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IES Contract

Title: A Novel Water Quality Measurement System as a Teaching Aid For Environmental Education
Center: NCER Year: 2023
Principal Investigator: Ruehlmann, Dietrich Awardee: GaiaXus LLC
Program: Small Business Innovation Research      [Program Details]
Award Period: 2 years (07/17/2023 – 07/17/2025) Award Amount: $1,000,000
Type: Phase II Development Award Number: 91990023C0036

Purpose: Environmental education fosters scientific literacy skills, engages students in problem-solving, raises awareness of anthropogenic effects on ecosystems, and helps turn climate change pessimism into positive engagement. Research has shown that environmental education is most successful when it focuses on personally relevant and meaningful information and uses active and engaging teaching methods. This project team will fully develop a product to support students in conducting field-based experiments to apply STEM and data analysis skills. 

Project Activities: During Phase I in 2022, the project team developed a prototype of a the product including a sensor to collect samples of water, a wireless transmitter to share the data, and an app to access, share, and visualize findings. At the end of Phase I, a pilot study with one middle school science class with 8 students demonstrated that the prototype functioned when used to collect water, transmit the data, and present data on the app. In addition, students agreed that the prototype was important for supporting their work as scientists.

In Phase II of the project, the team will fully develop the product, including a data visualization dashboard, classroom instructional modules, and a crowd sourcing component to allow for comparison of data across different locations. Iterative refinements will be conducted with feedback from educators and students at major production milestones until the product is fully functional. After development concludes, a pilot study will test the feasibility and usability, fidelity of implementation, and the promise of the product for improving science learning. The team will collect data from 10 high school environmental science classes and 200 students overall, with half randomly assigned to use the product and the other half to use business-as-usual activities for the same course content.  Researchers will compare pre-and-post scores for the Citizen Science Self-Efficacy Scale, Self-Efficacy for Student Research Scale, Young People and the Environment Scale, as well as other researcher developer outcome measures. Researchers will gather cost information using the "ingredients method" and will include all expenditures on things such as personnel, facilities, equipment, materials, and training.

Product: Researchers will develop an environmental education product with a wireless sensor that collects samples of scientific data for standards-aligned STEM topics (e.g. temperature, turbidity, salinity, depth, chlorophyll) and transmits data to an app for students and educators to access, discuss, share, and visualize findings. The platform will also transmit and crowdsource data to regional school partners, river keepers, and volunteer groups as well as scientists to promote additional learning opportunities in the context of career exploration. The product is designed to be integrated with lessons in middle school physical science classes for topics aligned to Next Generation Science Standards, and will support the use of data visualizations, competitions, and a collaboration platform for races and design challenges.

Related IES Projects: A Novel Water Quality Measurement System as a Teaching Aid for Environmental Education (91990022C0030)

Video Demonstration of the Phase I Prototype:

Company Website: