December 7, 2018

Turning One: Supporting STEM Research and Empowering Education

Where does the time go? STEM-VRSE hit one-year last month. We cannot believe how much has been accomplished in just twelve months or what we are working on to accomplish in the future. Each day we hope to simply support STEM research and empower STEM education.

In the last year, STEM-VRSE experienced a number of firsts in our efforts to support STEM research. For example, Kat led our first team of early-career researchers to New Zealand in February (see Figure 1 and 2). In addition, the team spent time with scientists at NASA to discuss future collaborations (see Figure 3). The work done at the beginning of the year by this team led to the development of other STEM-VRSE firsts during the summer, including; the first STEM-VRSE intern, the first STEM-VRSE database, the first STEM-VRSE videos centered on STEM content (i.e., oceanographic and ornithological research), and the first publications of white papers associated with the organization.

Scuba dive image Figure 1. Our research group conducting research dives off the coast of New Zealand for the February research project.

More recently, in STEM-VRSE’s work to support early-career STEM researchers, Cashion completed two National Science Foundation (NSF) grants. In addition, Katja completed her first NSF grant in November. Cashion’s grants center on studying the use of VR in architecture and human cognition. In contrast, Katja’s grant seeks to conduct a systematic review of literature around the themes of conservation education and conservation visualization. Finally, in terms of firsts and support of STEM research, STEM-VRSE began the process of building connections with STEM centered companies to connect VR with STEM research and early career STEM researchers. In all, STEM-VRSE supported the work of half a dozen early-career STEM researchers during the first year of the organization’s existence. Next year, STEM-VRSE looks forward to supporting another half dozen early-career STEM researchers.

Dotterels image Figure 2. Our research group conducting bird studies in New Zealand for the February research project.
NASA group image Figure 3. STEM-VRSE at NASA to discuss future VR collaborations. From left: Katherine Crabill, NASA engineer, Katja Pierce, Dane Bozeman, Leslie Cain, Cashion Cain, and Dakota Brown.

In addition to our support for STEM research, STEM-VRSE experienced a number of firsts in efforts to empower STEM education. For example, Dakota went to New Zealand in February to ensure the STEM-VRSE research team possessed an educator’s support in conducting research. Dakota provided both an educator’s perspective and the technological support to integrate VR in the research team’s work on subtropical reefs and an endangered bird species. The work done in New Zealand directly impacted STEM-VRSE’s work to empower a middle school STEM teacher wishing to introduce VR to their students. This represents the first classroom in which STEM-VRSE will actively engage with K-12 STEM teachers and students to introduce VR in STEM curriculum. To prepare this teacher, Jordan began working to ensure this teacher feels empowered to take chances in the use of VR in teaching STEM to K-12 learners (See Figure 4).

Group photo Figure 4. The STEM-VRSE team working in our first office at Blue Baker. From top left: Cashion Cain, Dane Bozeman, Jordan Murphy, Elizabeth Espey, Katherine Crabill, Katja Pierce, and Leslie Cain.

In addition to working with our first STEM educator, Katja and Dane represented STEM-VRSE at Greens Prairie Elementary school during the school’s annual STEM night. This experience highlighted the number of ways in which STEM-VRSE can empower STEM teachers with access to the necessary equipment to give students a great STEM learning experience. Finally, in terms of firsts and empowerment of STEM education, STEM-VRSE participated in monthly community outreach to introduce VR in STEM education to community members. Next year, STEM-VRSE looks forward to empowering teachers in a local school district wishing to provide their students with VR experiences in K-12 STEM classrooms as well as continuing community outreach to raise awareness of the possibilities that VR provides community member to increase their STEM knowledge.

The last year provided many opportunities to support early-career STEM researchers and empower K-12 STEM educators. In the next year, STEM-VRSE looks forward to additional opportunities (e.g., First Friday in Bryan) to meet the goals of STEM-VRSE – supporting STEM research and empowering STEM education (See Figure 5).

First Friday group photo Figure 5. STEM-VRSE at First Friday in Downtown Bryan. From left: Dakota Brown, Katherine Crabill, Jordan Murphy, Moses Godinez, and Cashion Cain.

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A Month in Review
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Meet Moses Godinez!