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News Release 09-220

National Science Foundation-funded Projects Featured at Education Technology Showcase

Event on Capitol Hill features projectile t-shirts, earthquake simulator and soccer robot dogs

Photo of U.s. senators reacting as a launcher propels a t-shirt ceiling-wards.

Senators Kay Hagan, Harry Reid and Patty Murray react as a launcher propels a t-shirt ceiling-wards.

November 6, 2009

This material is available primarily for archival purposes. Telephone numbers or other contact information may be out of date; please see current contact information at media contacts.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, as well as Senators Patty Murray, Jeff Bingaman, Kay Hagan and Ted Kaufman, were among the special guests at an Education Technology Showcase held on Capitol Hill on Nov. 4. Representatives Peter Welch and Harry Teague also attended the event, sponsored by the State Education Technology Directors Association (SETDA).

The day's many hands-on activities included the opportunity to fire a t-shirt into the air through a launcher in an exhibit by the public television program "Design Squad." Visitors could also interact with soccer robot dogs from Spelman College, try out computer assistive technologies for people with disabilities through a University of Washington project, and see a table-top version of a shake table from the University of Nevada-Reno that simulated earthquake activity. The exhibits also included a number of games that fostered learning in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

A complete list of projects follows, including the principal investigator (PI) leading the project.

  1. Access Computing. This project designs and develops technologies for individuals with disabilities.  Examples include tactile graphics, MobileASL, and Cyber-STEM communities for hearing impaired individuals. PIs: Richard Ladner and Wendy Chisholm, University of Washington.
  2. Advancing Robotics Technology for Societal Impact. This project exposes Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) students to robotics. Examples include building soccer robot dogs and competing in international robotics competitions. PI: Andrew Williams, Spelman College, Georgia.
  3. CyGaMEs. This online game takes players through an experience on how the Earth's moon was formed and changed over time. Players can construct the moon and change the surface with craters and lava.  PI: Debbie Reese, Wheeling Jesuit University, West Virginia.
  4. Design Squad. This PBS television series illustrates how engineering can be used to solve problems. The viewers watch participants transform raw materials into projects that solve real-world problems. PI: Marisa Wolsky, WGBH Educational Foundation, Massachusetts.
  5. Embodied Conversational Agent. This project helps young students learn by having a virtual peer model educational material to the student. This unique use of a life-size peer tutor, as compared to an adult tutor, has found significant improvements in learning. PI: Justine Cassell, Northwestern University, Illinois.
  6. Institute for Chemistry Literacy Through Computational Science. The aim of this program is to improve student achievement by developing rural Illinois chemistry teachers by strengthening their knowledge of 21st century scientific research, improving their skill and comfort with computational and visualization tools and increasing leadership abilities. PI: Thomas Dunning, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
  7. Math Snacks.  Math Snacks are mediated games and simulations that teach students mathematic concepts. Each "snack" presents a mathematical concept such as proportions, number line properties to middle school students.  PI: Karin Wiburg, New Mexico State University.
  8. Network for Earthquake Engineering Simulation (NEES).  The Center broght a demonstration version of a shake table to illustrate different magnitudes of earthquakes and how different building materials are impacted by the earthquake levels.  PI: Ian Buckle, University of Nevada-Reno.
  9. North Carolina Solar Center. The NC Solar Center Education Outreach team gives students at all levels first-hand experience working with alternative transportation technologies as well as other "green" technologies. An example is a six-week project where students design and build their own miniature solar cars. PIs: William DeLuca and Pam Carpenter, North Carolina State University.
  10. NSDL Resource Center. This project demonstrates a number of tools and services available through NSDL. Examples include Science Literacy Maps, a tool for teachers and students to obtain related resources for specific science and math concepts. PI: Kaye Howe and Susan Van Gundy, UCAR, Colorado.
  11. RoboLab.This laboratory invented and developed the RoboLab programming language used to program robots using LEGO Mindstorms.  Projects include activities like micron-sized robots swimming and a sub-millimeter "soccer player". Additionally, the PI started the Engineering Educational Outreach Program that interacts with students and teachers worldwide.  PI: Chris Rogers, Tufts University, Massachusetts.
  12. Scratch.  Scratch is a new programming language designed to help young people (ages 8 and up) create their own interactive stories, animations, games, music and art, and share their scratch creations on the web. While creating and sharing Scratch projects, the students learn important mathematical and computational ideas. PIs: Mitchell Resnick and Michael Smith-Welch, MIT Media Lab, Massachusetts
  13. Supercomputing out of University of Maine. Taking advantage of the Maine Learning Technology Initiative that gives every seventh- and eighth-grade student and teacher an Apple laptop, this project connects University researchers, students and teachers to utilize computer modeling and visualization of geological processes in the classroom. PI: Bruce Segee, University of Maine.
  14. User-centered Learning. The Center for Engineering Logistics and Distribution partnered with the United Parcel Service (UPS) to develop new training facilities that reflect cognitive and learning theory and were designed to support Gen Y learning preferences. PI: Tonya Jackson-Smith, Virginia Tech.
  15. Virtual Astronaut Learning Platform. This innovative new project provides middle school students with an engaging environment to learn STEM content. The game takes place in the year 2063 and the students are in charge of colonizing Mars. PI: Sonny Kirkley, Information in Place, Indiana.
  16. WISE. The Web-based Inquiry Science Environment (WISE) is an online science learning environment. In WISE modules, students learn about scientific problems, such as global climate change and population genetics by designing, debating and critiquing solutions for the problem. PI: Marcia Linn, University of California, Berkeley.
  17. WolfQuest. This online, 3-D multi-player videogame gives players the opportunity to become a gray wolf. Through the game, the players learn about the behavior, biology and social structure of the gray wolf. PI: Grant Spickelmeir, Minnesota Zoo Foundation.


Media Contacts
Maria C. Zacharias, NSF, (703) 292-8454, email:

The U.S. National Science Foundation propels the nation forward by advancing fundamental research in all fields of science and engineering. NSF supports research and people by providing facilities, instruments and funding to support their ingenuity and sustain the U.S. as a global leader in research and innovation. With a fiscal year 2023 budget of $9.5 billion, NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and institutions. Each year, NSF receives more than 40,000 competitive proposals and makes about 11,000 new awards. Those awards include support for cooperative research with industry, Arctic and Antarctic research and operations, and U.S. participation in international scientific efforts.

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