A volcano erupted and earthquakes destroyed an entire village as guests gathered in Rudder Tower on the Texas A&M campus to witness several cataclysmic scientific simulations staged by students at Bryan’s Neal Elementary School with a little help from a team of university researchers led by Francis Quek, professor of visualization.
The NES students presented the projects April 21, 2016 to Texas A&M administrators, faculty and students, Bryan ISD administrators and additional guests.
The projects are part of a three-year, $1 million National Science Foundation study aimed at finding ways to increase the involvement of children from underrepresented populations such as Latinos and African-Americans in science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, fields.
Patterned around the “maker movement,” Quek said the three-year, $1 million National Science Foundation study engages children in hands-on exploration and invention to spark interest in scientific discovery.
“We’re researching approaches through which students may think of themselves as being interested in and capable of doing science,” he said. “Such identity development may have a greater impact over time than learning any one piece of science in elementary school. If the children think of themselves as capable of and interested in science and technology, they may persist in learning STEM subjects as they continue in school,” said Quek.
The projects included some of the work Neal students presented at their school in January 2016.
The faculty team directing the project includes Sharon Lynn Chu, assistant professor of visualization, Patricia Larke and Lynn Burlbaw from the Department of Teaching, Learning and Culture, and Rebecca Schlegel, associate professor of psychology. They led teams of graduate students in their respective departments who worked with the Neal Elementary students to develop the projects during the 2015-16 academic year.
The collaboration between the Texas A&M research team and students at Neal will continue for two more years, as will the public demonstrations of the students’ innovative projects.