creative strengths of science, engineering, and education, setting the stage for a new era of exploration," says Lindy Elkins-Tanton of ASU's School of Earth and Space Exploration (SESE). "With this grant, we can promote a greater public understanding and appreciation for science, and inspire a new generation of explorers. We hope to share the exciting world of NASA science in a way that is both approachable and interactive."

NASA's Science Mission Directorate (SMD) Education Community is to propagate the history, mission, and adventure of NASA's explorations of Earth, the solar system, and the wider universe. The Directorate highlights through press releases, educational programs, and, most notably, research grants. Arizona State also has a reputation for excellence in the hard sciences, especially astronomy.

"This grant brings together education powerhouses – ASU and NASA … to promote STEM education through exploration," says Sethuraman Panchanathan, the chief researcher, innovation officer, and executive vice president at the ASU Knowledge Enterprise. "This opportunity helps ASU engage and empower learners from all backgrounds and proficiencies to master concepts, ask open-ended questions regarding what's next, and prepare to explore the unknown with the help of technology."

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