Development of a science education experience for adolescents based on stress physiology and a growing interest in smartphone technology

Wednesday, July 23, 2014
Exhibit Hall AB (Kansas City Convention Center)
Peggy Ann Eichen , University of Missouri, Columbia, MO
Brad Scharf , University of Missouri, Columbia, MO
Gregg D Martin , University of Missouri, Columbia, MO
Rebecca Mott , University of Missouri, Columbia, MO
Donald E. Spiers , University of Missouri, Columbia, MO
Abstract Text:

Interest in STEM (i.e., Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) education is increasing among all age groups. In a recent survey of Missouri beef and dairy producers, 98% indicated willingness to use technology to improve management of heat stress in their herds, with about 80% having access to wireless internet and 60% having smartphones. In contrast, only half thought understanding heat stress was important, while 90% of extension livestock specialists noted it is a significant issue. This discrepancy suggests the need for education on this important topic at an early age. To this end, a 2-day “Science Boot Camp” for pre-college students was developed several years ago to stimulate interest in environmental stress issues. A brief survey of the students participating in this camp showed that 90% agreed that science is important, and science education can benefit everyone. In contrast to producers, a majority of the teens had wireless internet and smartphones. Building on the results of this event, we have developed at the University of Missouri a 4-day science camp for adolescents in 2014 (Summers@Mizzou, “The Stress of Life,”).  The goal of the camp is to increase understanding and appreciation of science research through experiential learning.  A smartphone heat stress app for livestock (i.e., ThermalAid) has been developed in our laboratory, along with a website thermalnet.missouri.edu. It is incorporated into the camp to illustrate the real-world value of science. Students will be introduced to research methods, and then use state-of-the-art technologies (e.g., ThermalAid, iPads, and iButtons) to collect data on themselves under different environmental conditions.  They will then learn to statistically analyze and interpret the results.  This information, along with data from cattle at the University research farm, will be incorporated into a final determination of the impact of stress.  Students will work in teams to collect videos throughout the camp to be combined with their results into a final presentation.  Developing and presenting these videos will give them an opportunity to practice presentation skills, apply new information they have learned, and gain confidence in working with others. Entry and exit surveys will be administered, to assess students’ views on science and technology and the life skills they developed throughout this camp. Future projects will build on the educational discoveries of this camp.

Keywords: heat stress, education, technology