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FUSE: Interest-Driven STEM Exploration Space
FUSE studios (formerly YouSTEM) will engage youth in STEM fields through low barrier, hands-on exploratory challenges. The project is exploring the deployment of FUSE programming in libraries and area high schools. Using a leveling up model from gaming, students will gain increasing science and engineering skills and interest. Connecting these spaces virtually will create a community of youth learners.
Many universities, museums, research centers, and similar organizations around the country have been working to connect youth to the excitement of cutting edge and authentic science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) resources and programs. These programs are usually a great fit for the “Geeking Out” phase of youth engagement, but do not adequately engage youth in the “Hanging Out” and “Messing Around” phases of STEM-related subjects. Moreover, university and research centers are working research labs and do not have capacity to support youth access on a regular basis. Other organizations, including museums, are surprisingly inaccessible to youth on a daily basis. We need a solution that allows us to better engage youth in STEM fields at earlier stages of the HO-MA-GO framework, does so in more youth-accessible locations, and has the capacity to be scaled up to impact a significant number of youth.
Challenges and Levels
The FUSE set of challenges or activities will be linked together in a game-progression structure. Each challenge will be carefully designed to engage youth in different STEM topics and skill sets. Challenges can be tackled individually or in groups. Professional scientists, engineers, advanced undergraduates, and graduate students will be available as mentors. In addition, youth who have “leveled up” to more advanced challenges in the progression will be available as peer mentors. All challenges will result in digital media artifacts that are shared online for peer review, remixing, expert judging, and collaboration.
A series of youth focus groups and surveys with area high school teens helped us to identify their ‘hanging out’ patterns and realities of how they could access such a space. We asked them about what types of ‘hook’ and ‘trigger’ activities would attract them to come and/or stay in such a space. Then, twelve teens interned with FUSE this summer to pilot and co-develop an initial set of challenges. Their honest assessment and hard work will drive the future progress of FUSE. Additionally, they have begun to show how STEM projects can be shared and discussed through online social media sites.
- Northwestern University (Lead)
- YMCA of Metropolitan Chicago
- Chicago Architecture Foundation
- Adler Planetarium
- North Suburban Educational Region for Vocational Education (NSERVE) and Evanston Township High School
Funding for this project was provided by Hive Chicago through the Chicago Community Trust. Hive is a learning network supported by the MacArthur Foundation.