Transforming STEM Competitions into Collaboratives: Developing eCrafting Collabs for Learning with Electronic Textiles

This project supports the development of technological fluency and understanding of STEM concepts through the implementation of design collaboratives that use eCrafting Collabs as the medium within which to work with middle and high school students, parents and the community. The examine how youth at ages 10-16 and families in schools, clubs, museums and community groups learn together how to create e-textile artifacts that incorporate embedded computers, sensors and actuators.

Full Description: 

This project supports the development of technological fluency and understanding of STEM concepts through the implementation of design collaboratives that use eCrafting Collabs as the medium within which to work with middle and high school students, parents and the community. The researchers from the University of Pennsylvania and the Franklin Institute combine expertise in learning sciences, digital media design, computer science and informal science education to examine how youth at ages 10-16 and families in schools, clubs, museums and community groups learn together how to create e-textile artifacts that incorporate embedded computers, sensors and actuators. The project investigates the feasibility of implementing these collaboratives using eCrafting via three models of participation, individual, structured group and cross-generational community groups. They are designing a portal through which the collaborative can engage in critique and sharing of their designs as part of their efforts to build a model process by which scientific and engineered product design and analysis can be made available to multiple audiences.

The project engages participants through middle and high school elective classes and through the workshops conducted by a number of different organizations including the Franklin Institute, Techgirlz, the Hacktory and schools in Philadelphia. Participants can engage in the eCrafting Collabs through individual, collective and community design challenges that are established by the project. Participants learn about e-textile design and about circuitry and programming using either ModKit or the text-based Arduino. The designs are shared through the eCrafting Collab portal and participants are required to provide feedback and critique. Researchers are collecting data on learner identity in relation to STEM and computing, individual and collective participation in design and student understanding of circuitry and programming. The project is an example of a scalable intervention to engage students, families and communities in developing technological flexibility.

This research and development project provides a resource that engages students in middle and high schools in technology rich collaborative environments that are alternatives to other sorts of science fairs and robotic competitions. The resources developed during the project will inform how such an informal/formal blend of student engagement might be scaled to expand the experiences of populations of underserved groups, including girls. The study is conducting an examination of the new types of learning activities that are multiplying across the country with a special focus on cross-generational learning.

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