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Julie Nucci1

1, Cornell Univ, Ithaca, New York, United States


The Pew Research Center surveyed AAAS scientists in 2014 to inquire about the public’s limited knowledge of science. 86% of respondents stated this is a major societal problem. A second question drilled down into the reasons for this lack of science literacy in the general population. AAAS scientists were asked to rate “not enough K-12 STEM”, “lack of public interest in science news”, “lack of media interest in science”, and “too few scientists who communicate findings” as major or minor reasons. Not surprisingly, the AAAS scientists list their lack of communication as the least important reason for this public shortcoming. I disagree. If the majority of scientists and engineers deemed public communication as important as their research or professional practice, then the public understanding of STEM topics would surely be much better than it is now. This is particularly true for materials scientists, given the dearth of public knowledge of MSE. In an effort to change this at Cornell University, I partnered with WSKG, my local NPR/PBS affiliate to create a new course, ENGRG 3360: Developing Communicative Practice Through Transmedia and Community Engagement. I co-developed and co-taught the course with WSKG’s Director of Science Content, Services, and Programming and we launched it in S2018. Students created publically accessible presentations/videos, leveraged social media platforms to share their science and engineering endeavors, and mentored local high school students. We used the PechaKucha as an innovative presentation format to develop students' abilities to identify and communicate their key idea in a clear message tailored to a target audience. The video phase of the course was a team effort, with teams composed of high school students, undergraduates, and graduate students. Our high school population, a group of twelve local students spending their entire senior year on the Cornell campus exploring engineering, participated in video production and played the very valuable role of assessing the suitability of the content created for teenagers and the general public. Students were also required create technical social media posts throughout the semester. While they are comfortable with social media in their social lives, it is paradigm shift for them to use these platforms for professional endeavors. We trained the students to do so and gave them ample opportunity to hone these skills. #CornellEngComm was created to track the content created and Twitter emerged as the social media platform of choice. Video and presentation content created by the students is being aligned to NYS and national education standards and lesson plans are being created for PBS Learning Media, a web-based resource used by students and teachers nationwide. In this talk, I will discuss course development and the partnership with public media. Samples of student work will be shown and opportunities for leveraging the content created will be discussed.

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