Information Technology Engineering and Environmental Education Tools (IT-E3 Tools) is an innovative three-year project designed to inspire and nurture students’ interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) careers. Led by the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) Jacobs School of Engineering, in partnership with the San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC), this project works with middle school teachers to develop a curriculum of “hands-on” environmental science lessons, utilizing state-of-the-art technology, with the overall goal of increasing the number of students (particularly girls) who are interested in science and technology.
Each summer a cohort of teachers in and around San Diego are invited to attend a one-week professional development workshop hosted at UCSD. As part of the workshop, the teachers develop a series of science lessons that feature the use of environmental sensors to measure temperature, pH, dissolved oxygen, and nitrate levels in water. The teachers also use UVA and UVB sensors to detect the amount of sunshine and airborne particulate levels. The lessons developed by the teachers present students with real-world environmental problems and challenge them to use the environmental sensors to gather data to help learn more about the problem and/or to arrive at a solution.
An interactive on-line multi-player game is also being developed to reinforce the IT-E3 Tools lesson content. The game is being designed primarily as an engaging and stimulating set of environmental challenges for students to complete in a virtual Antarctica. Many of the challenges require students to use the same sensors that they use in their classrooms; thus, the lessons reinforce the content featured in the game and vice versa.
With the support and assistance of undergraduate engineering students from the Teams in Engineering Service (TIES) program at UCSD, the teachers take the IT-E3 Tools lessons and online game and weave them into their delivery of science instruction during the academic year. Data are then collected from the students to evaluate the effectiveness of the program.