2023 NSF AISL Awardee Meeting: Concurrent Sessions Project Details


This page provides more information about the 2023 AISL Awardee Meeting concurrent sessions. We are excited to have a number of AISL Projects present their work in presentations grouped by similar topics. 

Return to the information page about all of the concurrent sessions.

Digital Technologies, Gaming, & Computational Thinking

Session Description: What do gaming, computational thinking, culturally relevant music, and cryptography clubs have in common? They are all going to be part of the perspectives shared at this session on digital technologies and how to leverage them to help foster interest and engagement in STEM. Presenters will share strategies, resources, and approaches to engaging with youth.

Project: Fostering Enduring Interest in STEM Through Exoplanet Education and Interactive Exploration and Creation of Potentially Habitable Worlds (WHIMC)

Presenter: H.Chad Lane, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

Project Description: In this talk, I will describe Project WHIMC (What-if Hypothetical Implementations in Minecraft) where we use the popular video game Minecraft as an informal learning environment for learning about Astronomy, Engineering, Computer Science, and Earth Science. WHIMC presents middle school learners opportunities to explore and understand alternative versions of Earth (e.g., What if the moon didn’t exist?) and several known exoplanets. I will describe our always-on server, back end system for data collection, a variety of AI-based tools for assessing and engaging learners, our curriculum and free resources, and summarize our findings related to the design of technology-based learning experiences for supporting and triggering interest in STEM.

Project: Facilitating Computational Tinkering

Presenter: Rupal Jain, MIT Media Lab and Ashley Lazyaka

Project Description: In this session, we will share three computational tinkering resources for informal learning educators and the story of their development with informal learning educators participating as equity-oriented designers. The resources focus on computational tinkering and aim to broaden the styles of engaging with computing by providing a more social, physical, and cross-disciplinary alternative to more dominant ways of teaching computing. They include a free mobile coding app for creative exploration, computational tinkering activity facilitation guides that represent years of activity and material iteration with educators, and resources to support dialogue and reflection on equity-centered facilitation. Informal learning educators play important roles in making and tinkering spaces to cultivate creative and equitable environments for their communities, especially for groups that have been excluded and marginalized from computing. We present these resources alongside our collective process to imagine and design computational tinkering activities, tools, and resources alongside these key partners.

Project: Collaborative Research Broadening Participation of Latinx Students in Computer Science by Integrating Culturally Relevant Computational Music Practices (Remezcla)

Presenter: Diley Hernandez, Georgia Institute of Technology and Isaris R. Quiñones Perez

Project Description: The project Collaborative Research Broadening Participation of Latinx Students in Computer Science by Integrating Culturally Relevant Computational Music Practices (Remezcla) (#2005791) is a culturally relevant and culturally sustaining program focused on advancing equity in computer science (CS) for Latine students. The program is grounded in hybridization and Latinidad and is guided by a critical lens and an equity focus. As part of our presentation, we will showcase the critical components of our project and offer insights into how we incorporate these equity lenses in our CS platform adaptations, curriculum, pedagogical practices, and our research model. We will also describe some unique characteristics of our implementations in Atlanta and Puerto Rico and share some preliminary research findings. 

Project: CryptoClub Afterschool and Online: Broad Implementation

Presenter: Cheryl Moran, UChicago STEM Education – University of Chicago Sarah Burns

Project Description: In this session, we will briefly introduce participants to CryptoClub, an afterschool cryptography program. We will share the developments that were created through the grant to increase broad implementation and discuss the successes and challenges that we faced. We will also discuss ways in which we attempted to include a range of all students into the clubs, including those attending high-poverty and low-performing schools. We will discuss potential funding ideas and hope to obtain input from colleagues regarding possible future avenues to further expand implementation.

Neurodivergent Youth Engagement in STEM

Session Description: What do gaming, computational thinking, culturally relevant music, and cryptography clubs have in common? They are all going to be part of the perspectives shared at this session on digital technologies and how to leverage them to help foster interest and engagement in STEM. Presenters will share strategies, resources, and approaches to engaging with youth.

Project: Broadening Participation in Informal STEM Learning for Autistic Learners and Others through Virtual Reality

Presenter: Teon Edwards, TERC

Project Description: Youth Panel: Neurodivergent Learners’ Perspectives on Co-Design, Their Roles, and Its Importance

Project: Promoting Engagement in Informal STEM Learning as a Path to Employment for Autistic Adolescents

Presenter: Sinead O’Brien, City University of New York and Elizabeth Kilgallon

Project Description: Autistic people often face barriers to obtaining meaningful educational and employment opportunities. To empower Autistic youth to succeed in careers that match their skills and interests, we have sought to develop strategies that effectively engage Autistic youth in informal STEM learning opportunities. Our overarching goal is to promote positive attitudes and skills aligned with workforce needs including STEM self-efficacy, advocacy, and collaboration skills. Increasingly guided by a participatory team of Autistic students and scholars, we designed, delivered, and assessed five Game Design and Employment Workshops for Autistic youth. In this concurrent session, we will describe our participatory approach to developing neurodiversity-affirmative workshops for Autistic youth, highlight how we began to address representation issues in autism research, and discuss the challenges we faced and strategies we developed to honor guidance from Autistic community members by upholding participatory decisions.

Diverse Approaches to Rural Engagement

Session Description: This presentation will focus on the barriers and creative strategies that researchers experienced and developed in trying to engage rural youth in research. Participants will learn about three different projects all focused on the experience of rural youth and families with approaches as varied as computational thinking, outdoor recreation economy, and virtual reality.

Project: STEM Pathways for Rural Youth: Developing STEM Identity Through the Outdoors

Presenter: Amanda Bastoni, CAST

Project Description: This discussion will focus on the barriers that researchers experience trying to engage rural youth in research. We will highlight strategies from our study that positioned 54 youth, ages 12-16, from rural northern New Hampshire as co-researchers investigating the following question: Can the emerging outdoor recreation economy be leveraged to develop STEM identities and STEM career thinking among rural youth? We will use youth voices and highlight moves the project team made to guide discussion. The project achieved a 96% retention rate for its full 12-month duration, losing only two students who moved away or began homeschooling.

Project: Fostering Joint Parent/Child Engagement in Preschool Computational Thinking by Leveraging Digital Media, Mobile Technology, and Library Settings in Rural Communities

Presenter: Marisa Wolsky, WGBH Educational Foundation and Marvin Jeter

Project Description: 

Media producers at WGBH and researchers at Education Development Center (EDC) are exploring how to use the unique affordances of digital media, mobile technology, and in-person library experiences to support sustained family engagement with computational thinking (CT) across settings and over time. The project’s target audience is families living in rural areas where access to CT learning may be very limited.

Over the last two years, we have worked with library professionals and rural communities to create a mobile app for families featuring videos and activities from the PBS KIDS series Work It Out Wombats!, and a new library model and training materials that support librarians in coaching parents as they use the app to explore CT with children.

In this presentation, GBH and our community partner, Mississippi Public Broadcasting, will discuss formative testing and what we learned about how technology can help bridge home and library settings to promote joint CT exploration.

Project: Expedition VRctica: Utilizing Public Library Systems To Engage Rural and Latinx Communities in Polar Research

Presenter:  David Gagnon

Project Description: We have developed a new system for capturing, processing and disseminating research using an open science approach. The infrastructure has streamlined our internal research processes across 17 VR and game projects so far, and currently captures over 5M learning events from 5-10k players daily. We are beginning to support projects from other teams and are looking for collaborators who are: (1) developing games and are interested in sharing their data and (2) looking for rich datasets to analyze, or proposing changes to existing projects that would allow them to run new experiments. During this session, we will describe the infrastructure and provide next actions to get involved.

Community-Based Research & Partnerships 

Session Description: This session will showcase four projects and delve into how to cultivate and sustain authentic community partnerships. Presenters will discuss place-based storytelling, co-creating alongside the community, and strategies for recruiting and retaining program participants.

Project: CAREER: Broadening Perspectives of Science, Technology, and Culture Through Community-Driven Design of Place-Based Storytelling Experiences

Presenter: Breanne Litts, Utah State University

Project Description: Cultivating partnerships and conducting community-centered work is an emerging expectation across research and design disciplines and fields. There is a growing demand for scholars, designers, and educators to work with community partners. How do we cultivate and sustain community partnerships? How can researchers and designers partner with communities in ways that both center and meet the communities’ needs? What does this mean for how we design learning technologies and environments? In this discussion, we will explore what it means to conduct work in relationship with community partners and unpack the methodological approaches our team has explored in our research and design. In unpacking these approaches, we will identify key challenges and tensions that researchers and designers need to grapple with to enact equitable and transformative community-based research and design in practice. We will explore how researchers and designers can form relationships that cultivate and support community strengths and capacity in partnership with youth, adults, families, and their communities.

Project: Stimulating STEM in the City: Co-Designing with Latine Families to Promote Informal STEM Learning​

Presenter: Maria Anderson-Coto, University of California, Irvine

Project Description: In this session, we will discuss how equity in research partnerships goes beyond “methods” and “formal research” decisions, and is enacted in our everyday decisions between researchers and our community partners through time and trust. Researchers are in a position of historically attributed power through affiliation with a higher education institution. Consequently, how we listen to our community partners and the steps we take in response may build or break a relationship, perhaps even becoming extractive.

Project: Building Latina STEM Interest through Community Cultural Wealth and Familial Problem-Based Learning

Presenter: Margarita Jimenez-Silva, University of California Davis: Comunidad de Ciencia:

Project Description: In this session, we will engage in conversations about the opportunities and challenges that can arise when working with community partners to help recruit and retain participants in our programs. Opportunities include working with organizations and community partners who are deeply rooted in the communities we seek to serve. Challenges can include high-turnover of personnel in community partnerships as well as with our own entities. We will share several examples of how working closely with community partners has enabled us to successfully recruit and retain Spanish-speaking families to participate in our programs. We seek to make visible the often invisible added steps of ensuring that we put forth our best efforts to recruit and retain  participants from historically underserved communities. We will share and discuss with participants our strategies for expanding and deepening our community partnerships as well as for helping mitigate challenges. 

Project: Mathematizing, Visualizing, and Power (MVP): Appalachian Youth Becoming Data Artists for Community Learning

Presenter: Gale Stanley and Lynn Hodge, University of Tennessee

Project Description: Our session will focus on our learning regarding enhancing community partnerships, including those with young people, their parents, and community organizations. We will share the project team’s changing conceptions of community and the development of resources to enhance communication, collaboration, and learning. Further, we will discuss challenges in this endeavor and engage the audience in exploring additional next steps in our work that will likely connect with many projects in the informal education space.

Family STEM Learning in Dynamic Ways & Contexts

Session Description: Food science, equity in engineering, prison partnerships, and texting – you do not want to miss this session! Presenters will share a diverse array of perspectives on family learning in STEM as well as strategies, activities, and approaches to transformative engagement.

Project: Food for Thought: Igniting, Engaging, and Measuring Family STEM Learning Using a Food Lab

Presenter: Bradley Morris, Kent State University

Project Description: The Food for Thought project uses cooking – a familiar, everyday activity – to engage children ages 7-12 and their families in STEM activities. The project is a partnership between Kent State University, Cincinnati Museum Center, LaSoupe (Cincinnati, OH), Center for Getting Things Started (Hilo, HI), and our evaluation team at the Center of Science and Industry (COSI). The session will give a brief overview of our recent projects that include food science summer camps, in-home activities for families, and activities for use in public settings, such as museums. After multiple iterations, we have produced effective activities that target malleable factors, such as family STEM talk, through light interventions (i.e., brief, low-cost, and scalable). I will discuss our current work in which we are extending our project to add a participatory design cycle in which we co-create activities with communities in order to provide equitable STEM activities that draw upon community funds of knowledge.

Project: Head Start on Engineering

Presenter: Scott Pattison, TERC and Julie Allen, Head Start

Project Description: Families are a critical audience for informal STEM learning experiences. Traditional family engagement in school settings often focuses on unidirectional approaches to communication and perpetuates deficit-based narratives about families from historically marginalized communities. An equity lens, on the other hand, opens up new possibilities for collaboration, elevating family strengths and perspectives, and transforming systems of injustice. In this discussion, we invite you to share the work you have been doing with families across learning contexts and explore how equity perspectives can inform the way we learn from and with families. We will also collectively identify gaps and challenges in the field, share resources and strategies, and brainstorm new directions for future projects.

Project: STEM Ecologies of Learning for Families: Supporting Intergenerational Learning through University-Prison Partnerships

Presenter: Cindy Gravillie, Mary Gould Mountain West Equity Collaborative/Saint Louis University

Project Description: This session will discuss a design collaborative based in a women’s correctional facility in the Mountain West that is developing family maker space kits for use in prison visitation rooms. Composed of women who are currently incarcerated and researchers and designers from the outside, the collaborative is leveraging design practices to create kits that support intergenerational connection within the highly constrained context of family reunification inside prison.

Project: Using Media and Texting to Foster STEM Learning in Low-Income and Latinx Families

Presenter: Sandra Sheppard, WNET, NY Public Media Yolanda House

Project Description: This session will include a discussion about using text messages to provide videos and playful STEM activities to families. The WNET Group (NYC’s Public Media Station) will provide an overview of the popular Cyberchase Mobile Adventures in STEM program and highlight how a texting program can be used to reach diverse audiences, including Spanish-speaking families. The discussion will also highlight how texting can be used not only to provide content, but also to actively engage with families throughout the program by encouraging them to text back photos, videos, and stories.

Indigenous Voices on Multiple Ways of Knowing in STEM

Session Description: Join us for an Indigenous led session that will highlight AISL projects that focus on how to best work with local tribal communities and reckon with living in a system that has a history of racism and colonization embedded in rituals of daily living and thought. Presenters will share insights into their approach of bringing the two knowledges together for increasing Indigenous STEM representation while concurrently celebrating contributions from Western knowledge.

Project: Blue Marble Space Institute of Science: STEM for Youth in Native Communities

Presenter: Hanford McCloud, Juan Carlos Chavez

Project Description: Indigenous Traditional Knowledge and Western Knowledge complement each other. Together, they offer opportunities to engage with healing our relationship with Mother Earth. Both epistemologies are, therefore, positioned to benefit the wellbeing of our beloved communities.

In this presentation, we offer insight into our approach for bringing the two knowledges together to increase Indigenous STEM representation while, concurrently, celebrating contributions from Western knowledge. Together, they are knowledge pillars for confluence as we work to heal together.

Project: Ę»Ä€INA-IS: Leveraging Community-Based Organizations to Develop and Study Native Hawaiian Ethos-Driven (ʻĀINA-BASED) Environmental Science Activities

Presenter: Jaymee Davis Kimela Keahiolalo

Project Description: As change agents, creators of knowledge, and advocates for marginalized voices, it is imperative that we engage in approaches and practices that do not perpetuate cycles of oppression and harm. Yet, this is difficult, as we live in a system that has a history of racism and colonization embedded in rituals of daily living and thought. In this peer-to-peer discussion, participants share the approaches and practices that govern their projects. The ʻĀINA-IS  project leadership team starts the conversation by sharing their reflections on how they integrate ALOHA (Akahai- kindness; LĹŤkahi- unity; Ę»OluĘ»olu- pleasantness, internal peacefulness; HaĘ»ahaĘ»a-modesty, humility; Ahonui- patience) throughout the project. How do you as a project leader, researcher, or evaluator engage in a practice that uplifts Native and Indigenous worldviews? How do you adjust your lenses to see the nuances of Indigeneity? What advice do Native people have?

STE(A)M Blending the Arts and Science Engagement

Session Description: Come to this session to join four presenters in exploring strategies and experiences in blending the arts in STEM through dance, physics, digital notebooks, and pop-up maker spaces. Presenters will share how embracing a diversity of approaches can lead to more creative problem-solving, improved decision-making, and a richer project experience overall. Participants are welcome to share successes and pitfalls that may support others in developing inclusive engagements.

Project: Choreographing Science

Presenter: Rebecca Stenberg, Lauren Vogelstein, New York University

Project Description: As a dancer and learning scientist who collaborates intensively with choreographers and dance artists, I am always interested in how we can leverage artistic practices to create more expansive STEAM spaces. In particular, I always feel a tension between leveraging the arts for their ability to make sensemaking resources feel more accessible (especially for youth who normally feel like they donot belong in STEM environments) and not wanting to dismiss the rigor expertise of artists. How are researchers, practitioners, and community partners in the AISL space thinking about STEAM and the role the arts play in particular?

Project: Using the Lenses of Physics and Dance to Investigate Learning, Engagement, and Identity Development for Black and Latinx Youth

Presenter: Dionne Champion and Foloshade Solomon, TERC

Project Description: This session will address what it means to collaborate with community partners and with arts practitioners in ways benefit everyone. We will discuss the multiple phases of partnership and collaboration, from project conception through analysis and dissemination through the lens of our current AISL project, Embodied Physics) and invite others to talk about their experiences.

Project: One Community, One Challenge: Pop-up STEAM Makerspaces

Presenter: Sheri Vasinda, Oklahoma State University and Elizabeth Murray

Project Description: Please come and share ideas for fostering inclusion in makerspaces and other STEM/STEAM projects. Share successes and pitfalls that may support others in developing inclusive engagements. Welcoming community members from a wide range of backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives into your projects is not just a moral imperative but also a strategic advantage. Embracing diversity can lead to more creative problem-solving, improved decision-making, and a richer project experience overall. In this interactive session, we share strategies that support spectrum of a more inclusive and welcoming environment for diverse participants in your projects.

Project: Leveraging the Power of Reflection and Visual Representation in Middle- Schoolers’ Learning During and After an Informal Science Visit

Presenter: Amanda Dickes, Gulf of Maine Research Institute

Project Description: The power and potential of integrating digital notebooks, narrative reflection, and visual representations in bridging the formal/informal learning boundary, building consequential STEM knowledge, and expanding learner access to and engagement with high quality STEM learning.

Cultivating Black & Brown STEM Identity

Session Description: Come to this presentation which will showcase three different perspectives on how the experiences of black and brown youth shape their STEM identity. In this session presenters will discuss how STEM programs are engaging youth of color and how these experiences can also be leveraged for reducing barriers to college admission. The session will also explore how youth voice is positioned in crafting STEM programs in storytelling and explore the development of math identities.

Project: The STEM PUSH Network: Establishing a Novel Accreditation Model for Pre-College STEM Programs

Presenter: Alison Legg, University of Pittsburgh,  Priya Mohabir, and David Bild

Project Description: STEM PUSH pre-college STEM programs (PCSPs) engage Black, Latina/o/e, and Indigenous youth in rigorous, culturally-sustaining STEM experiences; however, these experiences are underleveraged in our students’ college admissions process. STEM PUSH is a national research project consisting of a network of PCSPs who are collectively reducing barriers for students’ admission to and persistence through undergraduate STEM study. In this session, we will discuss approaches to increase awareness of PCSP participation as an equitable admissions consideration, share initial research findings, and adopt or adapt proposed approaches to elevate PCSP experiences at your institution.

Project: Using Storytelling and a Justice-oriented STEM Afterschool Club as Critical Tools for Cultivating African American Youths’ STEM Identities

Presenter: Renee Lyons, Clemson University Science Outreach Center and Gail Awan

Project Description: Youth voice is an important component of culturally responsive STEM education and moving our youth towards a space of radical healing. Youth who have a voice in their learning experiences tend to be more engaged and take ownership of their education. When youth have a say in how they learn and what they learn, they are empowered, creating a more supportive and respectful learning environment. This session will facilitate a discussion around traditional classroom practices (i.e., seating charts, the teacher as the authority, and lack of youth choice) that may limit the effectiveness of youth voice initiatives. Facilitators will also discuss challenges faced when diverse community and university partners (who have different ideas of what an educational space should look like) partner to create a youth voice initiative. The discussion will explore when to compromise and when to hold fast to practices that have been established to promote youth voice.

Project: Youth-Directed Math Collaboratories and Mathematical Identity

Presenter: Tra’Naya Gross and Jay Gillen, Baltimore Algebra Project

Project Description: Many African American students in historically under-resourced jurisdictions share many orientations, positive and negative, towards mathematical thinking and identity. We would like to summarize some promising approaches to leveraging these students’ strengths and to hear from other participants about  similar strategies.