The National Science Foundation Funds Project BUILD

May 5, 2017 – The Space Science Institute’s (SSI) National Center for Interactive Learning (NCIL), in partnership with the University of Virginia (UVA) and the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), was awarded a $1.1 million-dollar grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to develop and implement a 3-year program, called Project BUILD (Building Using an Interactive Learning Design). The Project Director is Dr. Paul Dusenbery, Director of NCIL. Co-PI Keliann LaConte (Professional Development Manager, NCIL) and Co-PI Jeannine Finton (Sr. Manager of Pre-College Outreach, ASCE) will help lead the program. Evaluation will be conducted by Education Development Center (EDC) and research will be led by Co-PI Robert Tai (UVA).

This project will advance efforts of the Innovative Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers (ITEST) program at NSF to better understand and promote practices that increase students’ motivations and capacities to pursue careers in fields of science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM). The project team will engage youth (grades 2-5), their families, librarians, and professional engineers in an informal learning environment with age-appropriate, technology-rich STEM learning experiences fundamental to the engineering design process. The overarching aim is to better understand how youth’s learning preferences or dispositions relate to their STEM learning experiences. It also seeks to build community members’ capacity to inspire and educate youth about STEM careers.

Building on the success of NCIL’s ground-breaking STAR Library Education Network (STAR_Net) program, Project BUILD will collaborate with 6 public libraries (3 urban and 3 rural) and their local ASCE Branches. Two libraries have been selected to serve as pilots: High Plains Library District (HPLD) in Colorado and the African-American Research Library and Cultural Center (AARLCC) in Florida.

“After experiencing the STAR_Net exhibits on science and health, HPLD is enthusiastic about the opportunity to help design a program focused on engineering,” said Associate Director Elena Rosenfeld. “Because 10.5% of our over 217,000 residents are considered at-risk, we see Project BUILD as an opportunity to introduce families to STEM options they might not have ever considered.”

Lisa Jackson, Head of Youth Services at AARLCC, said, “Project BUILD will help our patrons (and our library staff) have greater access to andengagement in STEM topics. It will enable young people in our community to realize that STEM is indeed within their reach.”