STEM Small Grants Program 2014-2015

As a part of the Board of Regents’ STEM Initiative (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics), the UGA Office of STEM Education awarded a total of 11 small grants to fund research projects to improve instruction and enhance the success of students taking STEM courses. The ultimate goal is to increase the number of STEM majors and the number of students prepared to teach STEM courses in grades 6-12.

Orey, Michael

UGA, College of Education, Department of Career and Information Studies

The Impact of Blended (Hybrid) Teaching with a Help-Seeking Tool in an Upper Division Undergraduate Science Course

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Help-seeking is a self-regulated learning strategy that students employ to cope with learning difficulties by using peers and teachers as sources of support. Although it is a useful strategy, many college students, particularly those in large classrooms, tend to avoid it since they feel threatened when asking for help. EchoLu is an educational social networking site that the researcher has created from scratch to encourage college students to seek academic help when needed while socializing with peers. The researcher aims to improve student learning through increased participation and peer communication.

Miller, Kristen

UGA, Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, Division of Biological Sciences

Development of Online Learning Modules in an Introductory Biology Laboratory Course for Non-Science Majors

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This initiative aims to begin the transition of the current BIOL 1103L course to an online offering in summer semesters. The hope is that offering this course under an alternative educational design may encourage students to enroll in this high demand lab course and complete a degree requirement over the summer. Another benefit would be greater summer enrollment for UGA. Additionally, if 1103L is offered as a fully online or hybrid course in the same semester as 1103e, students may be more likely to enroll in it (taking lab and lecture at the same time may improve experiences in both courses). To date there are no laboratory courses offered in an online learning environment at UGA.

Reyes De Corcuera, José

UGA, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, Food Science and Technology

In Search of the Missing Link. Improving Mathematics and Quantitative Skills in Non-Science Students Taking Science and Non-Science Courses

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Increasing student enrollment in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines is critical to US prosperity and sustained leadership in technology development. A large number of first-year students entering UGA or other public institutions have not decided which major to pursue, even if they have declared one - and many change majors at least once. The researcher hypothesizes that among those who have not decided on a particular major, many have the talent and necessary skills to pursue a STEM major. The challenge, then, is to expose these students to STEM as intricate components of culture within non-science major courses. The short-term goal is to increase enrollment in STEM majors by incorporating STEM into courses that target non-scientists. The specific objective is to increase the interest in STEM majors through exposure of math and chemistry concepts in two introductory courses in food science for non-science majors. The long term goal is to educate enough STEM professionals to meet Georgia's demand and contribute to the US initiative for more scientists and engineers.

Navarro, Maria

UGA, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, Agricultural Leadership Education & Communication

Comparing Traditional and Flipped Approaches to Teaching: A Research-Based Assessment of Key Elements to Improve STEM Instruction and Impact

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The number of students completing degrees in STEM disciplines is decreasing, while the need is increasing. One solution to address the problem is an inverted "flipped classroom," a teaching process design in which students review content prior to class, allowing for a classroom dynamic and environment where active learning is the norm. This project will produce research-based experimental data comparing the impact of traditional and flipped approaches to teaching in a STEM course. Results will help redesign the course to include the best elements of both practices, and improve the learning and impact on future students. The specific goals are the following:

1. Develop curriculum for two sections of ALDR 3820 Reflections on Fighting Hunger,

2. Prepare common assessments for both sections with pre-tests and post-tests,

3. Implement two sections (traditional and flipped) of ALDR 3820 Reflections on Fighting Hunger.

Magnani, Loris

UGA, Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, Physics and Astronomy

Enhancing the Introductory Astronomy Labs

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The introductory astronomy courses at UGA fulfill the science requirement for over 400 students each year. The lecture classes, ASTR1010 and 1020, involve small telescopes to make basic astronomical observations. There is no method for recording images digitally, and students must resort to a somewhat antiquated method: they make sketches with pencil and paper and use that "data" to answer the questions posed by the actual exercises. The calculations, when based on hand-made sketches, lead to errors in calculating the mass of the planet that could have been prevented with adequate technology. With financial support from the Department, the Office of STEM Education will help fund CCDs (digital cameras that connect to the telescopes) to take pictures of astronomical sights.

Li, Changying

UGA, College of Engineering

Integrating Mobile Data Acquisition Platform (NI myDAQ) in Sensors and Instrumentation Course for Engineering Students at the University of Georgia

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Lab experience is critical to students' effective learning. Without adequate practice through experiments, it would be difficult for engineering students to understand abstract theories such as Fourier Transform and relaxation oscillators. However, UGA engineering students do not have adequate access to the benchtop instrumentation laboratory as much as they should because of limited lab space and time. With financial support from the College, the Office of STEM Education will help fund The National Instrument (NI) myDAQ portable data acquisition device, partnered with related software. When the NI myDAQ is incorporated into the curriculum, students can measure the live signals and perform electronics labs with their laptop almost anywhere. Most importantly, this device enables students to learn sensors with a more flexible and self-paced learning style.

Savadatti, Siddarth

UGA, College of Engineering

Inductive Learning Through Augmented Reality

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This mini-grant will help develop, implement, and study the effectiveness of an Inductive Fluid Statics Laboratory Module using Augmented Reality as an enabling and engaging tool. This project's goal is to make scientifically important concepts directly observable through the use of Augmented Reality (AR) by creating an AR system along with a Fluid Statics Laboratory Module (with guided inquiry questions) to teach the fundamental principles of fluid statics inductively. The goal is to help improve retention within engineering and STEM disciplines; 6 of the 8 engineering degrees at UGA require this Fluid Mechanics course, which intends to improve learning through the mini-grant's funding.

Brickman, Peggy

UGA, Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, Plant Biology

Learning How to Give Instructional Feedback that Improves Student Perceptions of STEM Gatekeeper Courses

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Improving student learning in STEM requires shifting from teaching practices that strive solely for transmission of knowledge toward practices that emphasize students actively acquiring a deeper understanding of subject matter and developing scientific reasoning skills. This mini-grant helps fund a project involved in the development, administration, and analysis of a survey to characterize the current state of instructional feedback practices for STEM faculty nationwide. Survey results will be used to develop more effective mechanisms for instructional feedback that account for faculty needs. Then, the team will evaluate the feasibility of a proposed feedback model at UGA for chemistry and biology faculty.

Foutz, Tim

UGA, College of Engineering

Gattie, David

UGA, College of Engineering

Science, Technology, Economics, and Mathematics Integration Learning Module

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Students learn engineering more effectively if they have the opportunity to learn technical content simultaneously with content from the disciplines that deal with society's values and needs. This mini-grant will fund a project with the first step to infuse integrated learning into engineering content while working within the UGA College of Engineering framework. The STEM Integrative Learning Module will foster critical thinking while helping students analyze data.

Morrison, Richard

UGA, Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, Chemistry

The Integration of PicoSpin NMRs into the Undergraduate Teaching Laboratory

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The Chemistry Department has just acquired three desktop HNMRs for the undergraduate organic laboratories. HNMR analysis is the most important analytical technique introduced in the introductory organic chemistry lecture course. The Morrison research group recently developed and patented a novel approach to amino acid decarboxylation that provides facile access to biologically important alkaloids and neurotransmitters. Using these technologies, the group will integrate PicoSpin NMRs into the undergraduate teaching laboratory to aid in NMR analysis. This HNMR analysis will integrate into five existing laboratory experiments. This aims to yield an improvement in organic chemistry students' learning.

Walther, Joachim

UGA, College of Engineering

An Interdisciplinary Initiative to Educate for Empathy as a Core Learning Competency and Professional Qualification for Engineers and STEM Students

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This study sets to build upon existing interdisciplinary collaboration and a pilot study to refine, implement, and systematically evaluate a set of four undergraduate teaching modules designed to integrate a context-relevant understanding of empathy into engineering education. This study will impact faculty instruction and student learning in STEM at UGA and other higher education institutions. The study will result in a "Lunch and Learn" seminar series, a conference publication, and an engineering education research project.