First J-WEL Grants Awarded in Higher Education Innovation | MIT J-WEL

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First J-WEL Grants Awarded in Higher Education Innovation

Following the 2017 launch of J-WEL Grants in Higher Education Innovation, J-WEL is pleased to announce that, from a competitive and high-quality field of submissions, three innovative proposals have been awarded funding:

Professor Azra Akšamija, Department of Architecture: “Culturally Sensitive Design: Art and Innovation in the Refugee Camp”

The Future Heritage Lab proposed a new interdisciplinary foundational course in art, design, and technology that will benefit MIT residential audience, refugee learners and their host community. “Culturally Sensitive Design: Art and Innovation in the Refugee Camp” is an introduction to art and design practice and methods, with a focus on creative responses to conflict and crisis. The course results in the making of objects that advance the quality of life in refugee camps. To develop this class, MIT students, refugee learners at the Al Azraq camp in Jordan, and students from the School of Architecture and Building Technologies of the German-Jordanian University in Amman-Jordan (GJU) will collaborate. MIT students will follow the course in the form of a Spring semester subject with an option for fieldwork in the Al Azraq camp during the summer, with the support of MISTI Arab World and the humanitarian aid organization CARE.

With the transformative power of the arts in the center of this project’s educational model, Professor Akšamija and her team aim to improve life in fragile environments.

Professor W. Craig Carter, Department of Material Sciences & Engineering: “Improving Academic-Field-Specific Learning through Coding, Visualization, and Computational Thinking: The CodeSeal Project”

Professor Carter’s team has developed some elements of CodeSeal, which is a suite of software tools that supports teachers who want their students to learn to code in the context of what they are learning in their traditional subjects. While learning new concepts in science, math, or the arts, students concurrently construct algorithmic models, develop numerical and symbolic code, and create visualizations of those new concepts. The tools include built-in assessment tools for student learning as well as evidence-based curriculum improvements.

This project seeks to scale the software infrastructure, refine the presentation of learning analytics to improve students’ data literacy and quantitative self-reflection skills, improve the learning analysis to improve teachers’ access to evidence-based curriculum improvements, disseminate information about the project, develop collaborations, and develop 3-4 modular examples of curriculum that can be used to assess the transferability of this approach to other disciplines.

Professor Christoph Paus, Department of Physics: “Fundamentals of Experimentation in the Physics Sciences Using an Arduino”

The physical sciences are constructed on two main pillars: observation of nature (data) and the description of the observations with mathematical tools (theory prediction). Yet, even at MIT Physics majors only take their first true lab class during their junior year. These lab courses are demanding, not only because experimentation is time-consuming and hard, but also because many students start from zero and need to perform sophisticated experiments in a very short time period.

In the recently proposed 8.S12 course, students will be taught the basic tools of experimentation: the experimental setup, data taking, data analysis, and publication. Professor Paus’s team proposed using a set of Arduino Microcontrollers, which are programmed with desktop computers. The Arduino, combined with a number of simple sensors, like temperature sensors, and other electronic devices, allows students to construct experiments in which all basic components of experimentation are present and can be taught and learned. The desktops are used to program the Arduinos, acquire the data and perform data analysis. The experiments using the Arduino, including instructions and software, will be made available both to MIT students and globally.

Thank you to all of our applicants, and we look forward to reviewing proposals for the current round. The 2018 Call for Proposals for Grants in Higher Education Innovation is still open and can be found here.