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Researchers Receive $1M NSF Grant for STEM Outreach Geared Toward Girls

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Cathlyn Stylinski, a researcher at the University of Maryland’s Center for Environmental Science's (UMCES) Appalachian Laboratory, has received a $1 million, three-year National Science Foundation (NSF) grant with her colleagues to explore using augmented reality (AR) design experiences to pique teen girls' interest in science and technology.

"The AR Girls project will help us understand how we can use media design to promote science and computer science interest and confidence among young women who do not see themselves as science types, opening the door for them to consider related career pathways," Stylinski said.

The AR Girls project focuses on science communication. The project takes place in Maine, where the team will work with local art organizations to recruit teens who have demonstrated an interest in art. These young women will partner with scientists and media designers to create and share AR stories or games that address science questions and issues relevant to their communities.

The AR Girls team will provide this experience of working with scientists and designers on AR-based science communication and study the impacts on participating teens' interest and confidence in science and technology careers and their perceptions of what it means to "do science." This project will also provide insights in how scientists can better engage with the public around science topics and issues.

With a focus on rural populations, the project will target 112 girls who will gather for two weeks in the summer and several days during the following fall. They will showcase their AR stories and games for family, friends and other community members at a culminating fall event. The participating art educators will receive training and support to continue offering the AR experience beyond the grant.

The AR Girls project is a collaborative effort among several organizations. In addition to Stylinski, other team leaders are Ruth Kermish-Allen at the Maine Math and Science Alliance; Amy Kamarainen at the Harvard University Graduate School of Education; Martin Storksdieck at the Oregon State University Center for Research on Lifelong STEM Learning; and David Gagnon at the University of Wisconsin Institute for Discovery.

Published: February 2018
Glossary
augmented reality
Augmented reality (AR) is a technology that integrates digital information, typically in the form of computer-generated graphics, images, or data, with the real-world environment in real-time. AR enhances the user's perception of the physical world by overlaying or combining digital content onto the user's view of the real world, often through devices like smartphones, tablets, smart glasses, or specialized AR headsets. Key features and principles of augmented reality: Real-time...
BusinessUniversity of Marylandaugmented realitySTEMCathlyn StylinskiAR GirlspeopleAmericaseducationlight speed

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