Digital WAVE: Warming Winds and Water
The Miami Science Museum (MSM) is collaborating with the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science (RSMAS) and Miami Dade College (MDC), to implement Digital WAVE, an ITEST Strategies project that will design, implement and investigate use of the emerging 3D Web to stimulate interest in information and communication technologies. Through the fabrication of 3D virtual simulations related to global warming phenomena, the project will create and test a new model and medium for engaging and preparing youth to pursue IT-intensive science careers. Participating high school students will develop a deeper understanding of the intensive use of technology in the field of climatology and tropical weather dynamics, a topic relevant to their lives. Project activities include the development of students' computer graphic skills in 3D visualization and computer animation and opportunities to interact with climate scientists and other STEM professionals. The virtual world exhibits created by Digital WAVE participants will reside on Teen Second Life, opening access to all TSL visitors. The project will directly serve a total of one hundred and twenty 10-12th grade students from the Miami Science Museum target area, most of whom are of Haitian or Hispanic ethnicity, qualify for free or reduced lunch and would be the first in their family to attend college. Ninth grade students from the Museum's overall youth development programs will also be involved in the STEM career pathway component of the project. Each year, 40 students will participate in a 14-session Saturday Design Studio at Miami Dade College to acquire advanced digital design skills, including 3D graphic design and computer animation. They will then take part in a four-week summer Academy during which they will work with an experienced virtual world exhibit fabricators to create a series of science-rich virtual world exhibits. The STEM content for the Academy will focus on the impacts of climate change on South Florida's tropical environment, providing a science-rich context in which participants can apply their new skills. As they explore such topics as coral reef bleaching, hurricane intensification and sea level rise, students will interact with real scientists, gaining first-hand insights into ongoing research projects, the tools, digital technologies and datasets used, and the associated careers. Students' final products will be launched in the online virtual world environment know as Teen Second Life, resulting in educational resources that can potentially reach thousands of teens worldwide. The project expects to increase students' knowledge of career pathways related to climatology, marine science, 3D graphic design and computer animation; increase their understanding of basic climatology and marine science concepts; and help them develop the skills necessary to participate in and contribute to virtual worlds and simulated environments. The overarching evaluation questions for the project, as stated in the proposal, are anchored in three domains: a) STEM learning as it is related to environmental science, and technology; b) learning about STEM career paths related to these subjects; and c) learning related to advanced technology and IT design skills used to create virtual world and simulated environments for STEM learning.