The Curiosity Machine – Badge-based portal for STEM exploration

September 15th, 2012 - August 31st, 2014 | PROJECT

Iridescent is a not-for-profit company that develops and implements informal science and engineering experiences for students by facilitating the translation of the work that scientists and engineers do in a way that makes that work accessible to families. The proposal expands the Iridescent outreach activities funded by the Office of Naval Research, to provide a blended combination of in-person and online support to the families of underrepresented populations. The project is producing twenty videos of scientists and engineers presenting their research that are closely aligned with one hundred scientific inquiry and engineering design-based experiments and lesson plans. These digital resources, collectively called the Curiosity Machine, provide opportunities for parents and children to engage in scientific inquiry and engineering design in multiple face-to-face and online environments, including mobile technologies. The evaluation findings from this project provide a model of how to engage STEM education practitioners, teachers and online communities, to substantively connect underserved communities, in both informal and more formal learning environments to develop experiences with engineering design and to improve students' perspectives about and motivations to prepare for STEM careers. The Curiosity Machine portal is designed to present scientists and engineers explaining the work that they do in a way that makes it accessible to parents and students. Iridescent is working at three sites across the country in South Los Angeles, the South Bronx in New York City, and San Francisco. Students and their families have multiple access points to the science and engineering videos and materials through after school activities, Family Science Nights and summer camps. The project is piloting the use of electronic badges, similar to those offered in the Boy and Girl Scouts as a mechanism to enhance the engagement and persistence of students in the online activities. The project is developing ways to evaluate student engagement and performance through the analysis of the products that students submit online in response to particular science and engineering challenges. Students can also gain extra credit at school for their participation in the Curiosity Machine activities. The materials that the Curiosity Machine activities and challenges use are those that are commonly available to families, and the project provides access to mobile technology to facilitate participation by families. Student access to out of school science and engineering experiences is limited by the resources in terms of time and availability science centers have available. This project develops the resources and tools to bridge the in-school and out of school activities for students through the use of videos and online participation in ways that expand the opportunity of students from underserved populations to continue to engage in substantive science and engineering experiences beyond what they might get during an intermittent visit to a science center. The research and evaluation that is part of this study provides information about how new forms of extrinsic motivation might be used to support student engagement and persistence in learning about science and engineering.

Project Website(s)

(no project website provided)

Project Products

Learner Participation, Satisfaction, and Engagement with the Curiosity Machine, Camps, and Courses
Poster - Transforming STEM Learning: Curiosity Machine

Team Members

Tara Chklovski, Principal Investigator, Iridescent


Funding Source: NSF
Funding Program: ISE/AISL
Award Number: 1238676
Funding Amount: 499576


Audience: Educators | Teachers | Evaluators | Families | Museum | ISE Professionals | Parents | Caregivers | Youth | Teen (up to 17)
Discipline: Engineering | General STEM | Nature of science
Resource Type: Project Descriptions
Environment Type: Afterschool Programs | Community Outreach Programs | Media and Technology | Public Programs | Summer and Extended Camps | Websites | Mobile Apps | Online Media