The Museum’s Center for Interactive Learning, led by the Museum’s Senior Vice President for Education, Dr. Judy Brown, was recently awarded two multi-year federal grants focusing on digital technology. Through separate initiatives funded by the National Science Foundation and NASA, the Museum will be addressing critical work force needs in the field of digital technology, while exploring the use of online virtual world simulations as a way of investigating and communicating science concepts.
The Miami Science Museum has long been a leader in introducing new and emerging digital technologies into informal science learning, with previous grants from the National Science Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Florida Department of Education, Unisys, AT&T, Intel, Palm and others supporting our pioneering work in this area.
The new grant from the National Science Foundation, an award of $1.18 million over three years, will create and test a model for preparing youth to pursue IT-intensive science careers. Titled Digital WAVE: Warming Winds and Water, the project is a collaboration with the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science and Miami Dade College, and will target youth in grades 10-12 who are traditionally underrepresented in science and technology fields. Participants will have the chance to learn 3D graphic design and computer animation skills during Saturday sessions at MDC’s School of Entertainment and Design Technology, and will then work with digital experts during the summer to create virtual world simulations exploring the impacts of climate change on South Florida’s sub-tropical environment. Through interactions with real scientists they will also learn about ongoing research projects in this field and gain insight into related careers. Students’ final products will be launched in the online virtual world environment known as Teen Second Life, potentially reaching thousands of youth worldwide.
The second award, a grant from NASA for $326,756 over two years, is Youth EXPO: Exploring the Potential of Virtual Worlds. This grant, a collaboration with NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies and NASA Learning Technologies, will use NASA remote sensing data and climate model results to create a virtual world simulation called EarthLab, that will allow virtual world visitors to control and manipulate variables as they investigate the causes and possible repercussions of climate change. High school students from the Museum’s youth programs and the school district’s Science, Engineering, Mathematics and Aerospace Academy will serve as evaluators and testers of the simulation, which will become NASA’s first educational resource in Teen Second Life.