1. Mary Dussault
  3. Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, Harvard University
  1. Harry Houghton
  3. Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory
  1. Erika Wright
  2. Education Specialist
  4. Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory

Innovative Technology-Enabled Astronomy for Middle Schools II (ITEAMS II)

NSF Awards: 1433431, 1433345

2017 (see original presentation & discussion)

Grades 6-8

The Innovative Technology-Enabled Astronomy for Middle Schools (ITEAMS) project, known as YouthAstroNet, is a research study investigating student interest and motivation in STEM careers, as well as a national program engaging youth and educators in a digital astronomy learning community. This NSF-supported project, led by the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, seeks to inspire youth traditionally underrepresented in the sciences to pursue STEM career pathways.

YouthAstroNet is designed around unique access to the MicroObservatory Robotic Telescope Network, where participants are given agency to request and process their own images of space using professional tools and techniques. The inclusive digital community of youth, educators, project staff, and STEM mentors exposes participants to new astronomy content, and promotes skills and knowledge related to the engineering systems involved in remote observing. Individualized access to the YouthAstroNet online portal encourages youth to pursue personal projects beyond their OST or classroom program participation.

Participating educators across the country are trained to facilitate YouthAstroNet through live webinars and an educator-specific YouthAstroNet portal containing curriculum, discussion forums, and personal wikis designed to encourage educator feedback and interaction. Their training, based on effective face-to-face programming tested in a previous NSF project, models best practices in astronomy education.

Project research data sources include pre and post surveys administered to youth and educators, embedded web analytics of participant activity, and participant-created artifacts. We are exploring outcomes and impacts related to transferring the intrinsic interest and active learning of youth into increased disposition for IT and STEM careers.

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