Thursday, March 9, 2017

STEM Faculty and Doctoral Students Thrill Elementary Children and Families with "Cloud in a Bottle" Session During Explore UT Day

Passing along a little write up that was done centering around some outreach efforts from ongoing research projects I have. Incredible effort pedagogically and content wise by doctoral students Jason Harron, Sneha Tharayil, Sarah Jenevein, and Wan Sin Lim. Some of this work is funded by the National Science Foundation. -Dr. Petrosino

As a reputed institution of public higher education, exploration is fundamental to a university's mission. This ideal though is not only reserved for the daily pursuits of faculty, staff, and students, but researchers revel in sharing it with the wider community. Nothing exemplifies this more than UT’s annual Explore UT day, where people from all corners of Texas are invited to explore what Longhorns are exploring. This year, Explore UT day was held on Saturday March 4th, 2017. Among those excited to welcome our visitors and share with them the work they’re doing at UT was Dr. AnthonyPetrosino a learning scientist in the College of Education's STEM Education Program, and a team of graduate students who work with him: Jason Harron of the LearningTechnologies program, Sneha Tharayil, Sarah Jenevein, and Wansin Lim, all from the STEM Education program.

Dr. Petrosino’s team planned some thrilling sessions in which children of all ages and adults were able to make a real cloud in a bottle (using just a regular one-gallon clear plastic bottle, a little bit of ethanol, and a bicycle pump) and explore the science behind it. In addition, visitors got to participate in and experience Jason’s innovative research in using virtual reality in education. Jason has designed easily-accessible virtual reality spaces of real places like the Texas Memorial Museum, UT’s Campus, and even the surface of Mars, which can be viewed and interacted with using Google Cardboard googles. All one needs is a smartphone with Internet access and a pair of Google or Unofficial Cardboard googles and they’re flying over Mars, or walking around the Texas Memorial Museum right from their seats of his/her classroom or home, miles away!

Overall, the sessions were a huge success, as evidenced by the room quite literally overflowing with people and visitors. People were eager to crowd in wherever they could, sitting on the floors and standing along the edges of the room and even spilling into the nearby hallways just to catch a glimpse or snippet of whatever they could! We were so pleased to hear the “oohs and ahhss!” of wonderment by both children and adults alike, and field the rich, curious questions and ideas from our visitors. It was a refreshing reminder of our purpose and mission here at the STEM Education and Learning Technologies departments in the College of Education. Next year though, we’ll be sure to reserve a much bigger room ;)!

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